Managing brucellosis discussed at local level

At the Madison Elk Working Group meeting on Dec. 2, landowners, ranchers, sportsmen, community members and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) officials met to discuss the tools available to prevent livestock-elk co-mingling.

Quentin Kujala, FWP, was in attendance to present the FWP commission-endorsed general 2014 work plan for elk management in areas with brucellosis.

Kujala explained that FWP established a statewide citizen’s working group to discuss handling brucellosis and elk distribution.

“We plan to use hunter harvest and presence to move elk in small numbers out of co-mingling situations, among other things,” Kujala said. “Now we’re looking for local expertise, history, values and understanding to put these presented tools on the ground to address the risk.”

According to Kujala, the plan is not an endorsement of moving elk on a large scale. It is not about population management—it is about distribution management to cut back on co-mingling situations. The plan presents tools to solving the issue of co-mingling from fencing efforts to small-scale lethal elk management removals.

Managing brucellosis in Madison County is difficult for a few particular reasons. It is primarily hard to get very specific in the area because co-mingling can happen all over the flats—not necessarily in pinpointed, regular events.

The general plan currently endorsed by the FWP commission can either be adopted by the group or amended to make it more applicable to circumstances in Madison County.

John Scully from Jeffers brought up concerns with the current plan, which states lethal removals of elk must end after April 30.

“Can we push that date back?” Scully asked. “Livestock is most at risk of brucellosis transmissions in the late spring; that is when we need to manage elk distribution.”

Scully then suggested discussing and adapting the plan for Madison Valley at the landowner meeting the first week of January, after explaining that sportsmen and people with varied backgrounds and interests will all be invited to attend and share their opinions.

With winter bearing down fast and spring right around the corner, establishing a working plan is a time sensitive issue.

“If this group can come up with a list of shortcomings in the default work plan then suggestions to fix those shortcomings, it can be taken to the January or February FWP commissioners meeting,” Kujala explained. “Then the adapted plan would go out to public comment and could be approved at the next month’s meeting.”

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