A temporary closure is set to go into effect around Stephens Creek today at noon MST.
According to a Yellowstone press release, the closure (called by order of Superintendent Dan Wenk) will remain in place for the rest of the winter as officials at the Stephens Creek facility prepare to capture bison migrating north out of Yellowstone National Park. Although the Stephens Creek facility is closed to the public year-round, this temporary closure is instituted every year “to ensure visitor and staff safety.”
You can see a map of the closure area below.
Every year, bison are corralled into the facility, where they are tested for brucellosis and either shipped to slaughter or released later in the year. Yellowstone conducts these operations as part of the Interagency Bison Management Plan, which seeks to limit the number of bison leaving Yellowstone National Park each year. You can read a copy of the IBMP’s 2017 plan here.
We previously reported that the IBMP’s partner agencies hope to reduce the Yellowstone herd by 900 to 1,300 head, which Park biologists say would curb population growth. The IBMP’s current parameters permit no more than 3,000 bison in Yellowstone. Currently, there are estimated 5,500 bison in Yellowstone.
Although the IBMP has been in effect since 2000 (when the state of Montana sued Yellowstone over bison migrating out of the Park), several important changes have taken place that will likely alter the IBMP’s future efforts.
Last winter, Montana Governor Steve Bullock issued an executive order allowing bison to roam year-round in parts of southern and southwestern Montana. The state’s Department of Transportation is scheduled to meet with the Buffalo Field Campaign, a bison advocacy group that trenchantly criticizes operations at Stephens Creek, to discuss protecting bison as they cross U.S. 191 north of West Yellowstone. Finally, some officials at Stephens Creek have come out publicly saying they want to see a change in operations at the facility. Further, Superintendent Wenk has previously said he prefers hunting to slaughter, although he maintains it’s necessary now, adding that “it might not be the world we’re living in three years from now.”