Yellowstone Bison Moved To Fort Belknap Indian Reservation
August 24, 2013

Over 30 Bison Relocated To Great Plains From Yellowstone

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A second herd of genetically pure, disease-free Yellowstone bison have been restored to the Great Plains, where millions of the creatures roamed until the early 19th century, various media outlets have reported.

According to Tamarra Kemsley of Nature World News, more than 30 bison were transported to the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation on Thursday.

The animals, which were originally from Yellowstone National Park, were transported (along with about 30 others) to Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana last year as part of plans to relocate them to the Great Plains.

Those plans had to be put on hold, however, after a lawsuit was filed in an attempt to block any further relocation of the creatures within the state of Montana, Kemsley added. An injunction prohibiting their transportation was lifted in June, however, allowing efforts to relocate the bison to Fort Peck to resume.

Approximately 150 people gathered on Thursday to watch as the bison were released on the reservation, which is located nearly 16 miles sound of Fort Belknap, according to the Associated Press (AP).

“The bison released Thursday tested negative for brucellosis and were released in a 1,000-acre pasture with an 8-foot fence,” the AP said. “One cow was injured and was not released.”

“Tribal councilman Mike Fox said the tribe will manage a herd of about 150 bison and use them as seed stock for other tribes or agencies wanting to reintroduce bison on their land,” the wire service added. “The tribe has a commercial herd of 500 bison that have cattle genes and are kept in a separate pasture.”

Nine-hundred acres of land has been fenced off by Fort Belknap Fish and Wildlife to serve as a temporary “surveillance pasture” for the bison, Maria Decaney of KITI TV in Boise, Idaho reported on Friday.

Eventually, the bison herd will be moved into a 22,000 acre tribal bison range in order to slowly grow the heard for “conservation, subsistence and ceremonial purposes,” Decaney added. Experts hope that as many as 1,000 genetically pure bison could return to the prairies of Montana within the next 10 years.

Bison were plentiful on the Great Plains until the early 1800s, and by grazing and fertilizing the soil of the region, they helped shape the region’s ecology, KITI TV said. However, by the middle part of the century, they were nearly wiped out due to widespread slaughter by white settlers during westward expansion efforts.

“The return of wild bison to Fort Peck and Fort Belknap is a huge success for the tribes and for the future of wild bison,” Jonathan Proctor, the Rockies and Plains Program Director for Washington, DC-based advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife, told Decaney.

“Montana’s tribes are leading the way on bison conservation and providing a new model for restoring wild bison to other parts of the Great Plains,” he added. “It has been an honor to partner with them over the years, and we look forward to seeing these bison herds flourish at Fort Belknap.”