Dead bison in herd on reclaimed oilsands site test positive for anthrax

By on August 23, 2015


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FORT MCMURRAY, Alberta — Three bison from Syncrude’s herd in the oilsands have tested positive for anthrax.

Officials recently found four carcasses on the Beaver Wood Bison Ranch, a herd that’s been living on reclaimed land on the Mildred Lake oilsands site for more than 20 years.

One tested positive for anthrax, and Syncrude spokesman Leithan Slade confirmed Saturday evening that tissue samples from two of the other animals also confirmed that anthrax was present.

Syncrude closed off the area, contained the animal carcasses and shut down a public viewing point.

Slade says tissue samples haven’t been obtained from the fourth animal yet because workers haven’t gone into the area.

Parks Canada confirmed several anthrax cases in Wood Buffalo National Park over the summer, but it’s the first time it has been detected in the Mildred Lake herd.

There’s an average of about 300 bison in the Syncrude herd, and usually up to five workers on the ranch.

“We still do have a significant number of bison at the site and so we need to make sure that we protect those workers and allow them to be able to go to the remaining herd and feed and water those. So, that’s kind of the main focus right now,” Slade said.

Saskatchewan Agriculture said last month that anthrax killed two bison and was suspected in seven other deaths northwest of North Battleford.

Anthrax is caused by the bacteria bacillus anthracis, which can survive in spore form for decades in soil.

Animal cases pose minimal risk to humans but people can get infected through direct contact with sick animals or carcasses.