As per the agreement reached with all signatories in the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP), bison capture operations are scheduled to begin February 15 at Stephens Creek near the north boundary of Yellowstone National Park.
Members of the IBMP agreed to an operating plan that targets the removal of 600 to 900 bison that migrate out of the park’s northern boundary this winter to reduce population growth and the potential for a mass migration of bison into Montana.
Federal, state, and tribal members of the IBMP have agreed to use hunting as the primary method for removing bison from the population and this activity has removed more than 300 animals this winter through treaty and public hunting outside the park. That number will not be enough to manage for a decreasing population, so additional animals will be captured at Stephens Creek and transferred to tribal groups for processing and distribution of meat and other parts to their members for nutrition and cultural practices.
Stephens Creek is a park administrative area (including corral operations, equipment storage, a nursery and a firing range) that is closed to the public year round. During bison operations, an additional area closure goes in effect for safety around the facility. A map of the closure is available for public review during normal business hours at the Superintendent’s Office, the Chief Ranger’s Office, and the Albright Visitor Center in Mammoth Hot Springs. A map is also available on the park’s website atwww.nps.gov//yell/learn/news/upload/TempBisonAreaClosure.pdf
As announced, a tour of the Stephens Creek facility for media and stakeholders was held on January 20, 2016 during which participants were provided the opportunity to understand the operations at the facility and to spend time with subject matter experts for questions and clarification. Two viewing opportunities of operations involving live bison, for those who have signed up, will occur between February 15 and March 15 and will consist of observation from a designated area about 20 yards from the chute where blood samples are drawn, and bison are weighed and tagged. A pool photographer will be allowed on a portion of the catwalk directly above the chute. Shipping operations generally take place the day following processing and observers will be able to watch that phase from the same designated area.
The NPS values bison because they are a native wildlife species. They play an important role in preserving the ecological processes of the greater Yellowstone area. Migration is a key element of bison ecology that shapes how they influence our system. In fact, they now have access to the entire habitat we manage and preserve in Yellowstone National Park.
The NPS continues to look for alternative ways to manage bison. For example, the NPS and the State of Montana are working together on a large planning effort to replace the current bison management plan (IBMP). The NPS also released an environmental assessment for public comment on January 13, 2016 to allow for Yellowstone bison to be quarantined and used to establish or augment populations elsewhere.
In 1995, Montana sued the National Park Service because bison were migrating out of the park onto state lands. A court-mediated settlement was reached in 2000 creating the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP). That court mediated settlement requires Yellowstone National Park to manage for a target population of 3,000 bison. The average population over the last ten years is approximately 4,000 individuals.
The IBMP signatories include the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Montana Department of Livestock, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the InterTribal Buffalo Council, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and the Nez Perce Tribe.