Montana Governor Steve Bullock has temporarily suspended the slaughter of Yellowstone National Park bison.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Bullock suspended the slaughter over “disease concerns” and called for a temporary home for 40 bison wanted by the Fort Peck tribe. Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk said the 40 animals needed to be moved to make space at the Stephens Creek Bison Capture Facility in Yellowstone’s northern range.
Bison operations at Stephens Creek started January 7, 2017. According to the Chronicle, over 200 bison have been captured so far. We previously reported that Interagency Bison Management Plan agencies hoped, through slaughter and hunting, to kill 900-1,300 bison, which they say would curb the population.
Governor Bullock issued the order January 19, though it was not publicized until today.
UPDATE: According to the Chronicle, in an updated version of the original story, the 40 bison in question have been in holding since last year after Montana state veterinarian Marty Zaluski prohibited their shipment outside Yellowstone to Fort Peck.
Zaluski added that, while the bison have tested negative for brucellosis multiple times, there’s still worry “the disease … could appear.” From the Chronicle:
Bullock’s prohibition on moving park bison “saved those bison from being shipped to slaughter. There’s no doubt about that,” Wenk told The AP.
“In the long term, we would still like to find a way to get bison to Native American tribes,” he added.
Bullock spokeswoman Ronja Abel said the governor’s move to block slaughters would stay in effect until a resolution is found for the 40 bison. She said state and federal officials were investigating if the animals can be kept temporarily at a Department of Agriculture research facility just north of the park.
Once that issue is resolved, the park plans to begin shipping other bison to slaughter. Meat from slaughtered animals is distributed to American Indian tribes across the region.
“We recognize the park’s need to cull their herd,” Abel said. “We are trying to work toward a solution as fast as possible and hopefully we can come to a resolution by early next week.”
Jonathan Proctor of the Defenders of Wildlife hailed the news, but added that Yellowstone still needs “a real long-term solution” outside of slaughter, speaking favorably of the Fort Peck initiative.