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Elk capture

Elk are captured by helicopter before having their blood drawn. A portion of the captured elk are collared to monitor their movement.

Disease testing of elk captured by Fish, Wildlife & Parks crews in the Tendoy and Bangtail mountains this winter revealed no brucellosis.

The survey is part of a multi-year brucellosis surveillance project. This year the capture operations took place in the northern portion of the Tendoy Mountains southwest of Dillon and in the southern portion of the Bangtail Mountains northwest of Livingston.

In the Tendoys, 99 female elk were captured with the aid of a helicopter in Hunting Districts 302 and 328 between Interstate 15 and Horse Prairie Creek. All elk tested negative for brucellosis and 30 animals were outfitted with radio collars to track their movement for one year.

In the Bangtails, 49 female elk were captured in the southeast corner of Hunting District 393 along Fleshman and Willow creeks. All elk tested negative for brucellosis and 15 animals were outfitted with radio collars to track their movement for one year. In addition, blood samples from seven elk harvested during the shoulder season all tested negative for brucellosis.

The goal of these operations is to evaluate the presence and understand the movement of brucellosis in Montana’s elk populations. The research will also help FWP understand the overlap between elk and livestock on the landscape.

The Montana Department of Livestock administers a brucellosis designated surveillance area (DSA) for livestock and determines the boundary partially based on elk brucellosis testing results and movement data. Cattle and domestic bison producers who utilize ground within the DSA are subject to additional testing and identification requirements to protect Montana’s livestock industry. The Tendoys and Bangtails are currently outside of the DSA.

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Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that infects cattle, bison and elk and can result in abortion or the birth of weak calves. The disease is primarily transmitted through contact with infected birth tissues and fluids.

Animals that test positive for brucellosis exposure do not necessarily carry or spread the disease, but at one time were exposed to brucellosis and have developed antibodies that can be measured with blood tests.

This project is a joint effort between the Montana Department of Livestock and FWP, with support from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

More information about brucellosis and the Targeted Elk Brucellosis Surveillance Project can be found online at http://fwp.mt.gov/fishAndWildlife/diseasesAndResearch/healthPrograms/brucellosis/.

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