Elk hunters in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho should be aware of the potential presence of brucellosis in their harvests. Wild bison and elk in the Greater Yellowstone Area are the only remaining animals in the United States to harbor Brucella abortus, which often causes reproductive issues in the infected animals. The highly contagious disease could also be passed to humans, especially when hunters handle the reproductive organs of a harvested elk. In humans brucellosis can cause numerous short- and long-term health issues such as fever, headache, and muscle and joint pain. More serious complications include heart problems, arthritis, chronic fatigue, and swelling of the liver or spleen. This is why wildlife officials advise care when field dressing elk, especially late season cows. Gloves can be a great help in preventing the transmission of disease.
Elk hunters who want to do some good and take blood samples from harvested elk are urged to do so. These samples will help wildlife departments with their disease surveillance programs. Earlier this week the Wyoming Game & Fish Department released a simple tutorial video on how to collect usable blood samples, which can be seen below: