Yellowstone bison scheduled for release on Gallatin National Forest | TSLN.com

Yellowstone bison scheduled for release on Gallatin National Forest

Bill Brewster

Officials in Yellowstone National Park have begun to collect a group of seronegative bison that will be released in the Gardiner Basin area of the Gallatin National Forest this winter.

The National Park Service announced Jan. 4 that a group of 23 bison had been hazed into a fenced pasture at the Stephens Creek capture facility northwest of Gardiner, MT, as the first step.

Allowing bison on Montana’s national forest lands has been praised by a number of environmental groups, but questioned by Montana’s livestock community because of the brucellosis threat it represents for domestic cattle that use Forest Service land during the summer months. In addition, a number of producers are concerned this will begin a precedent that could lead to reduced grazing allotments for cattle to support bison grazing.

Once a large enough group of animals is collected at the site within the park boundaries, park officials say they will test the bison for exposure to brucellosis.

After testing, a mixed-group of 25 bison will be exposed to the seronegative bison group for exposure to brucellosis. The selected animals will be marked and fitted with monitoring devices, then released and moved to the Gallatin National Forest where they will remain until spring.

The remaining bison at Stephens Creek will be released. The plan was envisioned a decade ago to increase tolerance for bison outside the northern boundary of Yellowstone National Park. Al Nash a spokesman for with the park, said Yellowstone has cooperated with state, federal and tribal partners under the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) to conserve a viable, wild bison population while protecting Montana’s brucellosis-free status.

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Nash noted that step two of the IBMP allows an increasing number of seronegative bison on land between the northern boundary of Yellowstone National Park and Yankee Jim Canyon.

In the spring of 2008, an agreement was reached between the State of Montana and the Church Universal and Triumphant, which removed cattle from the Royal Teton Ranch for a period of 30 years to clear the way for bison to move onto and across the property to national forest lands covered under step two of the interagency plan.

According to a park press release, a record of decision directs the agencies to evaluate the most effective means to enforce the Montana restrictions regarding bison distribution.

Once the agencies have determined they have gained significant experience with this small group of bison, in subsequent years they will allow up to 50 head, and ultimately as many as 100 untested bison on the same landscape, Nash noted.

In the future, the agencies may adjust these numbers based on this intermediate phase of the management plan.

In the meantime, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) is searching for possible state lands that could be used for 100 head of wild bison that are now quarantined at a 400-acre site near Corwin Springs, MT.

The bison are part of an experiment to determine if a way can be established to create herds of disease-free bison that come from the Yellowstone National Park gene pool.

MFWP officials have identified the Spotted Dog, Marias River and Beartooth wildlife management areas as fenced locations where bison could be placed on a temporary basis while a plan is developed for wild bison in the state.

In a written statement released Jan. 4, MFWP director Joe Maurier said it was time the agency took a serious look at this big game species’ management. “Bison have been ignored as a big game species for 100 years. It’s simply time to consider realistic options for its management,” the release stated.

Placing bison on state wildlife lands is subject to approval by the agency’s commission when it meets next week.

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