- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

PAWHUSKA, Okla. (AP) - A bison herd at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in northern Oklahoma is recovering after a disease killed dozens of the animals between 2013 and 2014.

Roughly 100 bison died after being infected with a bacterial pathogen called Mycoplasma bovis, an illness that leads to emaciation, weakness and death, the Tulsa World (https://bit.ly/1LYvAIe ) reported. Since the Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma’s herd on the preserve was vaccinated in May 2014, none of the animals have died because of the disease.

“They sure look a lot better than they did a year ago,” Preserve Director Bob Hamilton said. “These are nice, good-condition animals. You can tell they have some good reserves.”

Hamilton said research indicates the disease isn’t contagious to humans and that bison meat from the infected animals is safe to consume. He said it’s not known how the bison contracted the disease, which is transmitted through physical contact and through water and feed.

The illness was first identified in U.S. cattle in the early 1960s, though M. bovis has been known within bison only around 15 years, said Dr. Karen Register, a research microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal Disease Center.

She said a death rate of 40 to 50 percent for the disease is common in bison. Around 5 percent of the bison on the preserve died.

“One of the big questions, and this is something I’ve been working on, is why has this only recently become a problem in bison,” Register said. “It’s been around in North America for 50 years now. Why hasn’t it been a problem before this time? We’re trying to get at the root of that now in the hope that understanding that might help us better manage the problem in bison.”

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Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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