Elk NetworkCaptured Montana Elk Test Negative for Brucellosis

General | February 8, 2024

Below is a news release from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is a long-time partner in this elk brucellosis testing project. 

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff recently captured elk in the Highland Mountains south of Butte as part of a multi-year Targeted Elk Brucellosis Surveillance Project. 

All 122 blood samples collected from captured elk tested negative for brucellosis. 

Capture operations in the Highland Mountains were conducted in late January. Thirty elk were outfitted with GPS collars that will be active for one year to help wildlife managers better understand their seasonal ranges, migration routes and potential mixing with other elk herds. 

The goal of these operations is to evaluate the presence and understand the movement of brucellosis in Montana’s elk populations. The research also helps wildlife managers and animal health officials understand the overlap between elk and livestock on the landscape. 

Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that can infect humans, cattle, bison and elk and can result in abortion or the birth of weak calves. The disease is primarily transmitted through contact with infected birth tissues and fluids. 

The Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) administers a brucellosis surveillance program for livestock in an area of southwest Montana called the designated surveillance area (DSA). Requirements within the DSA protect the state and national livestock industry from the spread of brucellosis. Livestock within the DSA are at risk of exposure to brucellosis from infected wildlife and are therefore subject to additional brucellosis testing requirements for movement and change of ownership, as well as additional traceability requirements. 

Live elk captures in and around the perimeter of the DSA inform decisions on boundary adjustments by DOL. The Highland Mountains are outside of the DSA. The recent test results from the Highland Mountains provide support for keeping the current DSA boundary unchanged. 

Montana’s Targeted Elk Brucellosis Surveillance Project is a joint effort between DOL and FWP, with support from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. In addition, this project and capture operation would not be possible without the generous support and permission from landowners to capture elk on their property. 

(Photo credit: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks)