One bison immediately died on April 15, while another died the following day. It was a pretty gruesome spectacle: the suspect reportedly fired 40 .22 caliber rounds into a herd of bison grazing near homes in Gardiner near Hwy. 89. Officials with Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks say they have a suspect.
The act follows a pretty tense April 14 community meeting called by the IBMP to explain the new grazing/management plan to locals. The meeting between IBMP reps and residents did not go smoothly, by all accounts; local residents showed up to decry the decision to allow open bison grazing north of Yellowstone National Park. As you’ll recall, the plan — implemented immediately — allows Yellowstone bison to graze in 75,000 acres 13 miles past the northern boundary of Yellowstone National Park, encompassing most of the Gardiner Basin and ending at Yankee Jim Canyon. Fencing will be erected at that point to keep bison from heading further north into the Paradise Valley.
Immediately there were reports of bison causing property damage as they made their way into the Gardiner Basin in search of better grazing: undoubtedly some damage was done (we are talking bison, after all; they’re not the most delicate of creatures), but to what extent is under debate. Park County Commissioner Randy Taylor made it sound like the bison were on a rampage:
“It’s a total mess here and we’re looking at our options to protect the county’s public health and safety,” Taylor told AP. “Haze them back into the park and feed them and take care of them there. If they have to come down here to eat food, they’ll form that habit and come down here every year.”
Now, it’s debatable whether public health and safety is at risk; there have been no other reported bison-human incidents resulting in injury. Still, Park County Commissioners have directed staff to draw up a lawsuit challenging the new IBMP plan, but it’s not been filed.
IBMP encompasses those entrusted with bison management in the region — the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Montana Department of Livestock and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks — as well as three other stakeholders: the InterTribal Buffalo Council, the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes and the Nez Perce Tribe.
RELATED STORIES: Legal Challenges to Yellowstone Bison Accord Possible; Final IBMP Approval At Hand for New Yellowstone Bison-Management Plan; Montana, Feds Discussing New Bison Grazing Outside Yellowstone