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Officials seek to expand brucellosis disease zone

Apr 6, 2012 - The Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- In a case being watched closely in Wyoming, Montana livestock officials have proposed an expansion of an animal disease zone around Yellowstone National Park after finding elk that had been exposed to brucellosis.

The proposal would require cattle producers south of Dillon to ramp up herd vaccinations and take other precautions to guard against livestock infections. The Blacktail-Sage Creek area west of Yellowstone has an estimated 28,000 cattle.

Other states have imposed trade sanctions on Montana when brucellosis has gotten into cattle. But recent changes in federal regulations have lessened the sanctions when infections occur.

Brucellosis can cause pregnant animals to miscarry. It has been eradicated nationwide but persists in Yellowstone's wildlife.

The five elk that tested positive for exposure were captured over the winter by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, which is trying to determine how far the disease has spread in Montana.

Last year, brucellosis found in elk in the Ruby Range prompted an expansion of the Department of Livestock's so-called Designated Surveillance Area (DSA) for the disease.

State officials said in February that they might not expand the area a second time because no cattle spend winter where the latest infections were found.

But state veterinarian Marty Zaluski said the expansion is needed to demonstrate to other states that Montana is addressing the disease. About 46,000 cattle already are in the surveillance zone, which includes counties to the north and west of the park.

"Other states want to know we're doing everything we can to protect our herd, and theirs, from brucellosis," Zaluski said.

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