Disease Detected in Bison Outside Wood Buffalo National Park

 The Government of Alberta is taking steps to monitor and manage the spread of infectious diseases in wood bison near Wood Buffalo National Park, AB.

Bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis have been present in the wild wood bison population of Wood Buffalo National Park for decades. Recent samples, taken from bison located outside the park boundaries, have tested positive for bovine brucellosis.

Four wood bison were sampled from the Wabasca herd near Harper Creek and seven bison were sampled from the Wentzel Lake herd in the Caribou Mountains Wildland Provincial Park. While none of the animals tested positive for tuberculosis, two of the seven samples from the Wentzel Lake bison herd tested positive for brucellosis and a third continues to be tested.

The Alberta government has in place a disease-management and monitoring strategy to protect disease-free wood bison in northwestern Alberta and domestic livestock such as cattle.

All free-ranging wood bison detected near private agricultural lands around Fort Vermillion, La Crete and within 10 km of Highway 35 will be removed. Bison populations west of Wood Buffalo National Park will continue to be surveyed and tested to confirm numbers, location and disease status of each herd.

Members of the public are encouraged to report all bison sightings in the area west of Wood Buffalo National Park and east of Highway 35. Please notify local Fish and Wildlife offices (www.srd.alberta.ca). Under provincial legislation, wood bison east of Highway 35 and west of Wood Buffalo National Park can be hunted without a licence, except in Caribou Mountains Wildland Provincial Park.

The risk of disease transmission to humans remains very low and those who continue to harvest bison west of Wood Buffalo National Park are encouraged to contact the local Fish and Wildlife office for information on the risks associated with bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis. General precautions include: bison harvested should be handled carefully with gloves and examined for signs of disease, obvious lesions or other unusual features; and meat to be eaten should be cooked thoroughly — smoking the meat is not sufficient to kill the bacteria that cause these diseases. Courtesy Alberta SRD

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