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Conservation Agency Seeks To Send Bison To Utah

Bison once roamed North America in large numbers.

Wildlife officials in Montana are proposing to transfer of nearly 150 bison from Yellowstone National Park to other areas of the United States. The bison are planned to go to native reservations, zoos, and public lands. All of the animals were bred in Yellowstone as part of a program to create new herds of the species.

Thirty of the bison are to be handed over to the Utah Division of Wildlife to be placed on public lands. Conservation efforts have allowed the large, North American mammal to revive after a period of near extinction due to massive hunting. Numbers have increased significantly as those concerned with the survival of the animal have organized, said Jim Matheson, assistant director of the National Bison Association.

“About 120 years ago there were fewer than 1,000 bison left in the world. So, essentially, what happened was a handful of ranchers and conservationists joined forces to save the species,” he said. “That involved a lot of different experiments which did include crossbreeding with cattle. In terms of the comeback, basically, in 120 years we went from less than 1,000 animals to today’s population of about 400,000 bison in North America,” Matheson said.

His organization connects bison ranchers who practice sustainable development of bison products.

“The National Bison Association has about 1,100 members across the continent that are largely raising bison on ranches and farms. So, it’s a very in-demand product, the meat primarily. But we also sell the byproducts as well. So we do try to utilize the whole animal,” he said.

About 3,500 bison live in Yellowstone National Park.

UPDATE: Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks announced Thursday that the 145 bison will no longer be sent out of state and will, instead, be relocated to Fort Peck Indian Reservation in eastern Montana.