Elk NetworkWyoming Hunters Asked to Help with Brucellosis Monitoring

General | September 3, 2020

Below is a news release from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is asking successful elk hunters in targeted hunt areas to help in brucellosis surveillance–and in return, they have a chance to win great outdoor gear. But, what is brucellosis and how do hunters help? Game and Fish Cody Region Wildlife Disease Biologist Eric Maichak explains what elk hunters should know.

What is brucellosis?

Brucellosis is a disease caused by the bacteria Brucella abortus. The disease is widespread and common in elk and bison in the Greater Yellowstone area.  Cow elk, bison, or cattle exposed to large numbers of bacteria in aborted materials may in turn abort and further transmit the disease.

How does it impact my hunt?

Brucellosis has been shown to slightly reduce pregnancy rates but not limit population size of elk.  Hunting seasons are designed to end before the risk of disease transmission is elevated after early February. We encourage hunters to wear latex gloves and avoid opening the reproductive tract or extremely swollen joints when dressing elk.  These are areas where bacteria may exist.

How do hunters help?

Hunters play a key role with brucellosis surveillance by voluntarily collecting blood samples. Hunters in targeted elk hunt areas for the 2020 season (see map below) can help by collecting a blood sample from elk immediately after harvest with a Game and Fish sample kit. If you harvest an elk with a radio collar, do not cut the collar; return it to Game and Fish personnel.

Thanks to hunter-submitted samples since 2012, Game and Fish has documented numerous seropositive elk west of Highway 120, particularly around Meeteetse.  Far fewer seropositive elk were found east of Highway 120 toward. In fact, hunters in the Bighorn Mountains have collected over 2,000 samples that last three hunting seasons, all of which have not been seropositive.

Seropositive test results mean an individual elk has been exposed to the bacteria, but may or may not be infected with the disease. Previous surveillance efforts in the Bighorn Basin have targeted various hunt areas, including those around Meeteetse and throughout the Bighorn Mountains. Seroprevalence data coupled with GPS location data from over 100 radio-collared elk are being used to develop projects to reduce risk of brucellosis transmission among elk and from elk to livestock.

Where do I get a test kit?

Game and Fish will mail about 8,000 blood sample kits to elk hunters holding limited quota licenses for all hunt areas in the Bighorn Mountains and Basin (elk hunt areas 33-49, 51-64, 66), and other regions of the state.  Blood kits are mailed to limited quota license holders selected at random, and not to general license holders.  If you are hunting in a targeted area and do not receive a blood kit, they are available from regional Game and Fish offices, field personnel and several convenience stores in the Basin.

How do I collect a sample?

Carry your blood tube or the entire sampling kit with you in the field.

Collect blood from the neck, femoral artery (rear leg) or chest cavity immediately after harvest.

Do not allow the blood sample to spoil or freeze; keep it cool.

Fill in the data section on the instruction card with specific information.

Return the kit to any Game and Fish field personnel, regional office or sample cooler.

Kits may also be returned via mail with return mail sticker included in the kit.

A video on how to collect a blood sample from a harvested elk can be found on the Game and Fish website under the Wildlife in Wyoming tab.

What is the brucellosis raffle and what are the prizes?

The brucellosis raffle was started in the 2018 hunting season and is an opportunity for hunters to win great outdoor gear as a thank you for helping support brucellosis surveillance.  Comparing 2017 to 2018 and 2019, sample returns statewide remained stable at around 1,450.  This year we hope to see an increase as we’ve assembled even better prizes, including a grand prize package for one lucky hunter.

Thanks to continued partnership with several leading outdoor manufacturers and conservation organizations, hunters have a chance to win:

  • The Grand Prize Package that includes a Weatherby Weathermark V rifle in 6.5 x 300 Weatherby, donated by the Wyoming Sportsman’s Group of Gillette, with a Vortex Viper 6.5-20×50 PA rifle scope, donated by Vortex Optics, and Sig Sauer Oscar8 27-55×80 Spotting Scope, donated by Sig Sauer.
  • Weatherby Weathermark V rifle in 6.5 x 300 Weatherby, donated by the Wyoming Sportsman’s Group of Gillette
  • Browning X-Bolt rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor, donated by the Wyoming and Cody Chapters of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
  • Maven C1 binoculars (8×42 or 10×42), donated by Maven and the Wyoming chapter of The Wildlife Society
  • Game and Fish sweatshirts and hats

How many chances do I have to win?

Hunters are entered into the raffle for each kit returned. Hunters who draw multiple elk licenses and receive multiple kits will be entered into the raffle for each kit returned.

When is the drawing?

The raffle drawing will be held in March 2021.

(Photo source: Wyoming Game and Fish Department)