Wyoming brucellosis. Another cow may test positive

If a cow from a second herd tests positive, Wyoming will again lose its brucellosis free status, and it looks like one will.

It’s important to remember that the recent brucellosis infection near Danial, WY came from one of the state’s elk feedlots that conservation groups are trying to shut down because they are breeding grounds for disease and transmission.

The same was true when Wyoming first lost its brucellosis free status about 4 years ago.

The news article merely says the new case is in Sublette County. It doesn’t say if it is near an elk winter feedlot.

Wyoming brucellosis. Another cow may test positive. By Matt Joyce. Casper Star Tribune.

This whole matter is especially important for wildlife conservation because some livestock groups want to have a general extermination of elk over a huge area so they won’t have the inconvenience of vaccinating their livestock and/or the moderate burdens imposed by not having a class A brucellosis status for the state.

Note that Montana recently lost is brucellosis free status.






  1. David Avatar

    As someone from out East, I am only just beginning to scratch the surface of understanding the land use issues faced by those in the west… Perhaps someone can shed some light on this though: By all accounts, the quality of the prairie is suffering. But Bison face opposition from ranchers. Most things I’ve read seem to suggest that Bison will help restore the quality of the prairie, and can also produce meat/protein more efficiently… But as for this Brucellosis problem, would replacing cattle herds with bison herds which are managed for the meat-market resolve any of these problems??

  2. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    From what I understand, it depends how you do it. If you treat bison like cattle, it won’t make much difference.

    If you manage bison like wildlife or as nearly so as possible, then you have better results for the land. However, I’m not the right person to ask. I saw Bob Jackson talk about this and show the results on his land from his bison operation where he manages them as family units. It was impressive to see how much better off the land was compared to other cattle or bison operations.

    But, I’m also the wrong person to ask because I don’t think bison should be managed for the meat market. They should be allowed to roam free as wildlife, and I hope we can develop solidarity toward that goal. That isn’t to say that people should not hunt buffalo ever; the distinction is the notion of management. Should the fate of bison be at the whims of human interest du jour, set management boundaries, etc.? For a lot of reasons, I don’t think so. That’s why the Yellowstone buffalo issue is of special importance. This is the herd with the best potential to regain lost habitat and be a truly free-ranging population.

  3. JB Avatar

    Jim said: “I don’t think bison should be managed for the meat market. They should be allowed to roam free as wildlife…’


    I would argue that we don’t have to take a one-or-the-other approach. It should be possible to restore free-roaming, wild bison in some areas, while raising them for meat in others.

  4. David Avatar

    I agree with JB… I sincerely hope we can recover a wild, free-ranging population of the bison. BUT, I can’t help but wonder if we’re doing enough to help the ranchers. I was reading today about the difference and battle between The American Prairie Foundation and the Nature Conservancy. Seems like maybe there’s an answer in between that allows ranchers to ranch bison, and therefore not fear the wild cousins of their herds. But I know very little about ranching, I confess.

  5. Brian Ertz Avatar

    it seems to me that once you have a ‘fenced’ situation you alter the dynamic. Think of elk behavior in the absence of a native predator — that implicates the “trophic cascade”. How does fencing bison alter the behavior such that it implicates the landscape and diversity of other values that are diminishing and in need of restoration?

    so while i may or may not support private ranching of bison – i think that the “use” of public lands to ‘ranch’ bison would inevitably result in the same fences, roads, water developments, and the altered behavior of ungulates that have such an incredible deleterious effect on the public landscapes that are in dire need of passive restoration.

  6. JB Avatar


    Just to clarify: I’m not suggesting that I support raising Bison as livestock on public land (though this would likely be better than cows), just that recovering free-ranging bison should not necessarily preclude private bison ranching.

  7. David Avatar

    Yeah, I think that’s what I’m saying too. The debate I was referring to before was the APF is trying to buy up huge tracts of prairie in Montana. The Nature Conservancy is trying to work with ranchers to have more environmentally sound practices. I was just pondering whether marrying the two could work for an interim solution. Think of it… replacing the captive cattle herds with nearly free-roaming bison herds which ranchers could benefit from… might just be the impetus for reverting massive tracts of prairie to a healthy and public state, as well as possibly paving the way for the bison herds to grow and be free.

    Brian makes some good points for sure though. It’s certainly not the ideal.


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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