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Grand Teton National Park Report

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Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that causes elk and bison to abort and may have potential to be transmitted to domestic cattle. In this preliminary study we examined how long healthy bovine fetuses remained in the environment and could be available for contact by elk, bison, or cattle. Healthy bovine fetuses were placed on state elk feedgrounds, the National Elk Refuge, and Grand Teton National Park to simulate an elk or bison aborted fetus. Fetuses were monitored until they disappeared due to scavenging. Ninety percent of the fetuses disappeared from the National elk refuge within 31 hours, but it took 163 and 130 hours for fetuses to disappear from state feedgrounds and Grand Teton National Park, respectively. We found, via analysis of covariance, that there was a significant difference in fetal disappearance rates depending on where the simulated abortions occurred. We also found that aborted fetuses could potentially serve as a source of bacterial infection for several days. This preliminary study will be expanded to include greater numbers of animals and additional locations in coming seasons.