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Fate Of Yellowstone Bison Being Challenged

February 4, 2011

Conservation groups are appealing to a federal judge to stop the proposed killing of nearly 400 bison that have wandered away from Yellowstone National Park, many of which may need to be slaughtered in order to stop the spread of the disease brucellosis.

Workers captured 47 additional animals at the Montana Border on Thursday, according to Matthew Brown of the Associated Press (AP). Those animals were leaving an area of the park designated for them in search of food, Brown says, but fear of the disease spreading has forced workers to capture them and place them in government-operated corrals.

Testing of the 368 bison captured to date began on Wednesday, the AP reports. Through Thursday, 161 of the creatures had been examined, with 53 testing positive for brucellosis and 108 testing negative.

Bison that test positive for the condition will be slaughtered, livestock officials told Brown, but shipment of them to packing plants has been delayed until Monday because of transportation issues. Furthermore, the corrals have almost reached their full capacity of 400 bison, and more continue to head towards Yosemite’s border, according to park spokesman Al Nash.

“Bison can move a long distance in a short period and we’ve often seen movement in the night hours,” Nash told Brown. “Our plan at the moment is to continue testing and sorting these animals. We’ll see what next week brings.”

In the meantime, activists have gone to court seeking a restraining order against the slaughter of the animals. According to Laura Zuckerman of Reuters, “The legal motion is part of a broader federal lawsuit by sportsmen and environmentalists, who argue government land managers are violating their own regulations and the public trust by chasing, confining and killing Yellowstone’s wild bison.”

“These bison are incredibly important; the idea of just slaughtering some is mind-boggling to me,” Glenn Hockett, head of the Montana-based Gallatin Wildlife Association (GWA), told Zuckerman on Thursday.

Nash told Reuters had attorneys for Yellowstone had yet to respond to the court filing by Hockett and his fellow environmentalists, and would continue to test and sort animals until further notice.

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