Brucellosis occurs in free-ranging elk (Cervus elaphus) and bison (Bison bison) in the Greater Yellowstone Area, which includes portions of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. Brucella abortus was first detected in elk in Idaho in 1998, and from 1998 to 2002, serologic surveillance of hunter-killed elk was conducted in northeastern and southeastern Idaho. Prevalence of antibodies in these elk varied annually, but averaged between 2% and 3%. Elk were also trapped in northeastern Idaho from 1998–2002 and tested for brucellosis using serology and tissue culture. In areas where artificial feeding of elk was done, antibody prevalence ranged from 12% to 80% depending on site, age, and sex. At one feeding site (Rainey Creek), a decline in the prevalence of antibodies (from 56.8% in 1999 to 13.5% in 2002) was detected after the removal of seropositive elk over 4 yr. Seropositive elk removed from two artificial winter feeding sites (Rainey Creek and Conant Creek) were euthanized and sampled or held in captivity and allowed to calve prior to euthanasia and necropsy. At necropsy, B. abortus biovar 1 and B. abortus biovar 4 were isolated from both cows and calves; however, biovar 4 was predominant. A dual infection with both biovars was found in one calf born to a seropositive cow from which biovar 4 was isolated. Abortions (16%), stillbirths (8%), and weak calves (4%) were observed in these elk. These findings confirm the presence of brucellosis in elk in eastern Idaho and provide information on disease management options.
Vol. 42 • No. 2