The 3,500 or so bison in Yellowstone National Park will be allowed to roam in an extra 75,000 acres outside the park during winter months. An agreement between eight government and tribal agencies has been finalized to provide the extra bison territory. Winter in Yellowstone has deep snow and harsh conditions, so the bison naturally wander outside the park looking for food, but doing so has created some problems for private land owners (real or perceived). So they were being shot, hazed back into the park or captured and slaughtered. Some ranchers, if not many, fear bison will spread diseases to their livestock. However, an NPR article from February of this year stated there have been no documented cases of bison-to-cattle transmissions of brucellosis. (The disease has been transmitted by elk to cattle.) Over the last twenty years nearly 4,000 bison that wandered outside the park were sent to slaughterhouses.
In a press release, Defenders of Wildlife said, “Governor Schweitzer is well positioned to be the first governor in the history of the country to restore bison as wildlife in a meaningful way. We thank Governor Schweitzer for his leadership and all the state, federal and tribal agencies involved for their efforts to create some space for wild bison in Montana. We also encourage the state to work with the tribes of Fort Peck and Fort Belknap Reservations who have expressed interest in restoring wild Yellowstone bison to their tribal lands.” (Source: Defenders.org)
Because so many bison have been slaughtered, various people have criticized the management style as being population control rather than disease control, as there typically aren’t many cattle near the bison, and not all the bison contain brucellosis. Allowing them to roam in a dedicated space outside the park should keep them even further away from ranchers and cattle.
Seventeen members of Congress have signed a letter to the National Park Service requesting a different bison management plan.
Thank you Care2 members for helping to make this effort a success! Because of you, over 80,000 signatures have been sent to protect Bison in Yellowstone.
Image Credit: Mila Zinkova