Historical overview of Bovine Tuberculosis in the Riding Mountain National Park ecosystem
Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the most serious animal health problems in the world. In Manitoba, especially in the Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP) region, this disease has threatened both wildlife and domestic cattle during the past 75 years. This study provided a detailed historical overview of the status of Bovine TB in the RMNP ecosystem and the province of Manitoba. Past and present Bovine TB testing, controlling and eradication practices that included seven programs implemented by both the federal and provincial governments in Canada were documented in order to better understand Bovine TB programs in Manitoba. Disease transmission between free ranging ungulates in the RMNP ecosystem was examined to clarify the origin of Bovine TB outbreaks. According to historical records, some 20 bison were first introduced into RMNP in 1931 from a herd at National Buffalo Park, Wainwright, Alberta. In 1937, one of the bison kept in the Bison Enclosure, RMNP, was found dead from Bovine TB. For the following 20 years efforts to eliminate Bovine TB in the RMNP area continued until the infected bison population was destroyed and replaced with Bovine TB-negative animals from Elk Island National Park in Alberta. The details of how Bovine TB may have been introduced into the free ranging ungulates in the RMNP ecosystem and how this disease was dealt with by the RMNP & National Park Bureau were documented. Three plausible explanations were found: 1) cattle transmitted the disease to the elk population once they contacted each other through different ways; 2) Bovine TB disease was transferred to the released elk from the bison herd, although staff did not have access to these animals as readily for testing as for the bison herd in the Bison Enclosure, RMNP ecosystem; 3) confinement of over-populated wildlife in a small area increased the chance of Bovine TB spreading within the herds, and that made further diagnosis and eradication more difficult and complicated.