February 9, 2006

Montana’s avid hunter governor spares 9 lost bison

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - The governor of Montana, an
enthusiastic backer of the state's first bison hunt in 15
years, granted a last-minute reprieve to nine bison set for
slaughter after they escaped Yellowstone National Park, his
office said on Thursday.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer decided the bison should "be turned
loose in the kind of nice, comfortable place bison like to be,"
said Hal Harper, his chief policy adviser.

The bison faced a death sentence after making a break from
Yellowstone and hoofing it down a federal highway in Montana.

The "Yellowstone Nine" avoided the fate faced by 583 other
escapees this winter.

The 583 were hunted down under a state-federal agreement
aimed at preventing the spread of the bacterial disease
brucellosis from bison to cattle that allows officials to
capture and kill any bison that escape the park.

Montana is nearing the close of its first season on bison
hunting since 1991. Thousands applied for the 50 licenses
offered by the state. Schweitzer sought one of the rare
licenses but did not win the right in a lottery selection