Mycoplasma Bovis Fact Sheet — May 2022

2021 Case Count: 21 herds with confirmed cases in 10 states, according to the Mycoplasma Task Force with the Center of Excellence for Bison Studies at South Dakota State University.

 Disclaimer: The National Bison Association assumes no responsibility for the below content, provided for informational purposes only. This content is based solely on anecdotal information from volunteers in the bison industry who have experienced losses due to Mycoplasma bovis as the science of M. bovis in bison advances. 

 Conditions That May Cause Incidents of M. bovis 

  • Drought, poor pasture and water conditions.
  • Crowded, dusty, high-stress environments.
  • Excessive wildfire smoke.
  • Any type of stress — environmental, nutritional, behavioral, etc.
  • Parasite loads or other causes for a depressed immune system.

 Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms may depend on the primary type of infection. The two most common areas of infection will occur in the throat (upper respiratory) or lungs (lower respiratory). The animal can be infected in both places, but the early symptoms appear different depending on the primary infection site but usually include coughing, sneezing, or runny nose. In some cases, the primary site is localized to leg joints, uterine tissue, mammary system, eyes, and other places, but these outbreaks seem less common. Symptoms may also be systemic and appear widespread in the animal’s systems upon necropsy.

 Animals will tend to separate themselves from the herd.

  • General lethargy is common.
  • Poor posture — animals will appear uncomfortable and humped up.
  • Dull eyes — “40-yard stare”. Animals may appear introspective and have no interest in surroundings or other animals.
  • The throat area may appear swollen, and animals may extend their neck to help increase air intake. Difficulty breathing may be apparent.
  • Animals don’t move willingly. If they move, you may observe a jerky gate or “short stepping” in the front legs, a possible result of lungs adhering to the ribcage, so the animal doesn’t want to take big steps with front legs. Joints may appear swollen, thus making moving painful and difficult. Additionally, animals are slow to move, limping and guarding extremities, usually from severe arthritic pain.
  • Noticeable swelling and weeping around eyes/orbital sockets.
  • Thick pus may be observed in the corner of the eyes.
  • Pacing, or walking by moving the feet on the same side instead of the normal four-beat alternating gait.

Management Suggestions

  • Use caution when bringing in new animals, especially if the new arrivals are from an open herd. If possible, isolate new animals for a quarantine period (e.g., 30-days) before introducing them into the herd.
  • After identifying suspect symptoms, separate infected animals from the herd as quickly as possible. Try to maintain a 100-yard minimum distance from healthy animals, ideally downwind.
  • Keep animals out of dusty or wet conditions whenever possible.
  • Limit stress on the animals. Keep hay and water within reach and consider providing ample free choice or lick-block minerals.
  • Slaughter is a reasonable option — rapid euthanasia can help prevent the spread to other animals. If this choice is made, the earlier it’s done, the better, and if harvesting for meat, the sooner, the better to increase salvage value.

Action Plans 

  • Autogenous vaccines are available, but strain mutation, outbreaks in vaccinated herds, and poor etiology understanding have raised vaccine efficacy questions. While vaccination with an autogenous Mycoplasma vaccine won’t harm animals, understand that it may or may not be effective. 
  • Consult with your veterinarian as needed to perform a necropsy on deceased animals and collect samples to send in for analysis so the strain of M. bovis can be identified and documented.
  • Document all cases in your herd through photographs, dates, weather and management conditions, and necropsy results.
  • Please fill out the Mycoplasma Anecdotal Interview, available here, and return it to Karen@bisoncentral.com. All information you provide is kept confidential. Interviews and other information will be shared with the Center of Excellence for Bison Studies for compilation in their reports and research.

Any U.S. affected producers may be eligible for financial assistance for animals lost to M. bovis. Please visit the USDA’s livestock Indemnification Program to learn more: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/disaster-assistance-program/livestock-indemnity/index or Farmers.gov recovery resources: https://www.farmers.gov/protection-recovery.

Please note, this information will be formatted into a more substantial fact sheet with graphics and distributed to the membership shortly.

Francie M Berg

Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog

1st 2022 bison born at Rocky Mountain Arsenal

1st 2022 bison born at Rocky Mountain Arsenal

(From 9 News)

COMMERCE CITY, Colo — Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge (RMA) has a new resident.

The first bison calf of the season has been born at the Commerce City wildlife refuge.

Located ten minutes from downtown Denver, RMA is home to a herd of more than two dozen bison as well as deer, raptors, songbirds, waterfowl, prairie dogs and coyotes.

Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) maintains two conservation bison herds in the Denver Mountain Parks system at Genesee Park and Daniels Park. 

The herds were originally established at Denver’s City Park by the Denver Zoo and the City of Denver. The herd was moved to Genesee Park in 1914 and expanded to Daniels Park in 1938.

In March, the City of Denver donated 33 bison to the Northern Arapaho Tribe, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and Tall Bull Memorial Council to reintroduce wild bison and support conservation efforts on tribal lands.

The City and County of Denver said 15 American Bison were presented to the Northern Arapaho Tribe of Wyoming, and 17 bison were transferred to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Oklahoma. One bison will be given to the Tall Bull Memorial Council in Colorado.

“For over a century now, Denver has been the proud caretaker of these Bison herds, and we remain committed to their conservation as an integral part of the ecosystem here in the West,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

“We’re taking that commitment to a new level, and through this effort with our tribal partners, this is an opportunity to help establish, support, and sustain Native American conservation herds across the country.”  

Last year, Denver City Council approved an ordinance for the donation of American Bison from the City and County of Denver to American Indian Tribes and non-profit organizations.

The first transfer of bison took place in April 2021. Thirteen bison were transferred to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Oklahoma and one to Tall Bull Memorial Council in Colorado.

Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) has historically held an annual auction to keep its Genesee Park and Daniels Park bison herds at a healthy population size and promote genetic diversity within the managed bison population.

DPR said it will no longer conduct the auction but will work with its tribal partners to select tribes across the country to build and enhance conservation herds on tribal lands.

“The bison is not only a vital link to our past as Northern Arapaho, it is essential to our future as we restore this important part of our culture and heritage,” said Elma Brown, interim CEO of the Northern Arapaho Tribe. “I am honored to participate in this bison transfer and look forward to these beautiful animals joining our existing herd and returning to the home of their ancestors on the Wind River Reservation.”

“The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes are pleased to continue the growth of our historical food source. The Denver Mountain Parks Bison are a shot in the arm for our tribal nations. We wish Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, Denver City Council and Denver Parks and Recreation staff a very gracious Hohóú/Né-á’eše (thank you),” said Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes Governor Reggie Wassana.

The donation of surplus Denver Mountain Park bison to American Indian Tribes or American Indian Non-Profit organizations will continue through the year 2030, said DPR in consultation with its tribal partners: the Denver American Indian Commission, the Tall Bull Memorial Council and the InterTribal Buffalo Council.

Francie M Berg

Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog

Heavy snow in Interior Alaska has Bison hanging out on plowed roads

Heavy snow in Interior Alaska has Bison hanging out on plowed roads

Bison Range in Alaska interior. Alaska Dept Fish and Game.

Kurt Schmidt heard the bison hooves smack on the car before he saw what happened.

He’d been driving home from work on a small road near his Delta Junction home on a dark January night when he saw a herd of bison ahead. On the other side of the herd, a small car was also waiting to pass the animals.

Schmidt said he stopped his pickup truck and waited. Suddenly, the herd turned around and ran. Several of the huge animals stumbled over the car.

“I don’t think they intended to run over it,” he said. “They pretty much ran into it, slid up the hood and ran up over the top.”

The car’s driver moved forward quickly after the incident, and Schmidt could see hoof marks on the dashboard less than a foot from the steering wheel. The event could have been a lot worse.

Deep snow this winter has caused more bison to move onto plowed roadways in the Delta Junction area, said Bob Schmidt, a wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“The animals don’t want to get off the plowed roadways because it’s so hard on them,” he said. “It’s chest-deep snow and it’s cutting up their legs and so they’re using the roadways as travel corridors.”

And more animals on the road has led to an increased number of collisions with vehicles. This year at least nine bison have died after being struck by cars. By comparison, only a couple usually die that way each year, Schmidt said.

The crashes haven’t resulted in any injuries to people, but some vehicles have been significantly damaged, said Austin McDaniel, communications director for the Alaska State Troopers. An adult plains bison can weigh up to 2,000 pounds.

Dodi Wontorski was riding in the passenger seat of her Chevy pickup two weeks ago after she’d picked up her boyfriend at the airport. They were headed home to Tok around 8 or 9 p.m. when Wontorski saw a herd of bison in front of them on the road. By then, it was too late to stop.

“He slammed on the brakes and he was able to at least move the truck toward the smaller ones — the big ones were huge,” she said. “And I thought for sure we were going to die.”

The truck crash injured several bison, she said. The front of the truck crumpled on impact — Wontorski said it’s totaled.

A trooper dispatched two of the bison, Wontorski said.

Had they been in a smaller vehicle or driving fast, the situation would have been much worse, Wontorski said.

“It was scary as can be,” she said.

It’s normal for bison to cross the Alaska Highway each year, said Schmidt, the wildlife biologist, because they move south toward calving grounds in the spring and summer. But bison usually steer clear of humans and roads, he said.

“But now they’re not off the road for hours or even a day or more,” Bob Schmidt said. “They just want to hang out right on the road.”

Kurt Schmidt (no relation to the biologist) said it’s become routine since January for him to run into herds of bison sleeping on or walking along the road.

Plains bison in the Delta River floodplain in 2015. (Alaska Department of Fish and Game)

Bison activity in recent months has been centered on a roughly 20-mile section of the Alaska Highway east of Delta Junction, Bob Schmidt said. The Delta Junction Bison Range is a 9,000-acre protected area about 12 miles southeast of the town, established by the Legislature in 1979 as a place for the herd of several hundred animals to range in winter without damaging agriculture.

This winter, some bison have turned to farmers’ fields because it has been so difficult for them to access forage buried under the snow. There’s a layer of ice up to 2 inches thick within the snowpack that has further complicated foraging.

“Bison are resourceful animals and have stomped out areas in hayfields to get through the ice layer to grasses below,” Clint Cooper, a Fish and Game technician, said in a statement. “However, many of those fields are owned by local farmers, who don’t appreciate the bison’s resourcefulness.”

In hopes of drawing bison away from farms and roads, bulldozer crews from Fish and Game and the Alaska Division of Forestry have been clearing snow from more than 30 miles of trails in the last few months to provide room for the animals to travel and access forage. About 200 acres of fields were also cleared.

Officials said the plan has been working: During a flight in February, biologists saw 70 bison using the fields and trails.

Bob Schmidt said it’s important to give bison a wide berth and allow them to find a space to get off the road.

And one of the most important things is just to drive slowly. Bison are most active at night and can be difficult to see.

“I’m afraid that I’m going to hit one,” Kurt Schmidt said. “I can only see so far and those things at night — they reflect no light whatsoever. So usually, if you’re going 60 when you see them, it’s too late. If they’re in your path you’re going to hit them.”

Francie M Berg

Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog

South Dakota Tribe Owns Largest Native-Managed Buffalo Herd

(From the Daily Yonder--serving rural news, Kristi Eaton March 17, 2022)

The Wolakota project currently has about 750 buffalo in the herd, according to Aaron Epps, the manager for the project. (Photo by Zachary Straw, Straw Photography)

Over the past two years, the Sicangu Oyate, also known as the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, has cultivated the largest Native-managed buffalo herd in the world. 

There are currently about 750 buffalo in the herd, according to Aaron Epps, who was the start-up manager for the project, known as Wolakota. He is also the marketing and communications director for REDCO, the economic development arm of the tribal nation, headquartered in South Dakota. 

“It’s an idea that’s been around, really, for generations, just due to the historical connection and spiritual and cultural significance of buffalo to the Lakota people,” Epps said in an interview with The Daily Yonder. “And so, the idea isn’t necessarily new, but we had a really unique opportunity to really actualize it and bring it about in a really unique way.”

According to experts and historians, more than 30 million bison once roamed North America. As a source of meat and hides in the United States, bison formed the basis of the economy for numerous Plains Indian societies. 

In the late 19th century, the U.S. government encouraged mass hunting of bison in an organized effort to destroy the livelihood of Plains Indians. By the late 1800s, fewer than 1,000 bison were left and all Plains Indians were forced onto reservations. 

The first buffalo arrived to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in October of 2020 from Badlands National Park, Epps said. There was also a donation from Wind Cave National Park. In 2021, there was another round of donations, from federal partners and wildlife refuges as well as some purchased from a private ranch. 

The project is much more than economic, he said. 

“We’re managing the land for ecological outputs and soil health,” Epps said. “And also, we’ve been able to provide food through some traditional harvests to both students as well as to families in need. And then just the ability to have skill-share, like traditional harvests, where cultural experts will come in and teach how to use each part of the buffalo and how to break it down.”

For this coming year, Epps and others hope to cultivate community engagement. They have had students from an immersion school visit the site and would like to create more opportunities for community engagement. 

Additionally, they are committed to treating the animals with the cultural connection at the forefront, including humane harvesting and prayer. They hope to work with restaurants and grocery stores to get the meat into them and then subsidize the meat distribution to the local community, Epps said. 

In January, a study was published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution that found restoration of bison to tribal lands throughout the Northern Great Plains can help restore the prairie ecosystem while improving the long-running issue of food insecurity and food sovereignty for Native communities. It may also help to mitigate adverse impacts to traditional agricultural systems due to climate change.

“The buffalo is important to Indian communities, to our people culturally and ecologically to our lands,” said Ervin Carlson, president of the InterTribal Buffalo Council and Blackfeet buffalo manager, in a press statement. “We know bringing them back will not only heal our people but also help us with the changes we see on our grasslands due to drought.”

(The Yonder Report highlights the vibrant, resilient spirit of living and working in rural America.)

Francie M Berg

Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog

Bison Processors Eligible for Meat Processing Assistance Grant

Facilities that process bison as a nonamenable species under the Agricultural Marketing Act will be eligible to apply for funding under USDA’s $150 Meat and Poultry processing Expansion Grant Program announced in February.

Officials from USDA’s Rural Development Agency clarified that issue during a webinar providing an overview of the grant program.

The clarification came as welcome news for the bison sector because the Request for Proposals announced in February stated that the funds were being made available for facilities that were approved under the Federal meat Inspection Act and the Federal Poultry Inspection Act. 

As a nonamenable species, bison are processed under the Agricultural marketing Act.

The allowance for bison to be eligible for funding is contained in the definitions of the grant proposal. The grants are being made available for meat processing facilities, and the RFP defines meat as, “Species amenable to USDA inspection including cattle, sheep, swine, goats, Siluriformes (catfish), and equine.

Also, nonamenable species eligible for voluntary inspection including exotic species as described in 9 CFR part 352 and rabbit as described in 9 CFR part 354.” (Underline added)

The funding being made available during this initial phase are intended for projects that are in the “late-stages” of development,” according to the Rural Development. Processors can submit proposals up to $25 million, or 20 percent of the total project cost, whichever amount is less. Applications are due by April 8th.

Information on applying for funding is available:.

https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/business-programs/meat-and-poultry-processing-expansion-program

(USDA announcement)

 

Francie M Berg

Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog

Bison herd demolishes car, terrorizes driver; ‘they ran right over me’

(From For the Win)

A bison herd trapped between vehicles heading in opposite directions and surrounded by dangerous icy snow along a snow-covered Alaskan road faced a no-way-out situation.

After pausing, the herd turned around and stormed toward the headlines illuminating the roadway and terrorized the driver. The result was not pretty.

Kurt Schmidt was videotaping the encounter and, though it was dark and you don’t see the destruction taking place, you definitely hear it. Make sure to turn up the volume.

See the video at https://ftw.usatoday.com/2022/02/bison-herd-demolishes-car-terrorizes-driver-they-ran-right-over-me

You can hear Schmidt say in the video, “They just trashed that truck.”

Once the herd moved on, the driver in the demolished car approached Schmidt’s vehicle.

 “How do you like my car?” the driver said.

 “Yeah, what happened?” Schmidt replied. “I heard that.”

 “The buffalo took out my car,” the driver said.

 “Where did they hit you?” Schmidt said. “They ran right up your hood?”

“They ran right over me,” the driver said. A herd of bison graze in Yellowstone National Park on March 25.

Deep snow from December storms followed by rain created an uninviting environment for bison, making it difficult for the animals to move around and forage for food. So the bison are using the roadways.

“They’re having a tough time right now, getting through that ice crust and getting to their normal forage,” Alaska Fish and Game wildlife tech Clint Cooper said.

“The bison are sticking to the road more, more so than normal, that’s for sure. They’re doing whatever they can to stay out of that snow with that crust on the top.”

A two-inch layer of ice inflicts injuries to the bison.

“It’s painful,” said Cooper. “It’ll scrape and cut up their legs when [trying to] get through that ice.”

##

Francie M Berg

Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog

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