HELENA DORE Column Writer
Yellowstone National Park announced on Tuesday that bison trapping has begun near the park’s northern border, meaning efforts to cull the population by dispatch to slaughter are underway.
Trapping in the Stephens Creek administrative area began late last week, according to the park. Bison are taken from corrals near Gardiner as they migrate beyond park boundaries in search of food.
Park officials have not confirmed the number of bison trapped at Stephens Creek so far this year. Once the bison are trapped, animals that are not enrolled in a quarantine program are culled. The meat and skins are distributed to the tribes.
Buffalo Field Campaign, a group that defends wild bison roaming the landscape, wrote last Friday that their patrol witnessed the capture of 23 adult bison at the Stephens Creek facility last Wednesday.
Eleven more adult bison were captured there on Thursday, according to the group.
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At an interagency meeting in Missoula last December, park biologists estimated the Yellowstone bison population to be about 5,400 animals.
Officials who manage Yellowstone bison under the Interagency Bison Management Plan agreed to reduce the population from 600 to 900 animals last year.
Bison are not widely tolerated in Montana due to the risks brucellosis poses to the ranching industry, so the population must be culled annually to keep its numbers stable in the park.
Slaughter is one of three methods used by bison managers to cull the population of Yellowstone. Animals are also removed through tribal and state hunting and the bison conservation transfer program – a brucellosis quarantine program intended to produce unharmed animals that can be released elsewhere.
There was no bison trapping at Stephens Creek last winter because the annual migration of the animals did not occur until calving season. Migrations are influenced by multiple factors, but the cycle between low and high temperatures likely delayed that of last year.