Over 1,200 Yellowstone bison have been killed so far this season, according to new information from Yellowstone National Park.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the current count likely means operations at Stephens Creek Bison Capture Facility have likely either ended or wound down.
Per the Park, 748 bison have been shipped to slaughter this year while an estimated 453 have been killed by hunters. The count falls well within the goals of Interagency Bison Management Plan managers, who called for 900-1,300 bison to be culled this year. From the Chronicle:
“We’re in the ballpark of what we set out to do this winter,” said Rick Wallen, a Yellowstone bison biologist.
Wallen said the park’s regular capture-for-slaughter operation has ended. He said the trap would only operate if needed to help prevent bison from migrating north of their tolerance zone, a situation that is only likely after a major weather event.
Bison are removed from the Yellowstone population each year because of a management plan that calls for a population of about 3,000 animals there. Prior to this year’s cull, park biologists estimated that about 5,500 bison lived there.
Officials wanted to remove as many as 1,400 bison from the population this winter. How many bison are killed depends largely on how harsh winter conditions are — if more migrate from the higher elevations in the park into the Gardiner basin, more get killed.
Wallen said that with the number culled this year, once the pregnant bison calve, the population will be reduced by about 350 bison.
“Our goal was to try and show that if we really need to implement a management action to reduce population abundance, we can do it through hunting and capture,” he said.
The park has also set aside 35 bull bison. Wallen said they would keep those in the Stephens Creek Capture Facility to study how long bison need to be quarantined before they can be deemed free of brucellosis, a disease that can cause animals to miscarry.
According to the Chronicle, 24 bull bison are still being held until they can be shipped to USDA corrals at Corwin Springs, although no shipment date has been announced. The 24 bull are the remnants of 40 bison originally promised to officials at the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, who hoped to house them in a specially built quarantine facility.
We previously reported that plans to rewrite the IBMP and have it go into effect this year have been stalled; meetings to discuss the rewrite are scheduled for later this year.