An agreement between Montana’s wildlife agency and a northeastern Montana Indian reservation that allowed for the recent translocation and long-term care of more than 60 disease-free bison is now available online.
A total of 63 bison arrived earlier this week from a quarantine facility near Gardiner, north of Yellowstone National Park. The bison are part of a study that began in 2004 aimed at creating a group of bison free of the bacteria that causes brucellosis, a disease that results in miscarriages in some pregnant animals, including domestic cattle, and bison and elk.
The Memorandum of Understanding between Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation, which was signed March 16, includes commitments to: (1) properly contain bison, (2) immediately respond to any escapes of bison, (3) keep liability insurance to cover any damage claims, (4) provide Montana with disease-free bison for potential future conservation efforts, and (5) continue disease testing for five years. There are no infrastructure costs for FWP to pay.
The 63 bison originally came from—or are the progeny of—Yellowstone National Park’s bison herd. The burly animals were repeatedly tested for brucellosis during three different phases of the 8-year-long study. The bison are now known to be brucellosis-free but follow-up testing will continue for an additional five years on the Fort Peck Reservation.
The reservation was evaluated as a potential bison translocation site last year in an environmental assessment that considered moving disease-free bison from the quarantine facility. The study bison are being placed in a separated 4,800-acre pasture, and one that isn’t being grazed by cattle or the tribes’ existing bison herd.
Wild bison exist in Alaska, Arizona, Utah, Canada and other places. Today in Montana wild bison that migrate north from Yellowstone National Park are found in winter near West Yellowstone and Gardiner. In years past, Yellowstone animals were used to help restore elk, antelope and other wildlife herds in Montana and the West.