Bison transfers planned for US park, Indian reservation


BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Hundreds of wild bison would be transferred from federal lands to a South Dakota American Indian Reservation and a North Dakota national park as a first step in the latest initiative to restore the burly animals to Western U.S. lands that they once roamed by the millions.

Up to 200 American bison, also known as buffalo, could be transferred to South Dakota’s Rosebud Sioux Reservation this fall, according to tribal officials and Susan McCarthy with the World Wildlife Fund.

An unspecified number of bison would be moved from Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge to Theodore Roosevelt National Park within the next few months. Those animals would be studied to see how much they integrated with an existing herd at the park located in western North Dakota.

The transfers are being coordinated with the U.S. Department of Interior.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Thursday announced a 10-year initiative to advance bison restoration efforts that have been slowed by worries about the animals spreading disease and opposition from some ranchers, who see bison as potential competition for grazing space.

As many as 30 million to 60 million bison once roamed across most of North America, according to federal wildlife officials. Mass slaughters drove them to near extinction by the late 1800s, and today there are roughly 11,000 wild bison on public lands in 12 states.

Details on where the animals to be transferred would come from were still being worked out. The U.S. government manages bison herds in Yellowstone National Park, Wind Cave National Park, the National Bison Range and other locations.

Yellowstone is home to one of the largest remnant populations of the animals and park administrators have been trying for years to expand a program to send portions of those bison herds to tribes.

Hundreds of thousands of bison that have been interbred with cattle are raised on private ranches in the U.S. and Canada for their meat.