Yellowstone Bison Slaughter Over, Controversy Remains
Although ranchers do not support the release of bison outside the park, a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Wildlife Conservation Society found recently that bison can be quarantined and determined to be brucellosis-free. This makes it safe to take young bison out of Yellowstone and combine them with herds elsewhere without risking brucellosis transmission to a new set of animals, the study authors said.
“The results of this study indicate that under the right conditions, there is an opportunity to produce live brucellosis-free bison from even a herd with a large number of infected animals like the one in Yellowstone National Park,” said Dr. Jack Rhyan, APHIS Veterinary Officer, in a statement released by the Wildlife Conservation Society. “Additionally, this study was a great example of the benefits to be gained from several agencies pooling resources and expertise to research the critical issue of brucellosis in wildlife.”
Brucellosis, which causes miscarriage in the animals, can be passed on to a cow that comes in contact with the aborted fetus of a bison, elk or cattle. The study took young bison from an infected herd and kept them long enough to calve. The animals and their offspring were tested for brucellosis and found to be disease-free, rendering them safe, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.
Yellowstone bison are the most genetically pure, meaning they are a match for the herds that used to thunder across the Great Plains, a mainstay of culture and sustenance for Indigenous Peoples. An agreement with Montana mandates the park to keep the bison population at 3,200 in its northern herd and 1,400 in the central, the latter being the one that tends to migrate out of the park in winter.
Meanwhile acrimony erupted between two tribes that are historical enemies when a Blackfoot man accused the Nez Perce of killing pregnant female bison. Nez Perce Tribal Chairman Silas Whitman spoke out after James St. Goddard of the Blackfoot Confederacy showed up at Montana Governor Steve Bullock’s office bearing a bloody bison heart in a plastic bag. Whitman said that although they did not agree with the methods used, Nez Perce members welcomed the meat. The Salish Kootenai, Umatilla and Nez Perce all have hunting rights outside the park, according to the Helena Independent Record, while the Blackfoot do not.
“We deal with the hand we’ve been given, and our people need to eat,” said Whitman.
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