Bison management group looks at new plan
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MATT GOURAS Associated Press Writer HELENA
A new Yellowstone National Park bison management proposal calls for more aggressive hazing of the animals back into the park and other measures aimed at reducing the number sent to slaughter. State and federal agencies are reviewing the bison management plant, h o p i n g t o bui ld more flexibility into a program that killed a record 1,600 bison in 2008. The effort follows a strong critique last y e a r f r om t h e Go v e r nme n t Accountability Office that said state and federal agencies have done little to stem the slaughter. Ranchers want the animals contained so they don't transmit to domestic herds a disease that bison share with cattle. Advocates want more space and freedom for the animals to roam outside the park. Other proposals being considered include more hunting, the expansion of areas outside the park where bison can roam without being captured, and Development of a vaccine to control the disease brucellosis. The proposals face a vote from a panel that includes representatives from the National Park Service, the Montana Department of Livestock, and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. A vote on the new Interagency Bison Management Plan could come as soon as today. One proposal from the Department of Livestock would cap at 300 the number of animals allowed in one area to the west of the park. The agency worries that having too many animals in the area poses a risk to private property and can make management of the animals difficult. “We need to manage for success,” said Christian Mackay, executive director of the state Department of Livestock. Other suggestions call for strategic placement of fencing to help keep bison away from cattle, and better documentation of efforts to vaccinate cattle in the area against brucellosis, which is at the root of the debate. Outbreaks of the disease in domestic cattle are very expensive to the ranching industry. Although other free-ranging animals like elk can carry the disease, ranchers believe the bison to be a controllable factor in managing brucellosis in the region.