2016-02-04. Bison go from seasonal outlaws to year-round residents in a large swath of Montana.

posted Feb 6, 2016, 3:41 PM by Alan Gould
By Alisa Opar, onEarth, NRDC. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 2. Excerpt: The preferred breakfast companions of Karrie Taggart in springtime are bison. Taggart lives on Horse Butte Peninsula, ...about 10 miles northwest of Yellowstone National Park. ...Hundreds of bison migrate to low-elevation habitat outside the park in search of food during the winter, moving onto surrounding public lands and private property (like Taggart’s yard). But when spring comes, the enormous herbivores become fugitives in these parts, and wildlife officials round them up and force them back into the park. ...Montana’s governor, Steve Bullock, announced in December that his administration will be granting bison year-round access to 250,000 acres along Yellowstone’s western border. ...The agencies that manage bison, including the National Park Service and the InterTribal Buffalo Council, still have to adopt the change, but the plan is expected to go forward. ...“This is a huge deal,” says Matt Skoglund, director of NRDC's Northern Rockies office (disclosure). “It puts in place a foundation for year-round bison habitat in Montana, which is a great step in the right direction.” The move is timely, as it comes amid the early stages of revising the Interagency Bison Management Plan. That plan, set in place 16 years ago, calls for hazing bison outside the park due to fears that the animals will transmit brucellosis, a disease that can cause cattle to abort their pregnancies. ...A lot has changed since then, says Sam Sheppard, a regional supervisor with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. First, research hasn’t found any case in which cattle have contracted brucellosis from wild bison (in fact, elk may pose a bigger threat).  ...In the meantime, however, bison will likely continue to be slaughtered; this winter, a near-record-high 600 to 900 of the animals face culling. Scientists say that if the bison weren’t killed, the population would increase to nearly 6,000 by the end of the winter—twice the limit put forth in a 2000 court-mediated agreement....  http://www.onearth.org/earthwire/yellowstone-bison-roam-year-round-montana