The proclamation is in effect for the next 90 days. Basically, it says that since Montana has succeeded in eliminating brucellosis from its cattle, any transport of infected Yellowstone bison poses an unacceptable risk to Montana cattle. In the past, Montana has been a prime mover behind the slaughter of bison as a brucellosis-management tool.
In the same proclamation, Schweitzer took a shot at the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP), saying its failure was another rationale for his action: “[The IBMP] has resulted in no reduction in the prevalence of brucellosis in bison, nor has it resulted in a sustainable population control model for Yellowstone bison.”
There are currently 525 cattle confined at Stephens Creek, and half have tested positive for brucellosis, a disease that can cause pregnant cattle, bison and elk to spontaneously abort a fetus. The fear that bison can spread the disease to cattle — despite there never being a documented case of transmission — is the prime mover behind the Interagency Bison Management Plan and the desire for Yellowstone bison to be kept away from cattle.
“More than anything else, this is a direct signal to the Department of Interior in Washington, D.C. to get their hat screwed on right and manage this bison population,” Schweitzer told AP. “Their plan is, when there gets to be a lot of snow, buffalo will go into Montana and then somebody else will have to deal with it.”
One solution offered up by Schweitzer: feeding bison hay to keep them within Park confines. The whole issue arises when Yellowstone bison leave Yellowstone for lower elevations and more food, a problem exacerbated this year by the heavier-than-normal snowpack in the region.
The fate of the bison was also the subject of a lawsuit argued in U.S. District Court; on Monday Judge Charles Lovell ruled that slaughter was an acceptable, albeit distasteful way to manage Yellowstone bison in the face of brucellosis concerns.
There are currently 3,700 bison under Park management, and if more bison head north — a move that’s expected — slaughters could bring that number dangerously close to 3,000, a number that IBMP officials say is necessary for maintaining a healthy population.