Over 570 Yellowstone bison have been killed so far this winter, according to estimates from wildlife managers.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the latest report published Monday said 179 bison have been shipped to slaughter while 359 have been killed by hunters as of last Friday. Officials previously estimated that a little over 400 bison had been killed.
The latest tally puts IBMP partner agencies on track to meet their previously stated quota of 900 to 1,300 Yellowstone bison. From the Chronicle:
According to the report, another 321 bison were in the park’s Stephens Creek Capture Facility as of last Friday. Those are likely to be sent to slaughter. The park will also continue capturing more bison as they migrate out in search of forage. The park report said 472 bison were seen between the North Entrance Station and the trap last Monday.
Government officials try to reduce the Yellowstone herd each year because of a 2000 bison management plan that calls for a population of 3,000 bison in the region. About 5,500 live there now.
They go about reducing the population through shipping some bison to slaughter and public hunting. Some hunters are licensed through Native American tribes with treaty hunting rights outside the park and some are licensed through the state of Montana.
The state’s hunting season ended Wednesday. FWP’s report was compiled that morning, and it said state hunters had taken 55 of the bison so far. Hunters from Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have killed 180 bison, the most of any of the five tribes.
Bison that are sent to slaughter are consigned to Native American tribes or the Intertribal Buffalo Council before they leave the park’s capture facility. Tom McDonald, a wildlife manager with the CSKT, said the park was splitting shipments between the ITBC and CSKT as of last Friday, but he couldn’t give exact numbers for how many bison went to each.
We previously reported that Yellowstone’s bison slaughter season was temporarily halted by Montana Governor Steve Bullock when he learned 40 bison originally promised to the Fort Peck tribes were slated for removal rather than transfer. Tribal officials had hoped to keep the bison in a custom-built quarantine facility on their reservation, with the eventual goal of having a brucellosis-free Yellowstone bison herd that could be used to boost other herds across the United States. After much negotiation, only 24 of the original 40, all bulls, were spared.
According to the Chronicle, the bulls are still being held in Yellowstone ahead of a planned transfer to U.S. Department of Agriculture corrals near Corwin Springs. Yellowstone spokeswoman Linda Veress said Monday that officials are still debating the logistics of transferring the bulls to Corwin Springs.
Late last week, we reported that a Montana representative had introduced a bill to allow bison to be transferred out of Yellowstone National Park irrespective of whether they test positive for brucellosis. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Willis Curdy (D-Missoula) says the bill would solve “one technical point in Montana law,” which would remove the major hurdle to Fort Peck’s quarantine program.