The population dynamics of brucellosis in the yellowstone national park

Andrew P. Dobson, Mary Meagher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

146 Scopus citations


The role that pathogens play in structuring ecological communities needs to be examined from both a theoretical and empirical perspective. This paper provides a brief introduction to the ecology and epidemiology of brucellosis in Yellowstone National Park. Observed patterns of infection for brucellosis in bison in national parks in the United States suggest that Brucella has a relatively sharply defined threshold for establishment and that the proportion of the host population infected increases as a relatively simple function of population density. Unfortunately, the threshold population for Brucella establishment in bison is low, a herd of at least 200 individuals; this makes it very hard to eradicate Brucella from wild populations. Simple calculations based on observed prevalence and recruitment data for the Yellowstone bison herd suggest that unacceptably high levels of culling would be required to eradicate brucellosis in the park. A simple mathematical model is used to describe aspects of the population dynamics of Brucella. The analyses suggest that an understanding of infectious disease dynamics is crucial to the management and conservation of wild and domestic ungulate species in and around national parks and other nature reserves. The consequences of disease control for the maintenance of biodiversity in other natural and captive communities need to be better understood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1026-1036
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


  • Bison
  • Brucella
  • Cattle
  • Disease ecology
  • Elk
  • Epidemiology
  • Pathogen
  • Population dynamics
  • Yellowstone


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