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Montana officials plan to cull up to 700 Yellowstone bison

Montana

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BOZEMAN, Montana (AP) — Wildlife officials have announced plans to cull between 500 and 700 Yellowstone bison from the population, and no longer enroll the animals to a brucellosis quarantine program.

Yellowstone National Park biologist Chris Geremia said if the target is met, an additional 200 male bison could be culled later in the winter, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported. The animals will either be shot or rounded up and shipped for slaughter.

Federal, state and tribal agencies finalized the culling numbers during a virtual meeting on Wednesday. The plan attempts to balance conservation strategies with strategies to prevent the spread of brucellosis.

Brucellosis is an infectious disease that appears in elk, bison and cattle and causes abortions, low milk production and infertility. The program gathers bison from the herd, tests them for brucellosis and gives them to tribal lands for cultural and conservation purposes.

“There’s no space in the quarantine facilities. Right now all quarantine pastures are at capacity,” he said. “All animals that are trapped will be given to tribes and transferred to meat processing facilities.”

Nez Perce Fish and Wildlife Commission Vice-Chair Erik Holt said the plans seem like forcing something on tribes that they don’t necessarily want. Quarantining more animals might result in fewer opportunities for tribal hunters, he said.

Culling is part of a larger attempt by land managers to keep populations stable in the park. There are currently 4,730 bison in the park, a slight decline from the estimated 4,900 bison counted last summer, officials said. More than 800 bison were culled last year.

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