From: Becky Bohrer, Associated Press
Published February 13, 2006 12:00 AM

Yellowstone Reopens Facility for Bison

BILLINGS, Mont. — Authorities at Yellowstone National Park reopened a capture facility near the park's northern border Friday, two weeks after shutting it down, to hold more bison that had ventured too far into Montana, a park spokesman said.

Al Nash said authorities herded 193 bison back to the corral-like Stephen's Creek capture facility, which is just inside Yellowstone. The animals were expected to be sent to slaughter if arrangements for their transport were made, he said.

Meanwhile, state wildlife officials suspended bison hunting north of Yellowstone. Hunting was halted earlier in the week near the park's western boundary. Pat Flowers, a regional supervisor with the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said it is possible the season may not reopen before its scheduled end date -- Feb. 15.

Flowers said officials were trying to determine whether the hunters holding the licenses set aside for two American Indian tribes still wanted to use them. If so, it was possible that wildlife officials would reopen the area near the park's western border to hunting, pending the need for management activities like hazing, he said.

Wildlife officials twice implemented temporary hunting closures for each of the hunting areas in the past six weeks.

The park closed the Stephen's Creek facility Jan. 27, but reserved the option of reopening it pending the movement of bison and success of hazing efforts. In just over two weeks, 673 bison had been captured near Yellowstone's northern boundary and 583 were sent to slaughter without being tested for brucellosis.

Concerns about the potential spread of the disease brucellosis from migrating bison to cattle in Montana lie at the heart of the state-federal management plan that allows for the hazing and capture of bison that stray. Many of the park's bison have brucellosis, as do some elk in the region. The disease can cause cows to abort.

Nash said officials had been hazing bison daily since closing the capture facility.

Jesse Crocker, of the activist Buffalo Field Campaign, said he worries about the number of bison that could end up dead this year, between natural mortality and management actions.

Source: Associated Press

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