Thank you for your interest in this important but complicated issue.
Please allow us to get technical for a moment.
The American Bison Specialist Group (ABSG) operates under the authority of the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Whew!
In their own words, “The ABSG is committed to the development of comprehensive and viable strategies and management actions to enhance conservation and achieve ecological restoration of American bison as wildlife where feasible throughout the original range of the species.”
Are you wondering how this relates to livestock diseases? Well, the ABSG identifies ten federally listed diseases of concern for buffalo conservation in North America:
- bovine spongiform encephalopathy
- bovine brucellosis
- bovine tuberculosis
- bovine viral diarrhea
- hemorrhagic septicemia (outbreaks have occurred in the past)
- Johne’s disease, and
- malignant catarrhal fever (outbreaks have occurred in the region).
Of these, hemorrhagic septicemia and malignant catarrhal fever pose the most immediate threats to Yellowstone buffalo.
Yellowstone Buffalo and Brucellosis
This is a highly contentious disease and issue, and one that merits some explanation if your interest has brought you this far. We are happy to offer you some
Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that affects livestock and wildlife, sometimes causing infected cattle to abort their first calf after the mother contracts an infection. While such miscarriages have also been documented in wild buffalo, the incident rate is very low, and the impact of the disease on Yellowstone buffalo and elk is insignificant.
Brucellosis originated in European livestock and was first detected in Yellowstone's buffalo in 1917, after some wild buffalo were fed milk from infected domestic cows.
It is true that some of Yellowstone’s buffalo test positive for antibodies to brucellosis. A positive test indicates only that the animal has been exposed to the disease, which in many cases simply means that the animal has acquired disease resistance. Buffalo who test “positive” are not necessarily infected with the disease or capable of transmitting it to other buffalo—or to cattle. The already negligible risk of disease transmission is further reduced because:
- virtually all cattle near Yellowstone are already vaccinated against brucellosis;
- cattle and buffalo generally do not occupy the same area at the same time, and;
- transmission occurs via fluids and tissues associated with either a live birth or an aborted fetus (therefore, bull buffalo, calves, and female non-pregnant buffalo cannot possibly pose a disease threat, even if they were to come into direct contact with domestic cattle.
Despite all of the above, and against all logic, all buffalo that test positive are sent to slaughter, including bulls, even though transmission could only occur if an infected female gave birth or miscarried—and then a cow happened to be exposed to the bacteria before the bacteria died in the harsh Yellowstone climate.
In spring of 2002, when the Yellowstone buffalo population exceeded an arbitrary (human imposed) population “cap” of 3,000, Montana’s Department of Livestock (MDOL) sent more than 100 buffalo to slaughter without even testing them. Then in 2003, the National Park Service—the agency responsible for protecting the buffalo and other park wildlife—sent more than 200 buffalo to slaughter before any disease testing was conducted. Learn even more truth about science and brucellosis here!
Are you starting to see the pattern here? No real science. No real forethought. No real future for the innocent buffalo without your help. Are you ready to make a real difference for the buffalo by joining BFC today?!
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