Ted Turner’s 4,600 head of Bison on his Flying D Ranch has a Brucellosis problem, according to the Montana State Veterinarian.

The bacteria disease has been absent from domestic herds in Montana for the past two years, but has been confirmed in a 7-year old Bison cow and is suspected in two other animals in the Turner herd.

Brucellosis occurs in Bison, cattle, and elk.  It can cause pregnant animals to abort their fetuses.

The infected cow was killed and the two other animals quarantined from the rest of the herd pending test results, according to Marty Zaluski, the state vet.  The other two Bison will be put down if the test results come back positive.

It is not likely that the menu at Ted’s Montana Grill, a 55-restaurant chain covering 19 states with a Bison options, will be impacted by the problem with one herd in Big Sky Country.

Turner has 15 ranches with Bison herds that reportedly add up to about 50,000 head. Bison headed for slaughter from the Flying D will be tested for the bacteria disease before they enter the food chain.

Russ Miller, general manager for Turner Enterprises Inc., suspects elk on the Flying D were the source of the Brucellosis in the Bison.  He said contact with infected wildlife is a persistent problem for ranchers.

A cattle herd in Park County, MT experienced a bout of Brucellosis in 2009.  That caused some surrounding states to restrict importing cattle from Montana until the state regained its Brucellosis-free status in 2009.

The outbreak in the Turner Bison herd will raise the question of whether restrictions will be put on Bison and cattle movements from Montana.  USDA has been moving toward imposing restrictions on smaller areas than states.  Idaho did not lose its Brucellosis-free status after a similar small outbreak earlier this year.

Turner and George McKerrow Jr. opened the Ted’s Montana Grill restaurant chain in 2002.   A September opening in Boulder, CO was the 55th location in 19 states.

UPDATE:  While this instance of Brucellosis does not poise a human health danger, Brucellosis is a threat to humans as comments below indicate.  Eating unpasteurized milk and soft cheese made from raw goat milk from infected animals and occupational exposures of those who work with animals are two ways humans contract it.