It's an infectious disease can jump from animals to humans and it's a word livestock producers hate to hear – brucellosis. Last fall, two elk harvested in the Bighorn Mountains tested positive for the infectious disease, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is stepping up its efforts to see if brucellosis exists in the region by asking for help from elk hunters.
Statewide brucellosis surveillance efforts rely on hunters voluntarily collecting blood samples from the elk they harvest. But only 50 percent of blood samples received by Game and Fish are usable, according to the department.
Sheridan Public Information Specialist with Game and Fish, Warren Mischke, has some tips on properly collecting samples.
Mischke says the participation by hunters in this program, and others, is vital to understanding where brucellosis could be - and the department appreciates their efforts.
The two elk that tested positive for brucellosis last fall weren't necessarily carrying the disease according to Game and Fish – they could have simply been exposed to the bacteria at some point during their lives.
The department will be mailing blood sample kits, if they haven't already received them, to elk hunters currently holding limited quota licenses for hunt areas in the Bighorns. Additionally, blood kits are available at game warden stations, as well as at the Sheridan and Cody regional offices.
Mischke says information gathered during the surveillance program could be used to help keep area livestock producers and the general public informed of the possible spread of the infectious disease.