Bison deaths spur lawsuit

  • Park officials remove a bison that was shot after it collapsed

    Scott McMillion
  YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Mont. - As temperatures dip to 30 below, park rangers are rounding up and shipping to slaughter all bison that approach private land on the park's northern border. It's the start of a new management plan that has generated controversy and a lawsuit.

"It's a sad day when it comes to this inside the borders of Yellowstone," said Mike Clark, director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. His group and a handful of others are trying to stop the roundup by going to federal court.

The roundup is part of a temporary plan worked out to settle a lawsuit Montana Gov. Marc Racicot filed against the federal government. All bison that approach the Church Universal and Triumphant's private land abutting the park are to be herded into a $100,000 set of progressively smaller corrals about three miles inside the park, loaded into trailers and sent to slaughterhouses. The meat is to be auctioned to the public.

As of Jan. 13, 146 bison had been shipped away, two escaped the pen and one was shot there after it collapsed.

Along the park's western border, bison that leave the snowbound park in search of food are captured by the Montana Department of Livestock. Those that are not pregnant and test negative for brucellosis are released on public land outside the park. The livestock industry fears bison will spread the disease to cattle, even though bison advocates point out this has never happened in the wild. The new plan replaces one in which state officials shot bison in the field after they left the park and donated the meat to charities or Indian tribes.

Clark contends the Park Service violates federal law by capturing the bison inside Yellowstone. The coalition's case is now being appealed to the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco.

- Scott McMillion

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