However, there is no indication of transmission or exposure to livestock in the area.
These are the first elk to test positive outside the brucellosis designated surveillance area, and it is important not to become overly alarmed, said Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan. Still, it is a significant finding and may mean increased surveillance is needed, he said.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials don’t know where the elk contracted the disease, said Eric Keszler, public information officer for the department in Cheyenne.
Brucellosis in cattle, elk, and bison is caused by a bacterium, Brucella abortus. The disease can cause an animal to abort its fetus.
The elk that tested positive were identified through the Game and Fish’s statewide brucellosis surveillance program, in which hunters voluntarily submit blood samples from harvested elk. Samples are collected from hunters in the fall and early winter, then analyzed at the Game and Fish lab throughout the winter, said the department.
There have been no new brucellosis-affected cattle herds in the Greater Yellowstone Area thus far in fiscal year 2013, according to the Jan. 31 bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis surveillance results monthly report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
One Park County herd is under quarantine, but there have been no new active cases in the state, Logan said.
The brucellosis surveillance area covers all of Park, Teton and Sublette counties, the northern two-thirds of Lincoln County and the western third of Fremont County. The boundaries were set by the Wyoming Livestock Board with the Game and Fish, Logan said.
The need to identify the risk to cattle must be identified first before any requirements are implemented. Gov. Matt Mead’s office, the Livestock Board, the Game and Fish Department and the State Veterinarian’s Office are planning a meeting soon, probably in the Greybull area, to visit with producers and the general public, Logan said.
That meeting will likely be held in early April. The Wyoming Brucellosis Coordinating Team is meeting in Lander April 3. The Big Horn elk are on the agenda, Keszler said.
“It’s important for people to understand that brucellosis has not been found in any livestock in this area of Wyoming,” Logan said. “We will be working with livestock producers in the area to ensure they are aware of the situation, and we are moving to quickly analyze the implications and actions that should be taken.
“We will share information as it becomes available,” he said.
Brucellosis has been present for nearly a century in elk and bison in the Greater Yellowstone Area, including the northwest corner of Wyoming.