Wyoming brucellosis group examines federal proposal

Zone outside Yellowstone declared “brucellosis free” with greater restrictions inside the affected Yellowstone area or eradication of infected elk and bison herds? Who pays? Who benefits?

Hazing bison inside Yellowstone National Park on Madison River ©Ken Cole
Hazing bison inside Yellowstone National Park on Madison River ©Ken Cole

USDA wants two zones to reduce costs.

Livestock interests say that it will put Yellowstone area ranchers out of business.

According to the article, Livestock interests and Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife want eradication of the disease which means killing of entire herds of bison and elk.  This apparently is not totally correct as you can see from Bob Wharff’s statement below.  It still appears that some livestock interests favor eradication.

The Park Service says that “the only certain solution – destroying entire infected elk herds in Yellowstone and elsewhere – was not politically or practically feasible”

Wildlife advocates who oppose eradication/wildlife slaughter efforts were not consulted for the article.

Wyoming brucellosis group examines federal proposal
Billings Gazette



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  1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    The Idaho State Journal in Pocatello has run two days of very nice feature articles about the Buffalo Field Campaign.

    Unfortunately they don’t put them online.

  2. jdubya Avatar

    You can only assume these people really know nothing about infectious disease. The assumptions are that bison and elk are the only two reservoirs of Brucella in the wild. Do they really know that? And do they really know that there are segregated herds that do not mingle/migrate with others such that cross transmission will always be a problem? How many elk killed last fall in Montana/Wyoming were tested for Brucella? How many came up negative? Positive? Dunno? This has become an endemic disease that can be controlled but I honestly can’t imagine wiped out.

  3. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Jdubya, I agree, it probably never will be wiped out completely. I think the only solution is to study vaccines for cattle and inoculate herds near GYE when and if that is a possibility.

  4. Bob Wharff Avatar
    Bob Wharff

    It has been a while since I have been able to post on this site but when you add your spin on things; thus, changing the direction of my comments I feel obligated to correct them.

    Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife believes that the goal of Brucellosis erradication is unrealistic. We are unwilling to see wildlife populations significantly reduced for a livestock disease. Brucellosis remains a livestock disease.

    Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife does not want nor do we support wholesale slaughter of wildlife for what is primarily an outdated livestock program. The whole point of me calling out the Park Service was not to increase slaughter of wildlife. It was more to get them to fight the concept APHIS continues to push; that of total erradication of the disease. Wyoming’s “Test & Slaughter” program has shown that you can significantly reduce prevelance rates of Brucellosis by selectively removing infected individuals. A reduction from over 30% to ~7% is pretty significant. I was hoping to get the National Park Service to weigh in on whether or not the goal of erradication needs be altered.

    APHIS is clearly willing to drop everything and create a containment zone but they still desire to maintain an unrealistic goal of erradication of the disease. The National Park Service needs to state more clearly their opposition to erradicating wildlife for a livestock disease. However, the Park Service also needs to commit to reducing prevelance rates to acceptable levels as well.

    Wyoming, as well as Idaho & Montana are stuck in the middle of two government agencies with very different goals and objectives. One problem is an unfair advantage that APHIS can effectively ‘punish’ states for Brucellosis events and the states must respond. The National Park Service needs to champion something different as they share a role in maintaining this disease. The disease was primarily erradicated in livestock populations by depopulation of infected herds. No one will allow wildlife to be depopulated for a livestock disease.

    Please correct Ken Cole’s erroneous statement at the start of this blog. Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife does not want to erradicate the disease at the expense of our bison and elk herds.

  5. Ken Cole Avatar

    I have corrected the record above. I will repeat what I have said in other threads about eradication though. It is now impossible to eradicate brucellosis from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Also, feeding of elk on the National Elk Refuge and state run feedgrounds increases the risk of spreading brucellosis, and with the recent case of chronic wasting disease in a moose near one of these feedgrounds it appears that the likelihood of spreading CWD increases as well.

  6. Bob Wharff Avatar
    Bob Wharff


    Thanks for correcting that statement.

    You and I agree on one thing; it is impossible to erradicate Brucellosis from the GYE.

    WY G&F studies are showing that proper feeding techniques can and do reduce concentration rates and exposure to aborted fetuses.

    I remain convinced that if we don’t feed or provide some kind of supplement for elk, the resulting reduction in total numbers of elk is too substantial for the public to support. This does not just include those of us that hunt but also those which enjoy watching them. It also remains concerning that no one knows what kind of impacts other ungulates would face if elk were forced to share what limited winter resources are available with them. Moose and mule deer are already struggling to maintain themselves. All anyone can say is that it would lead to further reductions in moose and mule deer populations. Another situation which the public will not support.

    CWD is a whole different story. The cure can not be worse than the disease though; and I believe an ~80%reduction from closing feed grounds would be far greater than CWD. Spreading out the elk while feeding them will not only help reduce exposure to Brucellosis but probably other wildlife diseases as well. Forcing elk to winter out where little if any forage resources are available to them will only lead them to a stressed condition which in turn will make them far more susceptible to other diseases. Healthy elk are better able to resist disease than weakened elk.

    Thanks again.

  7. Ken Cole Avatar

    I think that separating the issues of brucellosis and CWD are dangerous propositions. By keeping the feedgrounds open without incrementally shutting them down so that elk and deer can adjust slowly back to natural forage the door was open for CWD infection. Because CWD was first found in a moose, which tend to not migrate the same long distances that elk do, near a feedground it appears likely that other animals brought CWD to the area.

    I believe it is highly likely that CWD is now present at one or more feedgrounds and now the game has changed.

    Those who advocated for keeping the feedgrounds open and to keep elk from moving to areas such as the vast tracts of BLM land share some of the blame for this situation. That includes SFW.

    I predict that CWD prevalence will skyrocket in the GYE and many more elk, deer, moose, pronghorn, and bison will die than would have happened if a ration approach to closing the feedgrounds had been followed. The result will be the same as trying to eradicate brucellosis.

    The future will prove me right or wrong.

  8. jdubya Avatar



    “”Elk have been named as the likely source in all of the known brucellosis infections in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming since 2000.””

    What?? What about the bison? Case of the moving scapegoat…

  9. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Bison aren’t as fun to shoot as elk…