Over 1,100 Yellowstone bison have been hunted and slaughtered this winter, far above the goal set for this year’s Interagency Bison Management Plan.
Officials previously called for removing 600 to 900 bison from the Yellowstone herd.
As of today, bison operations in Yellowstone National Park are officially over for the season.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, park officials expect the herd to measure approximately 4,300 bison—following calving season. The bison population was previously estimated at 4,800 during the annual summer count. From the Chronicle:
Most of the bison killed this year were shipped to slaughter. Warthin said 663 bison have been shipped.
According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, hunters licensed through six tribal nations and the state of Montana took 349 bison. Another six were wounded and killed by government officials.
The removal total also includes 98 bison that are being held for a potential brucellosis quarantine program, which is meant to certify bison as disease free so they can be released elsewhere.
The park is also holding 31 calves. Warthin said the park will either ship them to slaughter or release them.
Yellowstone bison are managed for brucellosis, a disease livestock officials and producers fear could spread to cattle in Montana should bison spread further outside the park. To date, however, there have been no cases of bison-to-cattle brucellosis transmission. Research shows elk are far likelier to spread brucellosis to cattle.
This year, operations around Stephens Creek have been roiled with controversy, with several protests staged. For instance, in January, an unknown person cut fences at Stephens Creek, releasing over 50 bison being held in quarantine there. In February, fences were cut again, releasing over 70 bison. The National Park Service has opened criminal investigations into both incidents.
Meanwhile, last month, five members of advocacy group Wild Bison Defense were arrested around Stephens Creek after attempting to hinder the shipment of bison to slaughter.
The first arrests came in mid-March, when two protesters chained themselves to the squeeze chute at Stephens Creek. A third person was arrested for trespassing. All three plead guilty to misdemeanor charges.
Shortly thereafter, two men were arrested after chaining themselves to concrete-filled barrels, in an attempt to block shipment of Yellowstone bison out of the park. One protester plead guilty, while the other has plead not guilty.