Scientists at the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center are analyzing 250 tissue samples of elk, wild bison, and livestock in an effort to better understand how the disease brucellosis spreads.
Brucellosis sickens large mammals like elk and cattle, and can cause them to abort their young. U.S. Geological Survey ecologist Pauline Kamath says a commonly held theory has been that Yellowstone’s wild animals have been infected with brucellosis by elk on Wyoming feed grounds. But her data shows that may not be as common as previously thought.
"I think what’s the most interesting is that Yellowstone Paradise Valley is very genetically distinct so there isn’t a lot of linkages to other parts of the system," she says.
A peer-reviewed paper with more detailed results of the study is due to be released later this year.