900 bison in Yellowstone are targeted for elimination

It was a conservation achievement: in 1902, fewer than 100 bison were scattered across the Great Plains, with poachers posing for photos next to thousands of skulls. More than a century later, 5,400 bison roam the fertile lands of Yellowstone National Park.

But now there are too many bison, according to the National Park Service.

Wildlife officials and tribal entities agreed on Wednesday that as many as 900 bison in Yellowstone National Park will be slaughtered, slaughtered by hunters or quarantined at the service’s Stephens Creek capture facility, where the animals will be tested. for brucellosis, a disease that causes abortions or stillbirths in cattle.

The furry and horned mammals could overgraz the land – causing possible massive starvation of other animals – and roam Montana, where farmers fear their livestock could be infected with brucellosis, the service said.

“Doing nothing is not a realistic option,” the service said on its website, explaining why it was allowing the slaughter of an animal that was once in danger of extinction.

Most areas around Yellowstone continue to limit where bison are allowed, and human development on its habitat has hampered the expansion of its range, the service said.

While wolves have recently made a healthy comeback in the park, they have had little effect in reducing the number of bison, which can stand six feet tall, weigh 2,000 pounds, and easily defend themselves in groups against The predators.

Authorities have said the bison will not be hunted inside Yellowstone, unlike Grand Canyon National Park, where this year hunters were first allowed to kill bison inside the park because they were wreaking havoc on the region’s ecosystem.

The Yellowstone bison have increased by 10-17% each year. Over the past two decades, wildlife officials have attempted to curb some of this rapid growth, by issuing annual guidelines on how many bison to kill.

Still, the park service said the hunt had done little to resolve the problem.

“These bison are very suspicious,” said Chad Kremer, owner of the Kremer Buffalo Company, which raises and harvests bison in South Dakota. “They learn. They learn where those property lines are, where these lines are that they are pressured by from outside while hunting.

Indeed, the service only documented two bison slaughtered outside the park in the winter of 2019-2020. Most of the 834 bison removed during this time were herded into the Stephens Creek capture facility, tested for brucellosis, and then transferred to tribes, who take the animals to slaughterhouses.

In 2019, the service introduced a program in which bison without brucellosis are transferred to new areas instead of slaughterhouses. That year, 55 bison were transferred to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northeastern Montana.

Members of the tribes also have the option of hunting buffalo.

“The elders show a sincere and deep respect that when the wild roses bloomed in late spring or early summer, they knew the bison calves were being fattened and it was time to ‘go see the bison, ”said the Confederate Salish and Kootenai. Tribes said on a hunting orientation page.

When a bison is hunted, it is usually “a harvest,” said Kremer, because “they’re so big and they usually don’t have predators.”

As to the fear that the bison could spread brucellosis, Kremer said it was “a definite concern” but not significant. The National Park Service agreed, saying “people underestimate and overestimate the risk of transmitting brucellosis.”

“Transmission of brucellosis from bison to cattle is possible,” the service said, but as of October, there had been no documented case of transmission from bison to cattle in Yellowstone.

That doesn’t mean it could never happen, the service said, adding that it only means Montana and the service’s efforts to prevent the mixing of bison and cattle have worked so far.

Donnis Baggett, president of the National Bison Association, a trade group, said on Sunday that elk appeared to be driving the spread of brucellosis.

“It doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of attention and discussion,” Mr. Baggett said. “Everyone blames the bison. “

The National Park Service said the elk were also infected and their movements outside the park were not restricted.

When the buffalo hunt begins, Kremer said, some people will be able to enjoy high protein meat this winter.

“It tastes like beef,” he said, “but really lean. “

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