The bison herd in Yellowstone National Park is doing quite well, thank you very much. According to the summer count, there are nearly 5,000 bison in the park. Up in Montana, meanwhile, state officials are already planning this winter's bison hunt just north of Yellowstone.
I wonder how many folks will remember the bear hunt in Katmai National Preserve when the bison hunt is rolled out. While the Katmai hunt was akin to shooting bears in a zoo, the bison hunts just outside Yellowstone are like shooting cows in a pasture.
Montana officials just just selected 38 folks to participate in the bison hunts if the woolly animals leave Yellowstone between mid-November and mid-February.
In Yellowstone, officials say the estimated bison population of 4,700 animals is "within the historical rates of the herd’s annual population increase during the summer." That summer tally falls well below the park's peak of 4,900 bison recorded in the summer of 2005.
The summer population estimate is used to inform adaptive management strategies under the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP), say Yellowstone officials. Specific management actions may be modified based on expected late winter population levels as corroborated by the summer population estimate.
The IBMP is a cooperative plan designed to protect Montana’s brucellosis-free status while allowing for the conservation of a viable, wild bison population. Protecting Montana’s brucellosis-free status requires keeping bison from mixing with cattle grazing on land outside the park.
Of course, an interesting point is that, if memory serves me correctly, there never has been a documented instance of bison transmitting brucellosis to livestock.