Guest Opinion: Public, private property lost to brucellosis policy

Finally an essay how Montana and Wyoming’s brucellosis policy tramples on private property rights. By Glenn Hockett. Billings Gazette. Guest Opinion: Public, private property lost to brucellosis policy.

He also points out the continuing frenzy over brucellosis  amidst the lackadaisical approach to other livestock diseases.



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  1. Chuck Avatar

    Ok someone please educate me, this last spring I was over there during the hazing, one of the buffalo field campaign people said there had never been a documented case of a buffalo giving a cow brucellosis, but that the elk do????? So is he right or wrong?????

  2. d.Bailey Hill Avatar
    d.Bailey Hill

    Yes, he is right. Bison naturally produce immunity to brucellosis. The few times times the MDOL have ‘bothered’ totest the bison, the tests only show seropositive, which means they have the antibody/resistance to the disease and the dept of livestock “rules” that they created counts that as active disease. Brucellosis is a rediculous myth propagated so that a very small minority can keep control of western public lands and create their own laws and also trample over private property rights.
    I am not affiliated with any group. I have studied extensively for almost two years because of observations of the bison population from frequent visits to the park over the past ten years. I also have no tolerance for lying and purposely propogated misinformation.
    There are so many things going on in the world that are wrong. For reasons I am unaware, I have a special attachment to the Greater Yellowstone Area, the park and especially the bison. The bison; as far as my memory goes back.
    I have researched the BFC and have found them and their website to be above board. Their site is one of a very few with factual and reliable infomation that can be trusted. They also have to be the most dilligent group of folks.
    I am on vacation, but can direct you to more info if you are interested, when i return home to my computer. There are also quite a few people who post here that can also help.

  3. Buffaloed Avatar

    Yes, it is true that elk have transmitted brucellosis to cattle on numerous occasions but bison have not. It’s not impossible but the circumstances for transmission are rarely present because of the different timing of birthing between elk and bison and the fact that bison and cattle don’t intermingle in Montana. Bison and cattle have intermingled for 40-50 years in Wyoming and still bison have never transmitted brucellosis to cattle. I think a lot of it has to do with timing and the fact that most cattle are on winter pasture at lower elevations when bison could transmit.

    Remember, cattle have to come into direct contact with infected birthing material or an infected, aborted fetus to get brucellosis. Bison give birth during late April and elk give birth from May to June and are much more widespread. Brucellosis does not persist in the environment unless it remains under a certain temperature but then the material it is in it is very likely to be scavenged by coyotes, birds or what-have-you.

    The cattle that were infected with brucellosis last year in Montana were in an area far from bison. They could have gotten it from elk but also other cattle, not from bison.

    Full disclosure, I’m on the Board of Directors of BFC.

  4. Chuck Avatar

    So tell me then, if there has never been a documented case then why is there such an issue????? or is just what the cattlemen want????? I think that whole hazing issue is cruel and should be done away with. All those that are involved in it should be chased for miles by helicopter am sure they would not like it.

  5. Brian Ertz Avatar

    there is a mentality that eclipses reason … i believe it has something to do with what they call ‘culture’ …

  6. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Just as an aside, you will frequently hear from the livestock folks, particularly APHIS, that bison were implicated in a brucellosis outbreak in Jackson Hole cattle in the 1980s. This is false, and acknowledged to be so in the NAS report, Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone.

    This is part of other claims that elk infected Wyoming cattle in the 80s. APHIS conducted no epidemiological studies on these alleged outbreaks, except for the Parker case, and in the Parker case, the so-called epidemiological study (the Bridgewater report) based its conclusions solely on alleged geographical proximity of elk and bison to Parker’s cattle. In the subsequent lawsuits filed by Parker, biological experts such as Dr. Paul Nicoletti of the University of Florida excoriated the Bridgewater report as simply incompetent.

    It is this time in the 80s that Wyoming got its brucellosis free status, and it is also the time that a new market surveillance system for cattle, put together by Dr. Bridgewater, was put into effect. Clearly, Dr. Bridgewater and APHIS had every incentive to finger elk and bison for the outbreaks instead of cattle.

    Just as they do now.

    For the record, the 2004 outbreaks of brucellosis in Wyoming cattle are the only ones reasonably connected to feedground elk; and the cause of these outbreaks was landowner and Wyoming G&F Dept. negligence in allowing “hot” elk to mingle with cattle.

  7. vicki Avatar

    I think it has more to do with land use. If bison are no threat, then cattlemen couldn’t limit their grazing areas. If they couldn’t do that, then they would have to share the public lands they graze cattle on, with bigger eating machines, bison. It boils down to money… the all mighty dollar. So, a huge hoax is being perpitrated on the non-educated public. Hazing is not only cruel, it is not necessary! Facts are facts. But, if factuality and scientific evidence and knowledge had squat to do with laws, we’d have some sort of balance of power and environment.
    Sadly, greed and government are all too often synonomous.
    If cattle ranchers were really interested in compromise (excuse the generalization) they’d look into alternatives.
    The organic movement is huge, and growing, The “Green” movement gains support all the time. Reason would tell ranchers that bison require less care, are sturdier and more fit to survive and to eat than cattle, and sells for much more. Wouldn’t you think they’d be interested in a deal that would give them a kick back on some portion of revenues made from bison? I know bison are ranched for meat. This may be politically incorrect to say, but … why not have the number of bison sold to generate revenue for land purchases, research, etc.? The number sold would have to be in direct porportion to the herd size that can be supported on public lands.
    It’s time to move out of history. Free-rangers aren’t the enemy. People can fence off their property, but cattlemen don’t own the national forests or public lands…why do we let them dictate what happens in them? And why don’t we try to ensure stability for all concerned?
    Any ideas thrown out there to help, or change, are far better than listening to the same arguement over and over again. It gets no where, and just seems fruitless. We need to find commonality.

  8. Dan Stebbins Avatar

    If we could eliminate the assumed brucellosis threat from bison, which is debatable. Are there any guesses as to how quickly the stockgrowers would find another reason as to why bison shouldn’t be on forest service land?

    I just don’t understand their logic for trying to keep bison from having ANY allowance to roam on forest service land. Gov. Schweitzer’s plan of having a “buffer zone” around YNP seemed reasonable. Unfortunately the stockgrowers don’t want to budge an inch for wildlife.

  9. vicki Avatar

    My guess, quicker than we could say “hamburger”.

  10. Brian Ertz Avatar

    considering lessons from wolves — financial interest plays less than an expected role in the reason (sic) livestock associations make the decisions that they do with regard to management. compensation would satiate that monetary interest. as we can see, it doesn’t. from this perspective re: bison, it seems that trying to find reason in the particularities re: brucellosis, grass, etc. when there is very little of it is a set up for disappointment should one approach a table of ‘compromise’. the more grass one feeds them in an attempt at good faith – the more it is co-opted and regarded as entitlement or rejected before even reaching the table. this maintains the hegemony – which is almost more important than the particulars or specific interests.

    to paraphrase – of management: ‘sometimes they need to be placed in a box and slowly submerged in cold water.’

    from what i’ve heard off-hand from a lawyer who should know is that the box would cost a bit. unfortunately, it seems that’s the standard.

    how many ‘win-wins’ are to be rejected by the livestock interests before efforts coalesce around construction of a big box and the ice-cold water necessary to earn these people’s respect – or at least adherence – of/to the broader public interest.

    the problem isn’t brucellosis, grass, etc. it’s this minority culture’s hegemonic grip of wildlife management. it needs to be dismantled before reason will ever play a leading role.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan