Eighty of the 88 bison that have been held in a quarantine compound outside Yellowstone National Park were loaded in large stock trailers Wednesday for the two-hour ride to their new home on Ted Turner's ranch. "It went very, very well," said Ryan Clarke, a veterinarian with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. "Better than you can ask for moving these large, excitable animals." Turner's ranch manager Russ Miller said the first group of bison left the Gardiner area shortly before noon Wednesday and arrived at the ranch at about 2 p.m. "Within a week or two they'll be turned out into pasture," Miller said. Eight bulls, weighing an estimated 1,500 pounds each, were to be moved today. The Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Turner Enterprises reached an agreement late Tuesday for Turner to care for the bison and their offspring for the next five years on a 12,000-acre fenced section of his Flying D ranch south of Bozeman, said FWP spokesman Ron Aasheim. Under the agreement, Turner Enterprises Inc. will return the surviving original bison and 25 percent of their offspring to the state. Turner Enterprises will be allowed to keep 75 percent of the offspring in exchange for caring for the animals. Montana would get an estimated 150 bison back in 2015. Once the agreement was reached, FWP wanted to move the animals quickly because many of the cows are pregnant and are expected to calve in late May, officials said. The bison were spared several years ago from a periodic slaughter of the bison leaving Yellowstone because of concerns over animal disease, and some have been held since February 2005. The last of the bison were put in one of three facilities that total about 170 acres in March 2008, Clarke said. The bison moved to Turner's ranch have repeatedly tested negative for brucellosis, a disease that can cause cattle to abort. The initial plan was for the brucellosis- free bison to be moved to public or tribal lands, but Montana turned down requests from a Wyoming state park and at least two American Indian reservations that wanted some or all of the bison. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer invited Turner to submit an offer to care for the animals last fall, after an earlier plan to move them onto a Wyoming reservation fell through. Turner, founder of CNN and former owner of the Atlanta Braves, already owns more than 50,000 bison at sites across the country, including 4,500 at the Flying D. The menu at his restaurant chain, Ted's Montana Grill, includes bison burgers, ribs and meatloaf.
First of Yellowstone bison moved to Turner ranch
Published: Thursday, February 18th, 2010
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