Bison from Yellowstone National Park are beginning their annual, often deadly migration into Montana.
Nine bison now are out of the park near West Yellowstone, Montana Department of Livestock Director Larry Petersen said.
Petersen also told the Livingston Enterprise in an interview published Wednesday that a bison advocacy group’s plan to haze the animals away from facilities for their capture could result in more dead bison this winter.
He said bison wandering on public land in the West Yellowstone area that have not been tested for brucellosis must be killed. The capture pens allow for testing and release of uninfected animals.
“It puts us in the position of having to kill more bison,” Petersen said. “We mark them with a dye so we don’t shoot bison that tested negative on public lands.”
Some bison are infected with brucellosis. The disease causes domestic cattle to abort and can cause undulant fever in humans. There is disagreement whether bison can transmit the disease to cattle in the wild.
More than 1,100 bison were slaughtered last winter under an interim bison management plan that is in effect again this winter.
It requires that untested bison outside the park must be removed.
Keeping them from being tested means more dead bison, Petersen said. “That is something nobody wants.”
Buffalo Nations, a group that was formed in the aftermath of last year’s record number of Yellowstone bison deaths, recently announced a plan to help guide the meandering beasts off private property in areas surrounding both West Yellowstone and Gardiner, Mont.
Co-founder Mike Mease told the Enterprise that volunteers on snowmobiles, skis and snowshoes plan to “shepherd” bison to safe areas. Part of that plan is to detour the animals away from capture facilities, particularly at West Yellowstone.
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