Yellowstone Park managers release 62 buffalo
SALMON, Idaho |
SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - Yellowstone National Park managers released 62 buffalo from a holding pen on Thursday, putting to rest animal advocates' fears the animals would be slaughtered.
The buffalo, or bison, were among dozens of the animals caught in the pen in Yellowstone in early January.
The government has the option of killing buffalo that cross park boundaries and wander into the lowlands of Montana, where they are not tolerated.
Yellowstone bison have high rates of exposure to brucellosis, a disease that causes cows to abort. Leaders of Montana's cattle industry say buffalo could infect cows.
That would cause the state to lose the brucellosis-free designation that allows it to export cattle without testing and maintain market value.
Wildlife managers seek to balance those concerns about cattle with an experiment to return some of Yellowstone's wild buffalo to historic winter grazing grounds.
Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash said the 62 bison released on Thursday were pushed south into the park in hopes they will stay put.
"Today felt like a good day," he said.
Worried the government would truck the bison to slaughterhouses, the advocacy group Buffalo Field Campaign this week stepped up phone calls and e-mails petitioning the park to set the animals free.
"We're glad they made the right decision. It's a real victory for the bison," said Dan Brister, head of Buffalo Field Campaign.
Last week, 25 brucellosis-free bison were pushed north of the park onto open land in the Gallatin National Forest in Montana.
Officials shot and killed a bison cow Monday after it resisted two days of efforts to push it back onto public lands and after government wranglers said it acted aggressive.
(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Jerry Norton)
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