Protecting an Iconic Herd

Protecting an Iconic Herd

Protecting an Iconic Herd. I’m Greg Martin with today’s Line On Agriculture.

Yellowstone National Park is home to one of America’s most iconic bison herds but this winter has been especially tough. Throw in the spread of the disease brucellosis and we could be looking at nearly 400 animals that could be slaughtered. Dave Carter is the Executive Director of the National Bison Association.

CARTER: The Yellowstone situation is a very unique situation in that that is what we consider one of the keystone herds of bison. It’s one of the herds that came through the near extinction of what we call the “bottle neck” about 120 years ago, fairly well intact so there’s some very important genetics and those animals are very important to us. Unfortunately brucellosis is an introduced disease to both bison and elk.

It has been just two weeks since 25 of the burly animals were herded onto the Gallatin National Forest, where bison had been prohibited for decades. But some of them repeatedly left the 2,500-acre patch where they were supposed to spend the winter. One was shot after entering private property, and 23 were captured and shipped back to the park or returned there on their own.

CARTER: We feel that it is a shame the way the animals have been dealt with, that the animals have wandered out of the park and are either getting back in or are shot. We are supportive of an on-going experiment that’s taking place right now to quarantine a test herd of bison and to make sure that that herd does not have brucellosis and then to use those animals as seed stock for other public herds.

Carter says that current brucellosis vaccines are not effective on bison.

CARTER: In fact we communicated to the Interior Department this week that if there is an effective vaccines that is developed we think it would be very appropriate for parks system to use that on their herds because brucellosis is after all an introduced disease to that herd, it’s not native to that herd so you’re not messing with the natural process or Mother Nature at all by trying to get brucellosis out of those herds.

Roughly half of Yellowstone's estimated 3,900 bison have been exposed to brucellosis, which can cause infected animals to prematurely abort their young. There have been no recorded cattle-to-bison brucellosis transmissions, and few cattle remain in the immediate vicinity of the park. 

That’s today’s Line On Agriculture. I’m Greg Martin on the Ag Information Network.

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