Yellowstone Takes Additional Steps to Mitigate Brucellosis Transmission Risk & Conserve Bison Population
Contact: Al Nash, 307-344-2015
National Park Service
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone Takes Additional Steps To Mitigate Brucellosis Transmission Risk And Conserve Bison Population
Yellowstone National Park is shifting the focus of operations at the Stephens Creek bison capture facility in response to the onset of spring calving, and the impacts of ongoing brucellosis risk management actions.
Under the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP), the park works with other agencies to conserve a viable, wild bison population while cooperating to protect Montana’s brucellosis-free status.
Brucellosis risk management requires keeping bison separated from cattle present on land outside the park. The greatest risk of the transmission of brucellosis comes from the tissue and fluids associated with bison birthing or abortion events. The bison calving season has begun, and will increase over the coming weeks. In addition, continuing brucellosis risk management activity has reduced the Yellowstone bison population below the late winter population estimate of 3,000 bison.
Yellowstone National Park has begun holding all pregnant bison captured at the Stephens Creek facility in order to enhance both brucellosis risk management efforts and the conservation of the herd’s reproductive capability. These bison will be released back into the park once spring plant growth produces enough new forage to attract bison to the park's summer ranges. The park has developed surveillance protocols to minimize disease spread by any brucellosis-caused abortions among bison being held at the Stephens Creek facility.
Five pregnant bison, 143 sero-negative animals, 38 animals with radio transmitters, and one new calf are currently being held in the Stephens Creek corrals for spring release, which is expected to occur in mid to late April.
The Stephens Creek corrals can hold only around 200 bison for a few weeks, and up to 400 bison for a much shorter period before release back into the park. Because of these capacity limits, the decision to hold all pregnant bison cows means some or all non-pregnant bison captured in the coming days may be sent directly to slaughter without testing for exposure to brucellosis.
Since capture operations began in early February, 1,217 bison have been shipped to slaughter from Stephens Creek, with the meat distributed to food assistance programs. The Stephens Creek facility is located northwest of Gardiner, Montana, and inside the northern boundary of Yellowstone National Park. For safety reasons, the area around the facility is closed to the public when capturing, holding, and releasing bison. A map and information on the closure is available for public review during normal business hours at the Chief Ranger’s Office and the Albright Visitor Center in Mammoth Hot Springs.
This is the eighth winter the IBMP has been used to guide brucellosis risk management actions. The five cooperating agencies operating under the IBMP are the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Montana Department of Livestock and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.