Montana seeks public comment on bison quarantine plan

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on a draft environmental assessment proposing the relocation of 145 brucellosis-free bison to create or augment existing wild bison herds.

The wild bison were part of the Bison Quarantine Feasibility Study, a research project that began in 2004 directed by FWP and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The research was conducted at a facility near Corwin Springs north of Yellowstone National Park to determine if quarantine was a feasible method to produce wild bison free of brucellosis, a disease that can cause some pregnant bison, elk and domestic cattle to abort their first calf.

Bison in the program have been repeatedly tested over the course of their quarantine and are brucellosis-free, according to a statement released by the agency. Results of the QFS were published recently in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association.

In March, state wildlife officials requested proposals from agencies or organizations capable of permanently caring for QFS bison for conservation purposes.  The bison have been held at the Green Ranch, west of Bozeman, during their 5-year monitoring period.

A group of state and federal scientists with technical expertise in bison health, genetics and management evaluated 10 proposals and determined five would fit the overarching goal of the bison study to use verified disease-free bison for conservation purposes. After further examination, FWP chose the following four proposals for an environmental assessment.

  • Fort Peck Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes near Fort Peck—request for 130 bison to augment an existing herd.
  • Utah Division of Wildlife Resources—request for 30 bison to augment existing herds at Henry Mountain and Book Cliffs.
  • Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma—request for 35 bison to establish a herd on Tribal lands in northeast Oklahoma.
  • Wildlife Conservation Society Zoo Consortium—request for 30 bison to be shared between the Bronx Zoo and Queens Zoo in New York and the Wilds Conservation Park in Ohio. The animals would be used to further the conservation and genetic diversity of the species.

While the fifth proposal from the American Prairie Reserve demonstrated strong qualifications for managing QFS bison for conservation purposes, officials said the APR request wasn’t included in this EA because a Statewide Bison Conservation Strategy Environmental Impact Statement for bison in Montana hasn’t been completed. APR could, however, be considered for future bison relocations to its private lands south of Malta pending the results of a statewide bison EIS.

For more information, or to comment online, visit FWP’s website at Click on Recent Public Notices. The draft EA will be available for public comment through 5 p.m. on Oct. 30. Comments can be mailed to: Bison QFS EA; Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks; P.O. Box 200701; Helena, MT 59620-0701.

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