BUTTE — A spokesman for media mogul Ted Turner confirmed Wednesday that a bull bison on the Snowcrest Ranch in the Upper Ruby Valley, in southwestern Montana, tested positive for brucellosis last month.
Russ Miller, general manager for Turner’s western ranches said the bull bison was the only animal from the herd that tested positive for the disease. He said the animal was destroyed.
Miller said the ranches were open about the infection and encouraged the Montana Department of Livestock to release the information about the ranch.
“We had one positive animal on the ranch and we tested the entire herd,” Miller said. “It’s not unexpected when you’re in the designated surveillance area (for brucellosis), which was created for a reason.”
Last month state veterinarian Marty Zaluski announced that a bull animal on a Madison County ranch had tested positive for the disease, which can cause females to abort their young. Zaluski would not release the species of animal or the location of the ranch other than to say it was in Madison County.
He was complying with a law passed by the 2011 Legislature that requires the state to keep information revealing specific ranchers found to have an animal with the disease confidential.
The Montana Standard challenged Zaluski to release the information, but had not received a reply as of Wednesday.
Miller said the Snowcrest performed 1,698 tests for brucellosis on the ranch and the bull was the only one that came back positive. He said they are confident the disease was transmitted by elk. They are testing to confirm that using modern methods that can help identify the source.
“It’s not unanticipated; the state would confirm that is an area with a higher expectation because of elk,” he said. “I don’t think we or any of our neighbors are immune to further incidents of brucellosis.”
Last year the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks began a study of brucellosis in Ruby Valley elk. Biologists found that 12 of 100 cow elk captured tested positive for exposure to the disease.
The lone bull bison that tested positive does not trigger a loss of Montana’s brucellosis-free status by the federal government, said Eric Liska, brucellosis program veterinarian with the Montana Department of Livestock. Under the rules of the designated surveillance area (for brucellosis), the Snowcrest Ranch is under quarantine.
That means any livestock taken off the ranch must be hauled in a sealed trailer and taken directly to slaughter, Liska said. The ranch is barred from selling livestock to other ranches.
Liska said the new rules for ranchers within the surveillance area give them options to manage their herd and prevent further infections without causing the entire state to lose its brucellosis-free status. He said the adjoining properties will be required to test all their animals.
The Snowcrest Ranch will need three negative tests of all its animals to have the quarantine lifted, Liska said.
“They’ll be under quarantine until we’re confident a release of quarantine is safe for the industry of our state and the industry of the United States as well,” he said.