Officials, as they typically do each year at this time, have agreed to thin Yellowstone National Park’s bison herd.
As many as 900 of the park’s bison will now be shot by hunters, sent to slaughter, or placed in a quarantine program designed so healthy bison may eventually join select tribes’ cultural herds, the Associated Press reports. If initial removal targets are met, up to 200 additional adult males could be harvested or captured in late winter.
Yellowstone’s bison herd is healthy. Decreasing the herd size now will help the population stabilize because the population always increases in the spring after calves are born.
The bison population at Yellowstone National Park has grown steadily over 50 years. In 1970, there were approximately 500 bison in Yellowstone, the National Park Service (NPS) reports. There are now more than 4,600 bison in the herd.
Decreasing herd size now will drop the population to between 3,850 and 4,040 bison, according to the NPS. Then, in the spring, after calving season, the herd size will rebound to between 4,500 and 4,730 animals.
The decision to reduce the herd size isn’t solely up to the NPS. That’s because five federal/state agencies and three tribal entities make decisions about Yellowstone bison in a cooperative effort known as the Interagency Bison Management Plan.
Members of that group are the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, the InterTribal Buffalo Council, the Montana Department of Livestock, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, the National Park Service (Yellowstone National Park), the Nez Perce Tribe, and Custer-Gallatin National Forest.
Group officials met and agreed to reduce the bison herd size last week.
The bison population at Yellowstone currently increases by 10 to 17 percent each year.
The bison herd’s size needs to be managed because if it is allowed to grow unchecked, it could lead to overgrazing in some areas and possibly mass starvation of animals due to a lack of food. That, in turn, could lead to larger migrations that increase the chances of conflict outside the park, the NPS explains.
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