A new management plan proposed by Montana and U.S. officials would allow more bison to roam past the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park this winter, as surrounding states work out a management plan for brucellosis.
THe new plan combines a previous proposal to eventually allow up to 100 bison to head north of the Park via the Royal Teton Ranch with a new plan to allow an unlimited amount of bison to winter in Horse Butte, located west of Yellowstone National Park. The bison heading west would not be tested for brucellosis, as there’s no chance the bison would interact with cattle.
Brucellosis is a disease that causes pregnant cows to spontaneously abort calves. The disease has been virtually eradicated in the United States except for the greater Yellowstone region, where in recent years cattle has tested positive for the disease. There’s a debate as to how cattle are transmitted the disease; stockmen say brucellosis is transmitted by bison, but the more likely culprit — according to scientists studying the issue — is elk roaming through the area. To say stockmen are closely watching the plan would be an understatement; the Montana Stockgrowers Association filed a lawsuit in May to prevent bison from lingering outside the Park boundaries.
That lawsuit, combined with public disgust of last winter’s hazing of the Yellowstone herd by 1,600 head, has government officials between a rock and a hard place.
Horse Butte is already designated as an area where bison can roam, but under the current proposal a 100-bison cap would be lifted.
Final approval of the plan could come as early as next month.