Sometime between 9 p.m. February 21 and 6 a.m. February 22, unknown individuals intentionally compromised the fences at Stephens Creek releasing approximately 73 of the 96 bison that were inside the pen.
Many, if not all, of the bison, remained in the immediate area. Most returned to the pen via the same illegal fence openings over the course of the morning.
Park staff repaired the fence to re-secure the facility by mid-day.
The 96 bison captured this past week had not yet been processed or tested for brucellosis. Some would have been held for possible quarantine, while others would have been transferred to Native American tribes and shipped to slaughter.
The National Park Service has initiated a new criminal investigation into this incident.
The park is reviewing security measures at the facility and will make improvements immediately.
“This act of sabotage, along with the incident that occurred on January 16, is a setback for bison conservation,” said Superintendent Dan Wenk. “Creating a successful quarantine program will allow the transfer of live animals to tribes to develop conservation herds on tribal lands. The saboteurs are only ensuring more bison will be shipped to slaughter.”
Operations at the Stephens Creek facility are taken in support of the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) goal to reduce the population this winter. Partners are aiming to cull 600-900 animals through a combination of shipping and the public and tribal hunt.
On January 4, 2018, the IBMP partners agreed to a 2018 winter operations plan that calls for a reduction of Yellowstone’s current population of 4,800 bison because the state of Montana has limited tolerance for natural bison migrations from the park onto state lands.
Bison capture and shipping operations may continue through March.
Information about the number of animals that are captured, processed, shipped, and hunted will be provided every other week in the Bison Operations Updates of the IBMP website.
Learn about the annual bison migration from senior bison biologist Rick Wallen in a Facebook Live interview.
For more information about bison management, click here.