Should residents and workers in Wood Buffalo be concerned about anthrax after one of the three dead Syncrude ranch bison tested positive? Recently Syncrude announced that three dead Beaver Creek Wood Bison had been found in recent weeks close to the ranch. The last of the bison was found close to the Mildred Lake site for the company. Tests were performed, and these confirmed that one of the bison was infected with anthrax. According to Leithan Slade, the spokesperson for Syncrude, the company has taken a number of steps. These ave included removing the bodies of the dead bison, and restricting access to the area. Slade explained “Syncrude has always taken great pride in the health of our Bison herd. It’s become quite a success symbol for the company. At this point, it’s kind of still too early to say whether (the deaths) will have an impact on the future of the herd. We’re taking all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our workers that care for the animals, and the animals themselves.”
The Syncrude ranch bison are not the only bison to test positive for anthrax in the area this year. In July more than 50 bison in Wood Buffalo National Park. These were wild bison though, and the animals at the Syncrude farm are the first animal in captivity related death linked to anthrax. The organism responsible can stay dormant for an extremely long time, many decades in some cases. Soil moisture changes and other environmental factors can allow the spores to become active again, and animals and humans who come into contact with the activated spores can become infected with anthrax.