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Home on the Range: Plans to Expand Wild Bison Roaming

Montana state officials are considering a plan to allow wild bison to roam in a larger area outside of Yellowstone National Park. Ranchers oppose the project for fear of disease spreading to area livestock.

Ana Campoy reports on the details of a plan that would allow wild bison access to more 400,000 acres to the west and north of the park. The bison are currently allowed to leave the park during certain times of year, but the new plan would allow year-round access to a much larger swath of land outside the park.

Part of the problem is the size of the herd, which is growing. “A group of state and federal agencies has been overseeing the bison herd with the goal of keeping its numbers around 3,000 as a result of some of the legal disputes. But doing so has proved difficult. Officials have tried a variety of strategies, ranging from killing animals that wander too far out of Yellowstone to issuing limited numbers of bison-hunting licenses. Periodically, managers also ship wild bison to the slaughterhouse.”

Ranchers oppose the expansion of the territory due to fears of disease. “Half the Yellowstone herd has been exposed to brucellosis, though Montana officials said there are no documented cases of bison, rather than elk, passing the disease to cattle. The bulk of the new habitat would be in federal and state land, where state officials say there are few cattle,” writes Campoy.

Matthew Brown later reported that the Montana Board of Livestock declined to act on the proposal, asking for more details about the costs of the plan.

Full Story: Plan to Let Bison Roam Farther Irks Ranchers

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