Yellowstone National Park seeks OK to kill 1,000 wild bison this winter to cut migration into Montana

By @vitthernandez on
A herd of bison swim across the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, June 21, 2011. On average over 3,000 bison live in the park. Reuters/Jimm Urquhart

Officials of the Yellowstone National Park are meeting on Thursday with American Indian tribes, state and federal agency representatives to get their approval of a plan to cull 1,000 wild bison. The plan to kill mostly calves and female bison in winter aims to cut the number of the wild animals’ yearly migration into Montana.

Associated Press reports that the culling is a continuation of a 2000 agreement between Montana and Washington to prevent the spread of brucellosis, a disease, from the bison to livestock. Because of the anticipated harsh winter, thousands of bison are expected to migrate into southwestern Montana from the 5,000 that roamed the park in summer.

According to The Merck Veterinary Manual, bruscellosis is almost exclusively caused by Brucella abortus, although in some cases it could be due to Brucella melitensis.  Infection is rapidly spread and affected unvaccinated animals experience abortions.

The cull would have been unnecessary if there was more tolerance for wildlife to travel outside Yellowstone’s border north of the park in Montana, says park spokeswoman Sandy Snell-Dobert. Although the park is habitat to one of the biggest wild bison herds in the world, since the 1980s, over 6,300 have been culled and another 1,900 killed by hunters. This winter, about 300 are expected to the killed by hunters, while other bison are expected to be culled, captured or used for research.

During winter 2014, park officials slaughtered only 737 bison, failing to meet their target of 900. Targeting calves and females for the planned 2015 winter cull aims to reduce the reproductive rate of bison, considered hardy species.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates bison numbers to have reach 30 to 60 million that once roamed North America, but with human settlements and commercial hunting, the number dwindled to as low as 325 in the US in 1884. However, their numbers subsequently increased, requiring the need for Yellowstone to manage the population through annual slaughter and release to parts of Montana.

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