The National Park Service promised to evaluate such an approach in the 2000 Record of Decision which created the Interagency Bison Management Plan, a cooperative plan designed to conserve a viable, wild bison population while protecting Montana’s brucellosis-free status.
The fear that bison transmit brucellosis to Montana cattle stock has caused great battles over bison management in the last decade and beyond. Montana cattlemen have influenced the current bison-management plan carried out by the Montana Department of Livestock, but that influence may be waning; the Stockgrowers Association lost a suit seeking to further restrict bison access outside of Yellowstone, and the best-available science indicates elk, not bison, are much more likely to infect cattle with the brucellosis virus. Brucellosis, or Bang’s Disease, can cause cows to spontaneously abort fetuses; Montana cattle must be tested for the virus before being shipped out of state.
Park staff members currently vaccinate bison by hand when risk management operations result in animals being held in the Stephens Creek capture facility near Gardiner, Montana.
The purpose of remote vaccination of bison inside the park is to reduce the brucellosis infection rate in order to increase tolerance for bison on historic and essential winter range outside the park in Montana when cattle are not present. NPS officials believe the most logical method for remote delivery of the vaccine is to use a compressed air rifle to deliver an absorbable projectile containing the vaccine.
The Draft EIS looks at continuing the current hand vaccination program, adding a remote vaccination program for young non-pregnant bison, or an approach which would also include remote vaccination of adult females.
Yellowstone is planning to hold a series of open houses to provide the public an opportunity to learn more about the issue in order to provide comments which will be analyzed and used in preparation of the EIS:
Bozeman, MT: June 14 from 6:00-8:30 p.m. at the Comfort Inn, 1370 North 7th Ave.
Helena, MT: June 15 from 6:00-8:30 pm at the Howard Johnson, 2101 E. 11th Ave.
Malta, MT: June 16 from 6:00-8:30 p.m. at the Great Northern Hotel, S. First St. East.
The review and comment period will run for 60 days.
The Draft EIS and an electronic form to submit comments on the Internet can be found at the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/yell. The Draft EIS is also available on CD or in hard copy by writing the Bison Management Program, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190.