BILLINGS – Montana wildlife officials are seeking public comment on a proposal to relocate several dozen Yellowstone National Park bison to an American Indian reservation in Wyoming.
The 41 bison would go to the Northern Arapahoe Tribe’s Wind River Reservation in early April. The animals have been held in a quarantine facility north of Yellowstone for four years to make sure they are not carrying the livestock disease brucellosis, which causes pregnant cattle to abort their calves.
It has been eradicated elsewhere in the country but persists in Yellowstone’s bison and elk herds. Last winter government and civilian hunters killed 1,601 migrating bison to guard against transmissions of the disease to livestock.
A bill pending introduced to the Montana Legislature by Republican Senator John Brenden of Scobey would block the quarantined animals’ relocation.
The bison would be monitored for disease for at least five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Several more batches of bison now under quarantine could be relocated over the next three winters.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Administrator Ken MacDonald said the Northern Arapahoe want to let the herd expand to 300 animals and eventually distribute bison to other reservations or public lands.
Tribal officials from the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap reservations also have submitted proposals to take bison.
Fish Wildlife and Parks will take comment on the proposal through March 13.
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