Effects of Brucellosis Serological Status on Physiological Conditions and Behavioral Mechanisms of Southwestern Montana Elk

Authors: Anni Yang*, University of Florida, Juan Pablo Gomez, University of Florida, Emily Almberg, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Jennifer Ramsey, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Justin Gude, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Catherine Haase, Montana State University, Kelly Proffit, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Jason Blackburn, University of Florida
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Animal Geographies, Quantitative Methods
Keywords: Behavioral difference; Body condition; Commingling; Sero-status; Migration type and timing; Physiological difference; Pregnancy rates; rNSD
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Napoleon B2, Sheraton 3rd Floor


Brucellosis, caused by bacteria in the genus Brucella, is an infectious zoonosis affecting animals and humans worldwide. Free-ranging elk (Cervus canadensis) and bison (Bison bison) in the Greater Yellowstone Area are the self-sustaining reservoirs of bovine brucellosis (Brucella abortus) in the United States and elk are recently considered as the primary sources of livestock infections. It has been hypothesized that Brucella-exposed elk might have different physiological status and migration strategies than healthy individuals. Therefore, there is a need to understand the effects of brucellosis on pregnancy rates and body condition of exposed individuals, and the disease influence on migration patterns. Here we test the effects of brucellosis serological status on pregnancy rates and winter Ingesta Free Body Fat (IFBF) of 98 female elk in southwestern Montana. We also evaluate the effects of brucellosis serological status on spring migration type and timing (i.e. start and end date and duration) for this population. We detected a significant difference in pregnancy rates between seropositive and seronegative individuals, with a ~30% drop in seropositive elk. However, we did not detect differences in body fat between seropositive and seronegative individuals, or differences in either type or timing of spring migration. These results confirm the major pathology of the brucellosis is associated with reproduction. Our understanding of spring migration behaviors for the elk population might improve brucellosis and wildlife management to avoid elk-livestock commingling, which could have important public health and economic implications.

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