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Keywords:

  • Bison;
  • Bison bison;
  • Brucella abortus;
  • brucellosis;
  • Greater Yellowstone Area;
  • reproduction

Abstract

Plains bison (Bison b. bison) centered on Yellowstone National Park are chronically infected with brucellosis (Brucella abortus) and culled along the park boundaries to reduce the probability of disease transmission to domestic livestock. We evaluated the relationship between pregnancy rates and age, dressed carcass weight, and serological status for brucellosis among bison culled from the central Yellowstone subpopulation during the winters of 1996–1997, 2001–2002, and 2002–2003. A model with only dressed carcass weight was the best predictor of pregnancy status for all ages with the odds of pregnancy increasing by 1.03 (95% CI = 1.02–1.04) for every 1-kg increase in weight. We found no effect of age or the serological status for brucellosis on pregnancy rates across age classes; however, we did find a positive association between age and pregnancy rates for bison ≥2 years old. Bison ≥2 years old had an overall pregnancy rate of 65% with markedly different rates in alternate ages for animals between 3 and 7 years old. Pregnancy rates were 0.50 (95% CI = 0.31–0.69) for brucellosis positive and 0.57 (95% CI = 0.34–0.78) for brucellosis negative 2- and 3-year-olds and 0.74 (95% CI = 0.60–0.85) in brucellosis positive and 0.69 (95% CI = 0.49–0.85) in brucellosis negative bison ≥4 years old. Only 1 of 21 bison <2 years old was pregnant. Our findings are important to accurately predict the effects of brucellosis on Yellowstone bison population dynamics. We review our results relative to other studies of Yellowstone bison that concluded serological status for brucellosis influences pregnancy rates. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.