Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Monday, March 3, 2014

RMEF's Comment to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Regarding Elk Management in Brucellosis Areas

February 26, 2014

Dan Vermillion, Chairman
Montana Fish & Wildlife Commission
PO Box 668
Livingston, MT 59047

Re:       RMEF comments related to Elk Management in Areas with Brucellosis
2014 Work Plan – Local Modifications

Dear Chairman Vermillion,

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) maintains that the issue of elk management in areas with Brucellosis must be addressed in a cooperative manner with active input from state and federal wildlife managers, ranchers and other affected stakeholders.

For more than a decade the RMEF has been engaged in this complex issue that covers multiple states and interests. RMEF actively participates in state agency planning and program efforts directed at Brucellosis management and containment. RMEF is aware of the increased incidence of Brucellosis exposure in wild elk herds of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the increasing importance Brucellosis policy has on elk and other wildlife.

In 2008, RMEF hosted a Brucellosis symposium in Billings, Montana. It brought together state wildlife agency representatives from Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, as well as state veterinarians, sportsmen, livestock owners and other stakeholders in an effort to generate solutions. Discussions resulted in no consensus due to the divisive nature of this topic and the complex implications of possible management policies.

Brucellosis is not detrimental to elk populations as it is not “population-limiting,” yet it imposes significant operating costs on agricultural producers in the endemic area. RMEF, in the past and today, advocates for policies that preserve traditional ranching operations and the benefits that come with keeping working ranches on the landscape.

RMEF seeks to work with ranchers, state agencies and other partners by supporting research and other mitigation actions to reduce Brucellosis transmission in livestock. RMEF would like to see state and federal agencies, elected officials, livestock owners and other stakeholders work together to address this complex issue. RMEF is committed to helping with that effort.

More specifically:

  • RMEF calls for research that could lead to livestock vaccines with increased effectiveness
  • RMEF does not believe it is possible to eradicate brucellosis in wildlife 
  • RMEF does not believe it is feasible or practical to vaccinate free-ranging wildlife
  • RMEF does not support hunting cow elk during the third trimester, which begins on or about February 15
  • RMEF supports the efforts of state and federal agencies to enhance elk habitat on public lands, including wildlife management areas, to provide better forage for elk off of private lands
  • RMEF does not support the testing and slaughter of elk as a means of managing Brucellosis
  • RMEF supports cooperative approaches to keeping elk and livestock separate; however, we have concerns about the use of game proof fencing that could cut off natural migration corridors.

RMEF is interested in helping solve this wildlife conservation issue and would particularly like to see much greater emphasis on the development of an effective livestock vaccine. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.


M. David Allen
RMEF President/CEO

cc:  Montana Governor Steve Bullock
      Montana Fish & Wildlife Commissioners

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