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Elk Hunters Help Wildlife Disease Research

Some Idaho elk hunters can help Fish and Game conduct disease surveillance by taking a few minutes to send blood samples in to Fish and Game. Fish and Game personnel have sampled many species of wildlife for several different diseases including brucellosis for about a decade. Brucellosis causes females to abort their calves. The disease is fairly common in western Wyoming elk and was found in some eastern Idaho elk in 1998. Idaho officials are concerned because the disease has the potential to reduce elk herd productivity and some worry that it might threaten the state's brucellosis-free status for cattle. Researchers want to gather more samples over a larger geographic area to provide a baseline of elk health information. They want a better idea of how many elk could be affected and where the problems might be found. Hunters taking part this fall in controlled hunts in certain hunting units will receive a blood sample kit and be asked to return a sample. Doing so is strictly voluntary. The kit contains materials and instructions designed to make the procedure safe. Dr. Mark Drew, state wildlife veterinarian, said brucellosis is spread when an infected female gives birth or aborts and other females come into contact with birth fluids or fetal tissues. Transmission of the disease is enhanced where animals are concentrated, notably at winter feeding sites. Brucellosis is most prevalent in areas where elk are fed during the winter.