Almost half of the 412 bison killed over the winter when they left Yellowstone National Park were males that don’t transmit brucellosis, a regional committee was told Friday.
Officials say 183 bulls were shot by state wardens, Department of Livestock personnel or National Park Service Rangers.
Even if the disease organisms are detected in bison semen, “there is no evidence they can be transmitted through natural service or environmental contamination,” says a report prepared at the request of the Greater Yellowstone Interagency Brucellosis Committee.
The committee voted to accept the report but delay final decisions.
Bob Hillman of the Idaho Department of Agriculture said he would investigate reports young bulls transmitted the disease to young heifers on a South Dakota ranch.
During the meeting, committee members also voted to back a proposal by U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., to test all Yellowstone bison for the disease and slaughter or sterilize animals that test positive.
Some members said the same old arguments were being brought up by the same interests for the same reasons with the same result: nothing definitive.
“We’re supposed to come up with a plan to eradicate brucellosis (in Yellowstone) by the year 2010 and we can’t come up with an agreement on a … memorandum of understanding that doesn’t bind us to anything,” said Art Reese of the Wyoming Department of Fish and Game.
Before adjourning, however, the committee accepted a memorandum with the goal of supporting both the beef industry and the idea of free ranging bison and elk herds.
Huff criticized the concept of “some clinical possibility of a transfer (of brucellosis) as an excuse to slaughter bison in Yellowstone.”
State officials have used fear of endangering Montana’s brucellosis-free status of its cattle herds to justify random killing of any bison that cross the Yellowstone boundary.
The contagious disease causes cattle to abort and can cause incurable undulant fever in humans.
Montana State Veterinarian Clarence Siroky noted about 100 bison remain outside the park in the West Yellowstone area and must go.
“There will be something next week,” he said. An effort may be made to haze them back into the park if helicopters are available but otherwise they’ll be shot, he said.