1 Wood bison (Bison bison athabascae L.) abundance in Wood Buffalo
National Park, Canada, declined from an excess of 10 000 bison in
the late 1960s to a low of 2200 bison in the late 1990s.
2 Bovine tuberculosis (Mycobacterium bovis) and brucellosis (Brucella
abortus), were introduced to Wood Buffalo National Park in the late
1920s. As each of these pathogens has the potential to reduce survival
and reproduction in bison, they are suspected to have played a role
in the decline in bison abundance.
3 We live-captured bison in the winters of 1997�2000, tested for
tuberculosis, brucellosis and pregnancy and released animals with
radio transmitters to evaluate survival.
4 We found that bison that were positive for both diseases were less
likely to be pregnant or to survive the winter than bison positive
for one or neither disease. Further, in one population, bison that
were tuberculosis-positive had a substantially lower pregnancy probability.
5 Demonstrating a negative effect of diseases on survival and reproduction
is a necessary, but not sufficient, test of the role of diseases
in bison population decline.
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