55 Male Bison Transferred from Yellowstone to Fort Peck Tribes; Partners Celebrate Historic Step for Bison Conservation

First Yellowstone bison out of the trailer at Ft. Peck Indian Reservation
NPS/Jacob W. Frank

Published August 25, 2019

MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, Wyo. – On Friday, Yellowstone National Park completed the first transfer of bison to the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Poplar, Montana under the new operational quarantine program. Fifty-five male bison completed Phases I & II of the brucellosis quarantine protocol at Yellowstone and will finish assurance testing (Phase III) at Fort Peck (see information below for details about the protocol).

“The transfer of these bison is the culmination of years of work by the NPS, the Tribes, the State of Montana, and APHIS,” said Superintendent Cam Sholly. “Quarantine is a critical component in bison management and the NPS is committed to expand and sustain this program.”

“Yellowstone buffalo are important to Tribes because they are the genetically-pure descendants of the buffalo our ancestors lived with,” said Tribal Chairman Floyd Azure. “The return of the buffalo is a return of our culture. Fort Peck is committed to expanding quarantine and sharing these animals with other Tribes across the country.”

The purpose of the quarantine program is to augment or establish new conservation and cultural herds of plains bison, enhance cultural and nutritional opportunities for Native Americans, and reduce shipments of Yellowstone bison to slaughter facilities. Since it is against Montana state law to move wild bison exposed to brucellosis anywhere except to meat processing and research facilities within state, the quarantine program is critical to getting brucellosis-free animals out of Yellowstone and onto a larger landscape.

The bison that moved this week were captured at Stephens Creek in the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park in March 2018. There are currently 3 males and 21 females still in the quarantine program at Stephens Creek, which were captured at the same time. Since the testing protocol is longer for females, the earliest that this group will complete Phase II is during 2021. The park intends to capture a new cohort of bison this winter to continue the quarantine program.

While this week’s transfer is an excellent start, substantial work remains to continue building a sustainable quarantine program.

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