Mycoplasma bovis killing Kansas bison

i-3182dcb23318d6f1ec9bdc12906f521f-Mycoplasma bovis 02-12258a.jpgDisease decimates Kansas buffalo:

Nearly one-fourth of the buffalo have died at the state-owned Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, home to one of the oldest surviving wild buffalo herds.

A new disease is decimating buffalo herds across the state and has prompted the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks to cancel its annual buffalo auction, typically held in mid-November.

The animals are infected with Mycoplasma bovis, a bacterium that causes pneumonia, mastitis and arthritis in cattle. It was first detected in some U.S. cattle in the 1960s.

For buffalo, it is especially virulent.

“They don’t have any prior exposure or resistance,” said Cliff Peterson, manager of the Maxwell refuge. “For buffalo, it’s pretty lethal.”

Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, in northwest McPherson County, is home to the state’s largest buffalo herd, which until a few weeks ago had 200 animals.

Since the disease struck, 47 have died and another three may have the disease.

Mycoplasma is among the smallest of bacteria, and other members of the genus can cause pneumonia and pelvic inflammatory disease in humans. In cattle, M. bovis causes respiratory problems and mastitis (udder inflammation).

The Maxwell Wildlife Refuge was created in 1859, when John Gault Maxwell drove a herd of bison and elk onto his land near Canton, Kansas. The land is now state-owned, and a local group runs tour buses through the refuge’s 2,800 acres.


  1. #1 Lin
    November 30, 2006

    I adore buffalo. Is there any way that they can prevent more buffalo from being infected with this disease, perhaps with a vaccination?

  2. #2 Josh
    November 30, 2006

    There is a vaccine for cattle, but I don’t know if it’s been tested on bison. Apparently the bison are more badly affected by the infection than cattle are.

  3. #3 randy
    December 1, 2006

    All of the buffalo have been given two injections of the cattle vaccine. Infection rate has slowed or stopped at this time. We feel like we are out of the critical period now. It is kind of odd that this came out now in the Eagle and got picked up by the AP, when KDWP sent out a news release about the situation over a month ago. Anyone who wants more particulars can contact me at the Region 4 Office in Wichita.

    Randy Clark KDWP

  4. #4 Kyler O'Connell
    March 6, 2012

    Hello my name is Kyler O’Connell, I’m in the 4th grade and I live in Montana. As part of my PEAK class this unit is bison. I was asigned to do bison mycoplasma; it is a disease
    that freezes the lungs entirely. I am trying to find someone who actually knows a LOT about it. If anyone can help put me in contact with someone who can answer a few questions for me I would really appreciate it.

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