Deadly elk disease decreasing, not gone in Bighorn herds

(Sheridan, Wyo.) - The prevalence of brucellosis in Wyoming’s elk herds not utilizing feedgrounds decreased in 2015 according to a recent Wyoming Game and Fish Department report. But, recent testing shows two cow elk in the northwest portion of the Bighorn Mountains tested positive for brucellosis recently. This is the fourth year in a row that elk from the Bighorns have tested positive. “Brucellosis in elk is likely at low levels in the Bighorn Mountains, but it is obviously still a concern to find it there,” said Hank Edwards, Game and Fish wildlife disease specialist. “Based on this year’s findings, brucellosis doesn’t appear to be increasing in these elk herds . That said, additional surveillance is required for us to continue to monitor and understand the prevalence of brucellosis within these elk herds.” Each year Game and Fish monitors the distribution and prevalence of brucellosis within the state’s elk herds by working with hunters to collect blood samples from their harvested animals. Hunters who harvest and return blood samples are the core of the brucellosis surveillance program. In 2015, over 10,500 blood collection kits were mailed or directly handed to elk hunters successful in limited quota elk license drawings in the targeted surveillance elk hunt areas. In general, hunters return between 1,000 and 1,500 blood samples to the Game and Fish Wildlife Health laboratory, of which approximately 60 percent are suitable for testing. A total of 344 useable samples were collected over the past four years of surveillance in the southeastern corner of the state. All samples tested negative for exposure to Brucella abortus, the brucellosis bacteria. To date, this disease has not been documented outside of western half of the state. *photo h/t Dennis Wagner / Pitchengine Communities* #dally #news