Effective, long-term strategies to manage the threat of bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis spillback from northern, diseased bison to the Canadian cattle herd and adjacent disease-free wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) herds have eluded policy makers in recent decades. A controversial plan to depopulate infected herds and repopulate them with disease-free wood bison was rejected in 1990 because of significant public concern. Since then, technical advances in vaccine technology, genetic salvage, selective culling, and diagnostic test development have occurred. Containment strategies to reduce further spread of these diseases are a necessary first step; recent progress has been made in this area, but challenges remain. This progress has produced more options for management of these herds in northern Canada, and it is time to consider wood bison conservation and long-term disease eradication as equally important goals that must satisfy concerns of conservation groups, agriculture sectors, aboriginal groups, and the general public. Management of wildlife disease reservoirs in other areas, including Yellowstone and Riding Mountain national parks, has demonstrated that effective disease management is possible. Although combinations of different strategies, including vaccination, genetic salvage techniques, and selective culling, that use sensitive and specific diagnostic tests may offer alternatives to depopulation/repopulation, they also have logistic constraints and cost implications that will need consideration in a multistakeholder, collaborative-management framework. We feel the time is right for this discussion, so a long-term solution to this problem can be applied.
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Vol. 51 • No. 3