Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Quarantined bison from Y-stone attract interest

August 10, 2009, 2:55 pm
Wildlife officials say a Montana Indian tribe, an Illinois zoo and a North Dakota landowner are seeking to take a small herd of wild bison that have been held in quarantine outside Yellowstone National Park. 

The animals were spared in 2005 and 2006 from a government program that captures and slaughters most bison leaving the park to prevent the spread of the disease brucellosis. 

Federal and state wildlife officials want to use the quarantined animals as seed stock to form new bison herds. The hope is to return the iconic Western animal to areas of the country where it once thrived before being hunted to near-extinction in the 1800s. 

The approximately four dozen bison now in the 200-acre quarantine facility in Corwin Springs, Mont. could be slaughtered if no home is found. 

"We need to get the animals out in December," said Ken McDonald, wildlife administrator with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. "They're crowded and the cows are pregnant again and ideally you want to get them out early in their pregnancy." 

An earlier plan to transfer the animals to the Northern Arapaho Tribe in central Wyoming collapsed this spring. Tribal members voted to keep the animals out over fears of brucellosis, which can cause pregnant animals to miscarry. 

McDonald said proposals to take the bison have been offered by the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in central Montana, theBrookfield Zoo in Brookfield, IL, and a private landowner in Fargo, ND. McDonald said the Brookfield Zoo, located near Chicago, was representing a consortium of zoos that would essentially extend the work being done at the quarantine.