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Bison Decision Looming: Wind River Reservation Wants Them

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PHOTO: Bison that need to be transferred. Photo credit: Garrit Voggesser
PHOTO: Bison that need to be transferred. Photo credit: Garrit Voggesser
 By Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Contact
August 13, 2012

BOZEMAN, Mont. - A decision is looming in the matter of 160 bison that have been staying at one of Ted Turner's ranches. The former Yellowstone animals need a new home, and a list of ideal locations is due by the end of this month. Some animals went to Fort Peck earlier this year, and the Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming are interested in taking the rest.

Shoshone tribal member and wildlife scientist Jason Baldes says the reservation welcomes the bison for cultural and spiritual connections, as well for what they represent for better health on the reservation.

"They were our original food source, so our diets were adapted for thousands of years with this animal, and since its decimation, buffalo being removed from the diet has had detrimental effects."

Baldes says there are some regulatory hoops to get through, as well as transportation and herd management details, but he's hopeful the animals could be in place by the end of the year.

Other locations being considered for the animals include state-run wildlife management areas, but area ranchers have raised concerns about possible damage to their lands and risks to their animals' health if exposed to the bison.

Garrit Voggesser, the tribal partnership director for the National Wildlife Federation, says the Reservation looks like the best bet.

"And having looked at all the other places the the agencies have to look at, the only near-term and best solution is Wind River because they have the landscape, and they want the bison."

He adds that the tribes will need education and assistance for infrastructure and for monitoring the herd.

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