Officials in Yellowstone National Park say 900 bison would need to be removed to curb the herd’s growth.
Currently, Yellowstone’s bison population is estimated at 5,500—the highest count since 2000, the same year the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) was signed into law.
According to the Billings Gazette, Park officials are slated this week to discuss bison management with state and tribal entities, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
We previously reported wildlife officials hoped to start trapping earlier this upcoming season after the Park decided to shorten the season in favor of tribal hunting.
Under the IBMP, a coalition of agencies and tribal governments agree to remove (either through slaughter or hunting) bison from the Yellowstone herd. The plan’s target goal a population of 3,000.
One of the most controversial aspects of bison management in Yellowstone National Park is the operations at the Stephens Creek Bison Capture Facility. In late January 2016, the Animal Defense Fund (representing journalist Christopher Ketcham and a Buffalo Field Campaign member Stephany Seay) sued Yellowstone over media access to the facility.
IBMP proponents say Yellowstone’s bison population needs to be thoroughly managed to prevent their spread out of the Park as well as tamp down on the threat of brucellosis transmission between bison and cattle—although there have been no documented cases of bison-to-cattle transmission and studies show elk are far more likely to transmit brucellosis than bison.
Critics of IBMP protocol say the plan is unnecessary, citing the aforementioned elk threat and citing bison’s natural proclivity for roaming in wintertime—especially into lower elevated parts of Montana, searching for food.
Last winter saw a remarkable development in terms of Yellowstone bison management. Late December, Montana Governor Steve Bullock signaled he would allow bison to roam outside Yellowstone’s boundaries in parts of southern and southwestern Montana. After months of debate, the IBMP partner agencies approved Bullock’s plan in April.
In addition, earlier this year, the American bison formally became the national mammal, a symbolic gesture some advocates say underscore their fight against bison slaughter and hunting.