National

Nov 21, 2013 9:38 PM by Juice Godfrey

Montana agency to vaccinate Yellowstone bison

EMIGRANT, Mont. (AP) - The Montana Department of Livestock plans to start a vaccination program for bison from Yellowstone National Park in February, the state veterinarian told a group of state, federal and tribal agencies that manages the animals that wander into Montana.

The state agency will vaccinate bison against brucellosis from late February until early March, Marty Zaluski said at an Interagency Bison Management Plan meeting Thursday. Brucellosis is a disease that can cause pregnant animals to prematurely abort their young.

It has been eradicated nationwide except in and around Yellowstone National Park, where brucellosis persists in wildlife such as elk and bison.

The state livestock agency wants to reduce the occurrence of the disease in bison from about 50 percent to 10 to 20 percent, which is comparable to the prevalence of the disease in elk, Zaluski said.

The aim is to reduce the chances of bison transferring brucellosis to cattle. But the agency's vaccination program has not been approved by the tribes and other state and federal agencies in the group, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported Thursday.

"We feel this is a priority. We made a commitment in this very room to vaccinate or to increase vaccination," Zaluski told the group's members.

Under the plan, livestock agency employees would capture bison that migrate outside the park and vaccinate them.

They would then receive a temporary marker or tag, Zaluski said.

There is no target number of bison to vaccinate or measurement for the program's effectiveness, Zaluski said. The state agency would depend on other partners, such as the National Park Service, to help with monitoring.

Nineteen cows and 14 domestic bison in the state have tested positive for brucellosis since 2007, including two cases last month.

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