October 22, 2019

Wyoming "Brucellosis-Free"

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Feds officially declared Wyoming as brucellosis free, meaning no new outbreaks of the disease have been recorded. This has been a two year effort. Brucellosis is a disease that causes the premature abortion of fetuses in cattle and elk.

The Jackson Hole Star-Tribune has an article that describes much of what has taken place over the last two years to bring Wyoming back into a brucellosis-free status. It also points out some interesting things pertaining to the spread of disease and scientific evidence to back up theories.

Meredith Taylor of the Wyoming Outdoor Council remains a bit skeptical as to whether Wyoming can maintain a brucellosis-free status without making changes in some of the state’s elk management practices.

Not everyone is sure that brucellosis won’t crop up again in cattle, particularly in northwest counties that border Yellowstone National Park or include elk feedgrounds.

“Neither wildlife nor livestock conditions have changed much in northwest Wyoming with the continuing feedground management, so it’s surprising that APHIS would restore the state’s brucellosis-free status,” said Meredith Taylor of the Wyoming Outdoor Coalition.

What Taylor is refering to is the ongoing elk feedground programs and the commingling of wild elk with cattle especially during the winter feedground times.

Taylor has long been a critic of elk feedgrounds as breeding grounds for disease. While a range of conservation groups recommend phasing out elk feedgrounds, Taylor also praised the voluntary efforts of Red Rock Ranch and Buffalo Valley Ranch in fencing their cattle in and elk out of winter cattle feedlines, as well as the ongoing habitat improvement efforts of the Jackson Hole Interagency Habitat Initiative.

Taylor believes that efforts to keep the two animals separated in combination with phasing out the feedgrounds will go a long ways in reducing and/or preventing the spread of disease.

“That’s the ultimate solution to elk and cattle commingling,” Taylor said. Commingling is widely seen by the cattle industry as the source of brucellosis infection, transferred from elk to cattle. However, outside of laboratory facilities, such transmission has never been scientifically documented.

What should be pointed out here is that the statement says that commingling is believed to be a source of the spread of brucellosis and that it has never been scientifically documented as actually happening.

The head of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association thinks the best way to deal with the spread of disease between wildlife and cattle is on a case-by-case basis and keeping efforts “site specific”.

Jim Magagna, executive director of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said ranchers in the six counties near Yellowstone and the feedgrounds are hard at work developing individual herd management plans, to address commingling and other problems.

“We we like is that these plans are site specific, rather than one size fits all,” Magagna said.

While all ranchers in those six counties are required to conduct regular blood tests to check for the presence of the brucellosis bacterium, Magagna said he’d like to see testing move away from countywide programs to a case-by-case basis on individual ranches.

In Idaho, where groups, including hunting organizations, are working to ban all forms of elk ranching, fear tactics seem to be working to convince people that fenced-in elk will destroy the state’s wildlife. Wyoming, which carries a ban on elk farming, has been putting pressure on Idaho to enact similar restrictions, yet even their own management practices seem contradictory to the message they are preaching.

If it is true that no scientific documentation exists to prove that brucellosis is spread from wild elk to cattle outside of the labs, then how can an official agency continue to tell the masses that this is happening? Efforts along with management plans seem contradictory and confusing. On the one hand, you have state authorities saying that disease is spread when large numbers of elk are forced into areas for feeding, yet the state sponsors feedgrounds, believed to be breeding grounds for diseases.

It is also being said that commingling of wild elk and cattle spreads disease, yet only until recently are any efforts being made to separate the two with fences. But what is interesting is for the state of Wyoming to say that fencing in or out, however you choose to look at, will stop the spread of disease and at the same time tell people who would like to farm elk for a living that they can’t because fencing won’t stop the spread of disease.

Wyoming has been able to render itself brucellosis-free through efforts to eliminate diseased animals. They believe with continued effort they can eventually eradicate the disease. The efforts they are using are good enough for them but somehow aren’t good enough for people interested in keeping their livlihoods as elk ranchers.

If the same message the state and federal authorities are giving about how disease is spread through commingling is true, then it would only seem plausible that a double fencing around all livestock would be in order. Yes, it would be costly and would probably force some ranchers out of business but this is better than forcing them all out of business. If the state is so bent on the salvation of the wildlife, particularly the cervidae species – elk, moose, deer, etc. – then the cost is certainly worth the investment. Not only would this protect the wildlife but it would preserve the rights of individuals to make a living and prosper.

Critics have said that a single fence will not keep animals on either side from being able to touch and spread disease. Double fencing about 8-10 feet apart would cure that. Combine that with good regulations on the number of animals per acre, accurate and thorough testing and documentation programs and you have virtually eliminated any chance of spreading disease, mutating the gene pool and at the same time, kept an agricultural industry working. Everybody wins.

It is wrong for states to practice one thing and enforce laws contrary to their own management practices.

*Previous Posts*

Rex Rammell Arrested, Again….Cow Elk Tests Positive For Red Deer Genes
Fanning The Flames
Idaho’s Escaped Elk Test Negative – Elk Ranchers Face Banning Advocates
Idaho Governor Calls Off Elk Depredation Hunt…..Sort Of
In Response To Malnourished Elk
Rex Rammell’s Letter To The Editor
Has Government Gone Too Far? More Escaped Elk Shot
What Do Malnurished Elk Look Like?
Idaho Elk Breeders Association Opens New Website
Bull Elk Shot Inside Rex Rammell’s Ranch
Wyoming Governor Asks Idaho Governor To Ban Game Farms
Escaped Idaho Elk Shot In Wyoming
Rex Rammell Arrested
Governor Jim Risch Defends His Decision To Shoot Escaped Elk
Idaho Gubernatorial Candidates Have A Say About Elk Farming
Rammell For Governor, Ranch Sold, Elk Still Being Hunted
Wyoming Governor Freudenthal Says Interior Department Not Doing Enough About Escaped Elk
Idaho’s Escaped Elk Now Getting National Attention
Idaho Elk Farmer Says All His Elk Accounted For
Idaho Governor Expands Hunt For Escaped Elk
More Elk Killed In Idaho – Some By Hunters
Idaho Elk Farmer Plans To Sue The State
Scientists Will Test Killed Idaho Elk For Disease And Genetic Make-up
A Helicopter, A Plane And 25 Agents Can’t Find 160 Domestic Elk
Escaped Idaho Elk Being Slaughtered. Wyoming Ordered To Kill Elk Also
Domestic Elk Crash The Gate – Escape!

Tom Remington

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