For immediate release:
June 11, 2008

Dan Brister, Buffalo Field Campaign: (406) 726-5555

West Yellowstone, Montana - The Montana Department of Livestock reported June 9, 2008 that a cow has tested positive for brucella abortus and Montana's brucellosis status will be downgraded from "Class Free" to "Class A." This is the second time since May of 2007 that a cattle herd has been reported infected with the bacteria in Montana.

While the identity of the owner of the infected herd has been withheld by the livestock agency, the Billings Gazette and Bozeman Chronicle have identified him as Arthur Burns of Emigrant, Montana. According to public records, the Burns property is more than 30 miles north of Yellowstone National Park. 

The cattle herd infected in May 2007 was also pastured near Emigrant, and was owned by Montana state legislator Bruce Malcolm. The Montana Dept of Livestock and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) have not produced any evidence linking Yellowstone wildlife--or clearing domestic or imported cattle--as the source of last year's infection.

Both the Malcolm and Burns herds were comprised of Corriente cattle, a Mexican breed popular in rodeo roping events often imported from Texas, a state that only very recently regained its brucellosis-free status. European cattle originally infected Yellowstone wildlife with brucellosis.

The fact that both the 2007 and the current brucellosis detections have occurred in Corriente cattle, a breed closely associated with brucellosis, has many questioning whether cattle, and not Yellowstone wildlife, are responsible for the transmissions resulting in Montana losing its brucellosis free status. 

According to Robert Hoskins, an independent Wyoming conservationist, "There is no scientific proof that elk were the cause of last year's brucellosis outbreak and good circumstantial evidence that the cause was imported Corriente cattle. A year after that incident, we still have no published epidemiological report from APHIS. Is that not suspicious?"

In fact, APHIS failed to secure biological samples from 6 of the 7 cows of the Malcolm herd identified as seropositive for brucellosis, because of a 'concern' for the private property rights of the slaughterhouse owner. As a result, the agency never got adequate scientific information upon which to base any claim of causation, either for cattle, elk, or bison.

Montana's loss of brucellosis free status is especially frustrating in light of the fact that had the state followed through with plans to pursue "split-state" status from APHIS, Montana would not be losing its status and the overwhelming majority of Montana livestock producers would not be affected by the recent transmission. Governor Schweitzer backed down from his plans for "split-state" status after facing opposition from the Montana Stockgrowers Association last year.