CHEYENNE -- The state Game and Fish Department has authorized an extended elk hunting season in northern Wyoming in order to better determine the prevalence of brucellosis among the elk in Park County, a game official said.

"We went and did an emergency regulation to basically extend the season in several hunt areas in the Greybull River drainage, Wood River drainage and South Fork drainages," Brian Nesvik, Cody regional wildlife supervisor, said Tuesday.

A herd of cattle and a herd of bison in Park County have been under quarantine after brucellosis was found in some of their animals late last year. State veterinary officials say the cattle and bison likely got the livestock disease from free-roaming elk.

Testing of surrounding cattle herds has not turned up any new cases of brucellosis, which can cause spontaneous abortions, infertility and weight loss in cattle, bison and other mammals.

Nesvik said the idea of extending the elk season in Park County until Jan. 31 is to obtain about 100 elk blood and tissue samples in order to test elk for brucellosis.

"Our primary goal here is get more samples," Nesvik said.

However, the hunting activity also will temporarily move elk away from private land where cattle and bison are wintering and will help reduce overpopulated elk herds in the area, Nesvik said.

The number of elk in the Cody area is about 1,000 over the ideal population of about 5,600, while the nearby Gooseberry elk herd is about 1,300 more than the objective of 2,700, he said.

Meantime, the Wyoming Livestock Board reports it tested nearly 700 adult, female bison and their calves in the bison herd where brucellosis was found earlier. Three more bison from the herd tested positive for the disease and will be removed.

The herd will be tested again later.

The cattle herd under quarantine has cleared its second round of testing with no more brucellosis found, State Veterinarian Jim Logan said.

The herd must pass a third round of testing in order for the quarantine to be lifted. Logan said the third test will be conducted after spring calving.

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