Elk NetworkRMEF Funding Assists Montana Brucellosis Surveillance Project

General | February 6, 2019

As part of its multi-year Targeted Elk Brucellosis Surveillance Project, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) conducted elk capture operations in both the northern portion of the Tendoy Mountains southwest of Dillon and in the southern portion of the Bangtail Mountains northwest of Livingston.

This project is a joint effort between the Montana Department of Livestock and FWP, with support from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

“Important on-the-ground work of this nature couldn’t happen without these partnerships,” said FWP research wildlife biologist Dr. Kelly Proffitt.

The work and the partnerships are critical to getting the information necessary for brucellosis management.

In the Tendoys, 99 female elk were captured with the aid of a helicopter in hunt districts 302 and 328 between Interstate 15 and Horse Prairie Creek. All elk tested negative for brucellosis and 30 animals were outfitted with radio collars to track their movement for one year.

In the Bangtails, 49 female elk were captured in the southeast corner of hunt district 393 along Fleshman and Willow Creeks. All elk tested negative for brucellosis and 15 animals were outfitted with radio collars to track their movement for one year.  In addition, blood samples from 7 elk harvested during the shoulder season all tested negative for brucellosis.

The goal of these operations is to evaluate the presence and understand the movement of brucellosis in Montana’s elk populations. The research will also help FWP understand the overlap between elk and livestock on the landscape.  The Montana Department of Livestock administers a brucellosis designated surveillance area (DSA) for livestock and determines the boundary partially based on elk brucellosis testing results and movement data.  Cattle and domestic bison producers that utilize ground within the DSA are subject to additional testing and identification requirements to protect Montana’s livestock industry. The Tendoys and Bangtails are currently outside of the DSA.

Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that infects 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.

Animals that test positive for brucellosis exposure do not necessarily carry or spread the disease, but at one time were exposed to brucellosis and have developed antibodies that can be measured with blood tests.

“The Department of Livestock appreciates the partnership with FWP, and the information and knowledge gained through this collaboration,” said the brucellosis program veterinarian with the Montana Department of Livestock, Dr. Eric Liska.

More information about brucellosis and the Targeted Elk Brucellosis Surveillance project can be found online here.

(Photo source: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks)