Yellowstone bison to be vaccinated

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Jan 3, 2005
by WLJ
The state is proposing to vaccinate bison that stray from Yellowstone National Park, a move intended to help prevent the spread of disease to Montana cattle.
But some activists oppose the Livestock Department’s plan, questioning the vaccine’s efficacy.
The debate heats up each winter, when some Yellowstone bison wander off in search of food. Ranchers in Montana worry the animals will transmit brucellosis, a disease that can cause cattle to abort their pregnancies. Activists contend the fear is unjustified.
“Why throw taxpayer money down the drain to keep a handful of ranchers happy?” said Mike Mease of the Buffalo Field Campaign.
Steve Pilcher, executive vice president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, said it is important to take steps to protect the livestock industry. While his group supports the vaccine, it realizes efforts won’t necessarily be 100 percent effective.
“But you don’t use that as a reason not to try,” he said.
An environmental assessment by Montana’s livestock department proposes vaccinating calves and yearlings that leave the park’s western boundary and enter the state. The process would take place “opportunistically,” the document said, as part of bison management activities.
Comments on the plan are being taken through Jan. 5. The department expects to make a decision by Jan. 31. If approved, a program could be in place this winter.
Yellowstone bison have been vaccinated before, but it is the first time the state suggested inoculating those that stray form the park.
A joint state-federal management plan already allows for the hazing and capture of bison that leaver the park, and for brucellosis testing. Those testing positive are sent to slaughter.