Latest: Bison transferred to Fort Peck Indian Reservation

Disease-free animals from Yellowstone get a new home.


Yellowstone National Park’s nearly 5,000 wild bison have never hybridized with cattle and are among the nation’s few genetically pure bison. Tribes and conservationists have long wanted to use them to restore wild herds to the prairie, but ranchers vehemently objected, fearing they could infect cattle with brucellosis. In 2005, an experimental quarantine program was launched to certify disease-free bison – and perhaps make the establishment of new wild herds politically feasible.

In mid-November, 139 brucellosis-free animals were transferred to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northeast Montana. With bison from a 2012 transfer, Fort Peck’s herd of Yellowstone bison will now be almost 200 strong, the largest outside the park. The Fort Peck tribes aim to increase the herd to 1,000, the estimated number needed to restore their historic impact on the landscape. Unlike the 2012 transfer, which ranchers tried to stop in court, this relocation has attracted little vocal opposition, says Defenders of Wildlife’s Jonathan Proctor. “It shows the tremendous progress that’s been made.”

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