Ruby wildlife group holds meeting on elk brucellosis testing

With the on-going elk brucellosis test in the upper Ruby Valley, the local wildlife group will get an update from state officials and have a chance to ask some questions.

The Ruby Valley Wildlife Group will hold its monthly meeting Wednesday night at the Sheridan High School. The meeting will be focused on the brucellosis testing, said group coordinator, Dan Crismore.

The Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks started the study this past winter in an effort to get a better idea on the extent of the brucellosis infection rates in elk in southwest Montana. The agency tested and tagged 100 elk in the upper Ruby Valley in the Sweet Water area. Out of those 100 elk, 12 tested positive for exposure to the disease in the first round of brucellosis testing, said FWP biologist Neil Anderson, who will be speaking at Wednesday’s meeting.

The positive test results are currently undergoing more extensive tests that will give scientists a better idea of what the infection rate could be, Anderson said.

Brucellosis is a disease that is carried in elk and buffalo, most notably, but can also be transmitted to cattle. The disease causes pregnant animals to abort their calves.

Much of Madison County is in the Designated Surveillance Area, which means ranchers must have a state approved brucellosis plan and regularly test and vaccinate their animals.

This spring FWP are continuing to monitor the collared elk in the upper Ruby, Anderson said. The elk were also outfitted with a vaginal implant that will radio back to officials when the animal gives birth. This implant will also let officials know if the animal aborts a calf by sending out a signal early, he said.

So far none of the tagged elk have aborted a calf, Anderson said.

“The ones that have implants in are monitored almost on a daily basis,” he said.

Anderson’s presentation will go over the monitoring program and plan and answer any questions people have about brucellosis in elk. The idea is to make sure everybody who is interested in the work is up to speed on what’s happening, Anderson said.

The Ruby Valley Wildlife Group is made up of citizens from a variety of interest groups, including landowners, sportsmen and government officials, Crismore said. The group has been meeting for a year and was formed to try and keep everyone on the same page about what is happening with wildlife in and around the Ruby Valley.

“We meet once a month and what we’re doing is trying to work with the fish and game and get a little better grasp on what our animals are doing around here,” he said.

The group has already had an impact by providing input on elk objective numbers in the Gravelly Mountains and mule deer doe tag numbers in the Tobacco Root Mountains, both in an effort to protect animal populations, Crismore said.

The idea was to have a diverse group of people come to the table and work with FWP on wildlife issues, he said. It’s a format that gives all interested parties a voice.

“By having us sitting at the same table, the landowners and the fish and game and the sportsmen … We’re really able to get together to go to a common ground,” Crismore said.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 27 at the Sheridan High School media room.

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