NOROCK EcoLunch Seminar Series
NOROCK EcoLunch is a forum for students, researchers, visiting scientists and collaborators in the environmental sciences to present their current and past work. Presentations will range from brown bag discussions of ongoing projects to more formal seminar presentations.
Date: Tuesday, December 18
Time: 12 p.m. Mountain Time
Presenter: Kim Szcodronski
Title: Scavengers of southwest Montana and their potential impact on brucellosis transmission
Abstract: Brucellosis, a bacterial disease caused by Brucella abortus, is a major concern in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem due to potential transmission from elk (Cervus canadensis) to livestock. B. abortus can lead to abortion in infected animals and is primarily transmitted among elk and between elk and livestock when individuals contact infected abortion materials. Therefore, the risk of transmission may be a function of how long abortion materials remain on the landscape. Previous studies suggest the rate of fetus removal by scavengers may vary spatially and that scavengers may play a vital role in the persistence of B. abortus on the landscape and the dynamics of brucellosis transmission. To investigate fetus removal in southwest Montana, we placed bovine abortion materials at 266 sites in various habitat types within suitable elk habitat during the brucellosis transmission risk period from February – June 2017 and 2018. We used remote cameras to quantify the scavenging rate of abortion materials, as well as the community of scavengers that participated in fetus removal. Preliminary estimates from 2017 suggest abortion materials were scavenged at an average of 84 hours (± 8.5 SE) by a variety of species including magpies, ravens, hawks, eagles, turkey vultures, pine martens, skunks, foxes, coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, and black bears. This research could help identify management options aimed at decreasing the risk of brucellosis transmission from elk to livestock in southwest Montana.
Mountain ecosystems are expected to change with continued reductions in annual snowpack that have been observed worldwide over the past half-century. Recent snow droughts in North America have been attributed to unusually warm temperatures that cause winter precipitation to fall as rain, rather than snow. Many species of alpine wildlife depend on snowpack for insulation from extreme cold and...