Brucellosis is a disease caused by the bacterium Brucella abortus that infects elk (Cervus canadensis) and cattle (Bos taurus). There is the potential for transmission from wildlife to livestock through contact with infected material shed during abortions or live births. To understand the impact of exposure on pregnancy rates we captured 30–100 elk per year from 2011 through 2020, testing their blood for serologic exposure to B. abortus. Predicted pregnancy rates for seropositive animals were 9.6% lower in prime-age (2.5–15.5 yr; 85%, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 74–91%) and 37.7% lower in old (>15.5 yr; 43%, 95% CI: 19–71%) elk as compared with seronegative animals. To understand the risk of seropositive elk shedding B. abortus bacteria and the effects of exposure on elk reproductive performance, we conducted a 5-yr longitudinal study monitoring 30 seropositive elk. We estimated the annual probability of a seropositive elk having an abortion as 0.06 (95% CI: 0.02–0.15). We detected B. abortus at three abortions and two live births, using a combination of culture and PCR testing. The predicted probability of a pregnant seropositive elk shedding B. abortus during an abortion or live birth was 0.08 (95% CI: 0.04–0.19). To understand what proportion of seropositive elk harbored live B. abortus bacteria in their tissues, we euthanized seropositive elk at the end of 5 yr of monitoring and sampled tissues for B. abortus. Assuming perfect detection, the predicted probability of a seropositive elk having B. abortus in at least one tissue was 0.18 (95% CI: 0.06–0.43). The transmission risk seropositive elk pose is mitigated by decreased pregnancy rates, low probability of abortion events, low probability of shedding at live birth events, and reasonably low probability of B. abortus in tissues.

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