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Yellowstone Bison: Room to roam at last?
Latest News: For the first time in several years, wild bison from Yellowstone National Park are being captured and shipped to slaughter this winter. The goal is to reduce the herd by between 300 and 600 animals.
Of course, this doesn’t have to happen.
Montana agencies are weighing a proposal to open hundreds of thousands of acres of public land outside of Yellowstone to bison year round. This habitat is conflict-free after years of hard work by GYC and our conservation partners to retire grazing permits on public lands around the park.
In January, the Montana Board of Livestock voted against allowing free-roaming Yellowstone bison outside of Yellowstone, putting a crimp in a proposal by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the Montana Department of Livestock to allow bison year round in several places on public lands: most notably, the Hebgen Basin, Gardiner Basin and the upper Gallatin River corridor. The Department of Livestock will meet again in March to further discuss the issue, and the Governor could still provide some leadership.
GYC supports an alternative that would allow Yellowstone bison to roam freely on as many as 421,000 acres outside the park. To read about the alternatives, and our support of Alternative B, click here.
Overview: For more than a half-century, Yellowstone bison were the only wildlife in the U.S. largely confined by the boundary lines of a national park. Now, we might be closer to having this treasure trove of genetically pure wild bison roaming free outside of the park's boundaries year-round.
Wild bison from Yellowstone National Park are some of the most intensely tested wildlife in the country. Because some of the Yellowstone bison herd carries the disease brucellosis -- a disease that can abort calves in ungulates like cattle -- many cattle ranchers in Montana are worried about bison transferring the disease to their cattle. It gets complicated, however, because elk carry the same disease and they aren't tested. Moreover, it has never been proven that bison have ever transferred the disease. Even so, wild bison are often captured and tested when they wander out of Yellowstone and into the state of Montana.
After all the testing, when Yellowstone bison are repeatedly proven to be disease-free, some bison have been allowed to be transferred to appropriate lands, including two Indian Reservations in Montana: Fort Peck and Fort Belknap. In 2012, 62 arrived at Fort Peck, Later that year, a judge prohibited other bison to be transferred to Fort Belknap. But in 2013, the Montana Supreme Court cleared the way for 34 of those Yellowstone bison to arrive at Fort Belknap Indian Reservation
The winter of 2007-08 is still fresh in our minds when nearly 1,600 wild Yellowstone bison were captured and hauled in trucks for slaughter at meatpacking plants. The transfer of wild Yellowstone bison to Fort Peck, Fort Belknap and other suitable landscapes across the West will help ensure we never see a repeat of this atrocity again.
Project goals: We are working toward a day when Yellowstone bison can roam freely on appropriate public and private lands through policy changes by federal and state agencies and wildlife managers, retirements of cattle grazing operations, and negotiations with landowners.
Photo: Cindy Goeddel Photography.
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VIDEO: Watch this video on our work to protect bison.
Download a printable synopsis on our bison work here.
Download a printable PDF map of the bison's historic and current range here.
Download this map, which explains the current management situation for bison.
March 06, 2014 - Y’stone bison kill total is largest since 2007-08
March 06, 2014 - Nez Perce chairman defends bison hunt, says it's important for tribes
March 05, 2014 - Montana bison harvest a ‘shameful disgrace’
February 28, 2014 - Study says park bison can be transferred
February 20, 2014 - 17 more bison shipped to slaughter