From: Becky Bohrer, Associated Press
Published January 24, 2006 12:00 AM

Research Site Full of Yellowstone Bison

BILLINGS, Mont. — A research site north of Yellowstone National Park has filled to capacity with young bison that will be used in studying whether brucellosis-free herds can be produced from quarantine.


The 48 bison calves shipped to the site at Corwin Springs over the weekend brings to 100 the total number of young bison being held at the site, said Mel Frost, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Thirty-eight bison, also captured this winter near the park's northern border after venturing too far, were sent over earlier.


The bison join 14 others that were captured last year, she said.


The state-federal project is looking at whether a so-called quarantine facility could be useful both in finding bison free of the disease brucellosis and in helping set up brucellosis-free herds in Montana and other states. Researchers began accepting bison calves captured near the park's borders last year.


Bison can be captured under a joint state-federal management plan aimed at reducing the potential spread of brucellosis from wandering bison to cattle in Montana. Brucellosis is found in the park's bison herd and in elk in the region; the disease can cause cows to abort. Activists argue that bison-to-cattle transmission of brucellosis has never been documented in the wild.


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To qualify for quarantine, bison calves must test negative for brucellosis. Frost said the new arrivals to quarantine would be re-tested for the potential of "sero-conversion," or the possibility that they'd been exposed to brucellosis but it hadn't shown up in initial testing.


Any bison that "sero-convert" would be euthanized, she said. Under the research protocol, half the bison in quarantine eventually will be killed to allow for closer study and culturing of tissue samples to determine such things as whether any animals had been exposed to or infected with brucellosis, Frost said.


FWP and the federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service have proposed a new site to which the remaining bison could be moved for breeding and calving, freeing up space for a new round of calves and study, Frost said. Public comment is still being taken on the proposal, she said.


Stephany Seay, a spokeswoman for the Buffalo Field Campaign, said the facility takes the bison from their families and subjects them to handling by humans and domestication. She said efforts would be better spent focused on a better brucellosis vaccine for cattle and better management of cattle in the area.


Source: Associated Press


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