Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Wild Bison Could Be Heading to Island Park

May 15, 2009, 1:11 pm

Wild bison cows and their newborn calves appear to be following an ancient migration trail from Montana to Island Park this week, but government officials have mobilized to force the animals to turn around and head to Yellowstone Park.

The bison summer in Yellowstone, and the group near Hwy. 20 westsouthwest of West Yellowstone wintered on the Gallatin National Forest that borders the town. Although they usually return to the park in the spring, the animals will head to Idaho or other areas outside the park if they have better opportunities to find food they desperately need this time of year. Bison are at a low point now, physically, after the long winter, and they need fresh grass to sustain them during their migration and as they give birth and nurse their young.

But bison managers have little sympathy for these wild critters. Their goal is to keep them off private land and any public land where cattle graze later in the year. Agents from the Montana Department of Livestock, Yellowstone Park, and other agencies are using horses, snowmobiles, ATVs, and helicopters to disrupt the bison’s natural behavior.

If any bison make it to Idaho, state officials here will also mobilize to get rid of them.

Bison are often injured during such operations, says Stephany Seay of the Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC).