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Bison in US program shipped back to Yellowstone

Bison in US program shipped back to Yellowstone

A group of wild bison was returned to Yellowstone National Park on Friday in a setback to a fledgling program that allowed the animals into parts of Montana where bison had long been prohibited.
The roundup of the 13 animals came after they repeatedly left a 2,500-acre (1,000-hectare) grazing area in the Gallatin National Forest, crossing the Yellowstone River and entering private property.
After their capture, the animals were trucked just outside Yellowstone's northern border and released. Observers said the bison immediately moved back into the park.
At least 10 bison remain on the Gallatin. One bison is at large and another was shot Monday by state livestock agents after efforts to haze it back onto public property failed.
Bison have been barred for decades from leaving Yellowstone over fears they will transmit the disease brucellosis to cattle. But 25 were allowed to leave the park last week under a pilot initiative costing more than $3 million and highly touted by officials including Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
Montana Department of Livestock spokesman Steve Merritt said the decision to move most of the bison back toward the park was made in conjunction with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the National Park Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"We've given up on those 13," he said.
Some bison advocates and area landowners had questioned the wisdom of moving the animals onto the Gallatin forest, saying the bison would not stay in place and the program would fail.
"It was flawed from the start," said Glenn Hockett with the Bozeman-based Gallatin Wildlife Association. "It was politically driven so Schweitzer could say, 'I saved the bison.' But the bison aren't playing."
An aide to Schweitzer denied any political pressures and noted that plans to let the bison onto the Gallatin predated the governor's election. Mike Volesky, Schweitzer's natural resources adviser, added that the 10 bison still on the forest land suggest the initiative could yet prove viable.
He added that the $3 million spent on the effort also had resulted in cattle being removed from the Royal Teton Ranch, just outside the park's boundary. The ranch was previously considered a potential risk for a brucellosis infection in cattle.
Yellowstone has an estimated 3,900 bison _ one of the largest concentrations of the species in the world. The park's animals are considered genetically pure, versus bison in many other parts of the country that have interbred with cattle.
Officials are considering whether to replace the 13 bison by driving another group of animals out of Yellowstone, through a private ranch and onto the forest land. But Merritt said no decision had been made.
It also is possible that the 10 bison still on the Gallatin could be returned to the park, depending on their behavior. So far, however, those bison appear to have stayed within the grazing area known as Cutler Meadow.
As for expanding the area where bison can roam _ a solution promoted by some bison advocates and sporting groups _ Merritt said that was unlikely.


Updated : 2021-05-09 16:40 GMT+08:00