As part of its multi-year Targeted Elk Brucellosis Surveillance Project, in the coming weeks Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is planning elk capture operations in both the Tendoy Mountains and Lima Peaks southwest of Dillon and on the eastern side of the Madison Valley.
In the Tendoys and Lima Peaks, up to 100 female elk will be captured with the aid of a helicopter. Elk will be sampled and tested for brucellosis and thirty of the animals will be fitted with radio collars to track their movement for one year. Processing of the elk will occur on site and the animals will be released as quickly and safely as possible.
There are similar plans for the Madison where the capture operations plan for 40 female elk from the Bear Creek Wildlife Management Area and from between Indian Creek and Wolf Creek.
Again, all the elk will be tested for brucellosis and each animal will be fitted with a radio collar to track its movement for up to three years.
The goal of these operations is to evaluate the presence and understand the movement of brucellosis in Montana’s elk populations. The research will also help FWP understand the overlap between elk and livestock on the landscape.
In the case of the Madison, researchers will also be looking to evaluate the influence of management actions on elk distribution.
Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that infects cattle, bison and elk and can result in abortion or the birth of weak calves. The disease is primarily transmitted through contact with infected birth tissues and fluids.
Animals that test positive for brucellosis exposure do not necessarily carry or spread the disease, but at one time were exposed to brucellosis and have developed antibodies that can be measured with blood tests.
This project is a joint effort with the Montana Department of Livestock with support from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
FWP’s research lead on the project, Dr. Kelly Proffitt said, “Important on-the-ground work of this nature couldn’t happen without these partnerships.”
Dr. Eric Liska, the brucellosis program veterinarian with the Montana Department of Livestock, said, “The Department of Livestock appreciates the partnership with FWP and the information and knowledge gained through this collaboration.”
FWP asks the public to avoid the capture area for their personal safety as well as that of the staff and the animals.
More information about brucellosis and the Targeted Elk Brucellosis Surveillance project can be found online at http://fwp.mt.gov/fishAndWildlife/diseasesAndResearch/healthPrograms/brucellosis/.