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Yellowstone Bison Won't Be Transferred Out Of State

Bison in Yellowstone National Park.
Josh Burnham

It turns out 145 genetically pure bison captured from Yellowstone National Park will stay in Montana.

Several out-of-state entities wanted those animals.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman, Ron Aasheim, says the Fish and Wildlife Commission chose yesterday to relocate them to northeastern Montana's Fort Peck Indian Reservation instead. Aasheim says commissioners wanted to ensure the animals could be easily relocated to other parts of Montana:
"That's a part of a larger conservation strategy," Aasheim says. "The group agreed that Fort Peck has, to this point in time, done a good job of managing those bison; keeping them maintained, doing the disease testing. They just thought it made sense logistically and practically to keep them in Montana with the idea that potentially in the future, there might be a need for some of those bison elsewhere."
Those bison are quarantined under an experimental program to ensure they don't get infected with diseases such as brucellosis which can cause cattle to abort their young.
Ranchers are wary of the disease even though there hasn't been a documented case of brucellosis transmission between bison and cattle under natural conditions.

Aasheim says this week's decision is only a preliminary move. An environmental assessment and subsequent record of decision is still required.

Yesterday's vote only applies to this one specific herd. Aasheim points out the larger topic of bison management in Montana is still a long way from being settled.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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