Yellowstone National Park and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will hold a workshop Feb. 26-28 at Chico Hot Springs Resort to examine the science behind the disease brucellosis and to help improve management of the Yellowstone bison population.
The workshop will feature a panel of scientists with backgrounds in wildlife management and disease ecology who will discuss current conservation and disease management objectives regarding bison and brucellosis. The panel will examine public attitudes toward the disease and specific scientific factors of Brucella abortus, the bacterium behind the nonnative disease brucellosis, including immunology, disease ecology, bison behavior and demographics, conservation biology and transmission risk to other wildlife and cattle.
The panel hopes to provide conclusions and recommendations in a brief report at the close of the workshop regarding:
• The feasibility of significantly suppressing the disease in bison;
• Potential impacts of suppression activities;
• The likelihood that disease suppression will result in more tolerance for bison and help advance bison conservation;
• Critical knowledge gaps and research priorities that could improve brucellosis management practices
The workshop is open for public observation and will begin at 8 a.m. each day. A public comment period will occur at the end of each day.
Bison and elk in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have long been infected with brucellosis. The management of this disease has been a contentious public issue for decades. In 2000, the federal government and the state of Montana agreed to a bison management plan that established guidelines for cooperatively managing the risk of brucellosis transmission from bison to cattle. The resulting Interagency Bison Management Plan emphasized conserving the bison population while protecting the livestock economy in Montana. To date, no documented transmission of brucellosis from Yellowstone bison to cattle has occurred, due in part to successful efforts by federal and state agencies to maintain separation between cattle and bison. However, previous management efforts have not resulted in a measurable decrease in brucellosis exposure or infection.