LIVINGSTON, Mont. (AP) — Federal officials plan to reconsider how they manage Yellowstone National Park's famous wild bison herds following longstanding complaints over thousands of the animals that have been killed by hunters and agencies as they attempted to migrate into Montana.
Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly outlined the plans in court documents filed Wednesday. The move came in a lawsuit challenging a federal-state agreement that has governed management of the animals, also known as buffalo, since 2000.
A new analysis of bison management could result in an expansion of where the animals are permitted to roam freely, The Livingston Enterprise reported. The work would involve the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service, which has jurisdiction over much of the land surrounding Yellowstone.
Jared Pettinato, who represents Neighbors Against Bison Slaughter, applauded the agencies’ decision to reevaluate bison management.
“We think it’s long overdue,” he said.
Yellowstone had more than 4,800 bison as of last summer. More than 800 were killed by hunters or captured and sent to slaughter this past winter.
Officials insist the culling is necessary to prevent cattle in the Yellowstone region from being infected with brucellosis, which is present in many park bison and can cause abortions in pregnant animals.
To address concerns over the killing of bison, state and park officials in recent years have allowed the animals to roam more freely in parts of Montana and to establish a quarantine program so bison that are declared disease-free can be relocated.
But that hasn’t resolved the issue and the periodic slaughter of large numbers of bison has continued.
There have been numerous cases of cattle in the Yellowstone region being infected with brucellosis by diseased elk, but no recorded transmissions from bison.
As many as 30 million to 60 million bison once roamed across most of North America, according to federal wildlife officials. Mass slaughters drove them to near extinction by the late 1800s. Today there are roughly 11,000 wild bison on public lands in 12 states.