BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — State officials say the livestock disease brucellosis has been found in elk in southwestern Montana’s Ruby Mountains, the latest evidence that the disease continues to slowly spread among wildlife in the Yellowstone region.
Two elk tested positive for exposure to the disease during recent sampling by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
State Veterinarian Marty Zaluski says it’s the first time brucellosis has been found in the mountain range east of Dillon. The two infected animals were among 100 elk that were tested.
The bacterial disease can infect cattle, bison and elk. It causes female animals to prematurely abort their young and can spread through infected birth tissues and fluids.
It’s been essentially eradicated in U.S. livestock herds but persists in wildlife populations in and around Yellowstone National Park.
The elk that tested positive were just outside the boundaries of a designated area where livestock producers must test their cattle for the disease.
Thousands of Yellowstone bison have been captured and sent to slaughter or killed by hunters in recent decades under a controversial program that aims to control the spread of the disease. Such measures would be less feasible for elk, which are more numerous and inhabit a much larger range than bison.