Yellowstone Bison Culled to Reduce Disease

By author of The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

At least 822 animals from the herd of 4,900 have been killed or removed

The Yellowstone bison population numbers around 4,900 animals. (author image)

Yellowstone National Park has completed its bison population-control efforts for the year by rounding up almost 550 of the wild animals and sending most to slaughter. In addition, Native American tribal hunters have killed 270 bison as they migrated outside the park to graze at lower elevations in Montana.

According to The Columbian, the culling program was carried out under a legal agreement between federal and state officials in an effort to prevent the spread of disease to cattle.

Wildlife advocates and some members of Congress are criticizing the annual slaughter of the iconic animal. But officials say the program is necessary to prevent cattle in the Yellowstone region from being infected with brucellosis, which can cause abortions in pregnant animals.

Park officials hoped to reduce Yellowstone’s approximately 4,900 bison by 600 to 900 this year. According to park official numbers, at least 822 animals have been killed or removed.

Before closing down the bison capture pens, 442 bison were sent to slaughter, said Yellowstone bison biologist Chris Geremia. The meat is to distributed to members of American Indian tribes.

Of those captured, 105 bison were kept alive for potential enrollment in a quarantine program that transfers disease-free animals to locations outside the park. 

Members of some American Indian tribes with treaty hunting rights in the Yellowstone region will likely continue harvesting bison a bit longer.

In an effort to reduce the number of bison that would need to be slaughtered, state and park officials have allowed the animals to roam more freely in parts of Montana and recently sought to expand the quarantine program so disease-free bison can be relocated. But critics want the culling to stop. Last week, advocates filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to protect Yellowstone bison under the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rejected past calls to end the culling program.

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