Yellowstone bison will be studied for federal protection

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The Yellowstone-area bison – an animal not to be laughed at – will now be studied for possible protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Following an initial review that coincided with a risky encounter between an injured bison and an overly curious park visitor, the Fish and Wildlife Service today announced that multiple petitions presented “substantial” information indicating that conservation protections ESA “could be justified”.

“We find that the petitioners present credible and substantial information that range reduction may pose a potential threat to Yellowstone bison,” the agency said. declared.

The FWS added that there is credible information that management actions taken under an inter-agency bison management plan “could reduce the species’ available winter habitat through logging, hunting, hazing and quarantine”.

This so-called 90-day discovery will now lead to a 12-month assessment of whether to list a separate segment of the plains bison population in and around Yellowstone National Park under the ESA.

The upcoming assessment has taken years to prepare, and it begins with a reminder that respect is due to the surprisingly fast animal that can tip the scales at over 2,000 pounds.

On Monday morning, Yellowstone National Park officials reported that a 25-year-old woman from Grove City, Ohio came within 10 feet of a bison near a boardwalk in Black Sand Basin , just north of Old Faithful.

“The woman, on the boardwalk, approached it,” the park said. “As a result, the bison gored the woman and threw her 10 feet into the air.”

The woman suffered a puncture wound and other injuries.

“Bison have injured more people in Yellowstone than any other animal,” the park service noted, adding with alarming accuracy that “they are unpredictable and can run three times faster than humans.”

In 2014, FWS received a petition from the Western Watersheds Project and the Buffalo Field Campaign, requesting that plains bison in and around Yellowstone be listed as threatened or endangered. In 2015, the agency received a related petition from an individual.

Both requests were rejected in 2016.

Conservationists then sued, and in 2018 a federal judge ordered FWS to take another look. In 2019, the agency again rejected the petition. Environmental groups, joined by Friends of Animals, took legal action again and last January a judge again ordered another review (green wireFebruary 1, 2018).

At the time of the original 2014 petition, approximately 4,900 bison occupied a 20,000 square kilometer area around and within Yellowstone National Park.

Bison are currently managed under an Interagency Bison Management Plan for the State of Montana and Yellowstone National Park.

Currently, the park’s bison population is partially managed by tribal hunts and state hunts outside of Yellowstone’s boundaries. Bison are also captured for brucellosis testing before being transferred to Native American tribes for slaughter. Some bison were also transferred to tribes so that they could try to create their own herds.

The plan allows the population to be culled if target levels are exceeded.

In the petition, conservationists argued that hunting, disease and climate change were threatening bison and that target population numbers were too low to ensure genetic diversity in the two herds located in Yellowstone.

The figures for the target population have sometimes given rise to heated debate. Former Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk clashed with former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke over how many bison the park should hold, with Wenk saying 4,200, while Zinke argued 3,000 would be more appropriate.

Current FWS director Martha Williams has previously struggled with bison issues in her past work as director of Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

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