Got Blood? WY-TWS and Maven Partner to Help Inform Management of Brucellosis

By Eric Maichak, Past-President and current President-Elect

Brucellosis is a bacterial disease infecting elk and bison populations of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The disease has spilled over to several domestic livestock herds in the last 10 years, thus increasing the need to monitor distribution and gauge management actions aimed at controlling the disease.

To help better understand and manage brucellosis in Wyoming, in the 2018 elk hunting season, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) offered a raffle to hunters returning blood samples from harvested elk. This was part of an effort to thank hunters who return samples and further help incentivize returns. As part of the effort, the Wyoming Chapter of the Wildlife Society (WY-TWS) partnered with outdoor optics specialists Maven to add a pair of binoculars to the array of prizes offered by additional sponsors including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Vortex Optics, and the WGFD.

The Wildlife Health Laboratory of the WGFD has assembled and distributed some 10,000 kits annually for several seasons, typically to a targeted quarter of the state, and rotates among quarters every 4 years. In 2018, elk hunt areas of focus included those in and around the Bighorn Mountains and Lander. In the inaugural season of the “brucellosis blood raffle,” about 1550 samples were returned from hunters statewide, up slightly from about 1450 samples in the 2017 season. Hank Edwards, supervisor of the Wildlife Heath Laboratory, also noted the Lab received calls from additional hunters requesting kits in other hunt areas around the state.

Among the many hunters who provided useable samples from their elk, David Langerman of Lander was lucky enough to be drawn for the binoculars. WY-TWS Past-President and WGFD wildlife biologist, Stan Harter, paid David a personal visit to inform him of his prize.

Left to right: Raffle winner David Langerman, Mike Lilygren of Maven, and WY-TWS representative Stan Harter.

“He was pretty excited to learn that he’d won,” said Stan after stopping by on his way back from checking a local herd of elk.

On the phone later, David said, “It was a great hunt…snowfall moved the elk down, a good sneak, one shot. I’ve only looked through a pair of Maven binoculars, they’re really nice.” All winners, including David, will receive their prizes in the coming weeks.

On behalf of all of us at WY-TWS and our partners at Maven, we hope you enjoy using your great new binoculars for many years to come! And thank you to the many sportsmen and women who submitted blood samples from their harvested animal.

Learn more about brucellosis and WGFD’s surveillance work.

Eric Maichak has served WY-TWS as writer and editor of the chapter newsletter, communications committee chair, and Past-President. Eric is a CWB® and disease biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.