Deep within the Senate version of the “Farm Bill there is hidden a section that provides $35,000,000 to vaccinate wildlife, primarily elk and bison in the Greater Yellowstone Area (see pages 1127-1130 of S.954).  Section 12101, titled “Wildlife Reservoir Zoonotic Disease Initiative” would amend another law to provide, for 5 years, $7 million in funding annually to address bovine brucellosis and bovine tuberculosis and “other zoonotic disease”. 

This is a colossal amount of money that would likely be used to target wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem where brucellosis has infected elk and bison for nearly 100 years.  The elk and bison contracted the disease from domestic livestock most likely when bison calves were being bottle-fed with infected milk while being captivity raised at the Buffalo Ranch in the Lamar Valley.  The livestock industry has dreamed of eradicating brucellosis in the GYE for decades.  They have killed thousands of bison and hundreds of elk but have had no effect on the  disease.  Wyoming has 23 feedgrounds and they vaccinate elk there already, but as long as these elk winter feeding grounds remain open, there will always be brucellosis in the GYE.  Any attempt to eradicate brucellosis will be futile because there is no way to vaccinate or remove all of the infected animals and brucellosis will surely remain, especially if the feed grounds remain open to concentrate animals where they can easily infect each other.

Montana State Senator Mike Phillips has written a Guest opinion in the Billings Gazette about this issue today as well.

To accentuate this point, Yellowstone National Park announced last week that it will not proceed with plans to remotely vaccinate bison inside the Park “because of substantial uncertainties over vaccine effectiveness and delivery, the cost of a 30-year program, potential impacts to wildlife behavior and the visitor experience, and evaluation of public comments,”.

There is still time to get this public money removed from the Farm Bill.  Please contact your U.S. Senators and ask them either to remove this funding or direct that it only be used to develop a better livestock vaccine.  We can protect cattle while still respecting our elk, bison and other critters as valued native wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone Area, but capturing and vaccinating wildlife on a large scale is a folly.

In Montana, Senator Baucus can be reached here: and Senator Tester can be reached here:

Please contact your Senators and tell them the “Farm Bill” as written if unacceptable – remove the provisions to vaccinate Greater Yellowstone Area wildlife.


Glenn Hockett
Volunteer President, Gallatin Wildlife Association
P.O. Box 5317
Bozeman, MT 59717
(406) 586-1729

Working to Protect Habitat and Conserve Fish & Wildlife

About The Author

Glenn Hockett

Glenn Hocket is the Volunteer President of the Gallatin Wildlife Association. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.

21 Responses to War on Wildlife Moves to the Federal “Farm Bill”

  1. avatar Richie G. says:

    I do not know if it will help but I will call Menendez in New Jersey !!!! Millions going the cattle industry, hunters for trophies etc.

  2. avatar Ralph Maughan says:

    This money is a terrible threat to Yellowstone Park, to bison and to elk.

    In Wyoming ranchers vaccinate to prevent their cattle from getting brucellosis (all of which comes from elk, by the way).

    In Montana they should too. $35-million dollars would better go providing cattle vaccinations not an untested, solitude and wilderness destroying effort to vaccinate elk and bison.

    Bison have never transmitted brucellosis to cattle. Elk do on occasion. I think we know darn well the target will be bison — $35-million for no benefit in disease reduction because there is no disease transfer.

    I wouldn’t be sad if the entire farm bill collapsed because it has always been a big handout to the richest agriculture interests with little for the small farmer or livestock owner. Thanks to the Tea Party, oddly enough, this Congress is the first to have a chance at killing the usual 5-year extention of the government’s primary agriculture program.

    Yes everyone should read Mike Phillips’ opinion “Guest opinion: Montana needs strong leadership to resolve bison issues.

    • avatar Montana Boy says:

      Montana requires brucellosis vaccination tag and tattoo for all heifers. I believe the park region requires a two shot program.

      • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

        Montana Boy,

        Thanks for confirming this. I thought this was the case. The change came when, 3-4 years ago? So why is the brucellosis pot getting stirred up again? I had thought this was one nasty controversy that had been put behind us.

  3. avatar Garry Rogers says:

    Good post Glenn. Wasting only 35 million on a foolish effort to protect livestock? What will Congress think up next.

  4. Use the 35 million to buy out grazing permits on public lands. Target those livestock operations where domestic livestock come in close contact with elk, wolves and bison.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Larry Thorngren,

      You make too much sense! 😉

      My contention has been that this is not really about brucellosis, but about who rules in rural (and by default urban) Montana. Brucellosis is not really a menace that organized livestock groups (including DOL)want to stamp out. Instead it is a tool for them to assert a claim against wildlife, recreational, wilderness and other interests they don’t like.

    • avatar WM says:


      In a rare moment of shared common thoughts, I am with you on this idea.

  5. avatar CodyCoyote says:

    In Wyoming if you ranch in the ” hot zones” where brucellosis has been showing up, the State will pay for a veterinarian to come and vaccinate your stock free. Takes two passes…very young calves and again as adults. Costs only a few dollars per head.

    Vaccinating migratory wildlife on the other hand is about as practical as nailing jello to a passing goat’s derriere.

    For one thing, the vaccines are ineffective. The long developed refined and applied RB-51 vaccine used on cattle ( not completely effective) are next to worthless on Bison . The previous strain 19 vaccine was very problematic, besides causing false positives up the yin-yang. As for Elk, all vaccines pretty much totally worthless. There isn’t even a human vaccine that works…you’d think by now……

    The way I see it, if a wholly subverted COngress is willing to spend $ 35 million on a dubious brucellosis campaign, they should just buy out the affected ranchers and/ or move the cows and be done with it. Would probably come out money ahead.

    ( Take Hoppe’s sheep with you from that pasture near Gardiner when you go )

  6. There are far too many small, isolated ranches, surrounded by public lands in the west, that do not make economic sense.
    We spend public money on crop and meat subsidies, county roads, school bus transportation, predator control,subsidized grazing, etc.etc., and now proposed bison and elk vaccination programs to keep these properties afloat.
    If we took the public money that all of these WELFARE rancher/farmers get, add the money from never ending research projects on wolves and other wildlife, and use it to buy out these ranches and their grazing permits, we would save a lot of money and provide additional habitat for wildlife at the same time.
    It would save the lives of thousands of bison and wolves as well.

  7. avatar snaildarter says:

    I agree use the money to buy cirtical habitat in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and add it to the park so no hunting. Or maybe we should just buy out Cook City and get rid of it.

  8. This has been a very interesting thread. I especially liked CodyCoyote’s quote:

    “Vaccinating migratory wildlife on the other hand is about as practical as nailing jello to a passing goat’s derriere.”

    What continues to trouble me is our collective lack of political clout, even respect. We don’t seem to matter to the political powers that be, while the livestock industry, really the public land livestock industry has so much influence. Why is that and how can we change it? Why are wildlife and wildlands not a more positive political issue. It is why we all live in the Greater Yellowstone Area, or why many come to visit. This really baffles me.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Glenn Hockett,

      I believe it is because the livestock industry is well organized for political action because of the overrepresentation of their people in the state legislature and Congress. I mean who are Montana’s senators?

      This won’t change until the composition of legislative bodies changes, or there is some way to get around them.

  9. avatar Nancy says:

    “Examination of the data from these herds reveals several facts. With few exceptions, herds had low seroprevalence at time of detection (14 of 17 herds: <10%; 11 of 17 herds: <3%). Additionally, few or no abortions were reported by herd owners or managers. These findings probably are due to rigorous surveillance and the widespread use of vaccination in GYA herds. The attenuated live vaccine, strain RB51, is efficacious in decreasing abortions but does not prevent infection (9). The herd with highest seroprevalence (herd no. 4) had the lowest percentage of vaccinated cattle (41%) "

    • avatar Nancy says:

      From what I can gather Elk have been known carriers of Brucellosis for a long time? And data seems to suggest that cases are rare of transmission to cattle, so the bigger question is, why now the need to sink $35 million into yet another program to harass wildlife. Larry T. has the right idea 🙂

    • Nancy:

      The article you cite clearly puts elk in the crosshairs of APHIS (the federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) and DOL (state Departments of Livestock). This is why the $35,000,000 in the Farm Bill to vaccinate wildlife in some wild hope of eradicating brucellosis is so important. It will perpetuate the failed livestock mentality paradigm for our wildlife, including elk.

  10. avatar CodyCoyote says:

    Columnist Todd Wilkinson has an excellent 2-part series on eradication f wildlife diseases including the Yellowstone brucellosis imbroglio at the Jackson Hole news and Guide.

    It underscores once again the obvious failure of APHIS’ expensive roundup-test-slaughter programs.

  11. More on this in the Front Page of the Bozeman Chronicle this morning:

    I’m not sure if this pasted in correctly. If not perhaps someone can help me link to this article.

    • avatar Ida Lupines says:

      I wonder if it will include research into CWD and the pneumonia being transmitted to bighorn sheep by domestic sheep? After all, we do want to make sure we have enough elk for hunters. Or is it just brucellosis that comes up over and over again.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      There is desperate need for more money to study zoonoses, but ironically it is not brucellosis at all. It is Lyme disease, toxiplasmosis, West Nile virus, and many more. In this time of tight budgets, it is criminal to waste it on bison and brucellosis when people are dying of those I mentioned and more.


January 2014


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

%d bloggers like this: