Sterile bison study aims at thwarting brucellosis | TSLN.com

Sterile bison study aims at thwarting brucellosis

Several Yellowstone National Park bison would be temporarily sterilized under a government research proposal aimed at combating brucellosis, federal officials said Thursday, June 2. The research could begin as soon as next spring and would be done in partnership with the park, said Lyndsay Cole with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Fifty-three Yellowstone bison captured this winter are being held for the project at a government compound north of Yellowstone. Roughly half of Yellowstone’s bison have been exposed to brucellosis. To keep the disease from spreading to cattle, almost 4,000 Yellowstone bison have been killed over the past decade during their annual migration into Montana.

Researchers have been trying for years to come up with a way to reduce the prevalence of the disease, to stem the periodic, government-sponsored mass culling of the animals. The chemical contraceptive, GonaCon, that would be injected in the bison has previously been used to control deer populations, Cole said.

“It’s not permanent contraception. This would be a non-lethal way of breaking the disease cycle,” she said. The contraceptive would be effective for an estimated one to three years. After that, researchers would breed the captured bison to see if they still could transmit the disease.

Animals that test positive for disease exposure after the end of the seven-year study could be slaughtered. Those that test negative would be transferred to bison restoration programs outside of Yellowstone.

Cole said there will be an environmental impact study on the proposal in coming months, with opportunity for public comment.

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Several Yellowstone National Park bison would be temporarily sterilized under a government research proposal aimed at combating brucellosis, federal officials said Thursday, June 2. The research could begin as soon as next spring and would be done in partnership with the park, said Lyndsay Cole with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Fifty-three Yellowstone bison captured this winter are being held for the project at a government compound north of Yellowstone. Roughly half of Yellowstone’s bison have been exposed to brucellosis. To keep the disease from spreading to cattle, almost 4,000 Yellowstone bison have been killed over the past decade during their annual migration into Montana.

Researchers have been trying for years to come up with a way to reduce the prevalence of the disease, to stem the periodic, government-sponsored mass culling of the animals. The chemical contraceptive, GonaCon, that would be injected in the bison has previously been used to control deer populations, Cole said.

“It’s not permanent contraception. This would be a non-lethal way of breaking the disease cycle,” she said. The contraceptive would be effective for an estimated one to three years. After that, researchers would breed the captured bison to see if they still could transmit the disease.

Animals that test positive for disease exposure after the end of the seven-year study could be slaughtered. Those that test negative would be transferred to bison restoration programs outside of Yellowstone.

Cole said there will be an environmental impact study on the proposal in coming months, with opportunity for public comment.

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