The recent federal budget bill approved by Congress includes $242,000 to continue research to combat diseases that affect both livestock and wildlife in Wyoming.
Most of the federal money will be used to continue research conducted by a coalition of investigators from the University of Wyoming, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and Wyoming Livestock Board. For the past three years, researchers have investigated diseases that have an impact on either or both wildlife and livestock populations.
This recent funding will be used to combat the spread of brucellosis through improved vaccines, improved understanding of the ecology and epidemiology of brucellosis in elk and development of better diagnostic tests for brucellosis. Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that can cause domestic cattle, elk and bison to abort their calves.
“This research is very timely and is yielding information that can be put to use immediately by managers and laboratory personnel in the field,” said Frank Galey, dean of the UW College of Agriculture.
The researchers are also investigating pneumonia in both domestic and wild sheep, fatal neurological diseases such as chronic wasting disease (CWD), which has been found in deer and elk populations in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado, and scrapie in sheep.
“These diseases could seriously harm important areas of Wyoming’s economy, so the benefits of such research are significant,” noted Galey. He says researchers at the university are actively engaged in developing new tests for the rapid diagnosis of brucellosis in wildlife and potential vaccine candidates that are more effective in wildlife. This one-year effort could include a variety of projects, including work with the organism itself as well as some applied work in the field with elk and cattle.
“Healthy domestic and wild animals are important to Wyoming’s residents, as well as visitors to the state,” said Galey. According to the WGFD 2008 annual report, elk hunters injected more than $37.7 million into Wyoming’s economy and mule deer hunters contributed nearly $35 million.
Brucellosis is found in some bison and elk in the Greater Yellowstone Area. As a result, ranchers in western Wyoming now pay high prices for herd vaccination and surveillance testing. The potential for the disease to re-emerge in cattle also costs the WGFD through lost elk productivity and management costs associated with controlling the disease, Galey said.