Animal Husbandry from Uncle Sam
I spent the past weekend in Big Sky, MT at the Young Agricultural Leadership Conference. Once again I felt the tremendous energy present when I am fortunate enough to accompany any group of young agriculturists. That energy is what fuels my desire to continue traveling the country. Many issues were addressed and potential solutions generated. However, I feel there is one that needs more attention in order to keep the momentum rolling in the right direction and that is the “eradication of Brucellosis” in Yellowstone Park.
Information was presented suggesting that the presence of Brucellosis in wildlife is not a problem but there is a chronic disease problem in the bison herd. Widely recognized by many as a true success story, the once nearly extinct bison are now plentiful and the largest herd of free roaming bison does indeed reside in Yellowstone Park. With that said, positive news recently came from Wyoming as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service amended the state’s Brucellosis designation to Class Free from Class A. The Class Free status is based on a state finding not Brucellosis in cattle for one full year.
As hard as it might be to believe there are individuals among us that believe the bison would be best off if man didn’t attempt to interfere. This misguided thought needs to be eradicated as well. Every American citizen stands to benefit if the great bison herd of the Yellowstone were free of this population crippling disease. Mary A. Bomar, President Bush's nominee to head the National Park Service, recently said "Systematic vaccination of elk and bison will, over the long term, reduce disease prevalence in elk and bison populations, especially if vaccine technology and methods for remote vaccine delivery to free-ranging wildlife are improved." I agree completely but would add that sooner is better than later.
Obviously cattlemen adjacent to Yellowstone stand to benefit from the complete eradication of Brucellosis but I think the urgency should be felt by every family that enjoys visiting Yellowstone Park as a vacation destination. The healthier the bison population is, the more animals there are to view and enjoy. It is reported there are more and more bison interacting with park goers on the roads. In fact Al Nash, Yellowstone's director of public affairs was quoted as saying "There are the occasional parents out there who want to photograph their child with or on a bison.” I’m fairly sure those parents aren’t aware of the fact that there have been cases of Brucellosis transmission from animals to humans.
My recent trip to Big Sky country confirmed that most people enjoy traveling with their family dog. Dogs are also susceptible to Brucellosis and it would not be difficult to for Rover to come in contact with bison mucus. Since more and more Americans treat Rover like a kid, it would be easy for the disease to be transferred from canine to human. Is all of this likely? Probably not but it is more likely than some park visitor getting mad cow disease from consuming beef and look at all the new regulations beef producers are footing the bill for thanks to unscientific scare tactics leveled against the industry.
I am no way, shape or form attempting to create unnecessary fear for park vacationers but I am trying to emphasize that everyone has a vested interest in accelerating the eradication of Brucellosis in the herds of livestock owned by the U.S. Government. Every reputable livestock owner in the country would implement any reasonable measure possible to improve the health of his or her own herd. Should Uncle Sam be any different?