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Yellowstone May Start Bison Feeder Herds

October 22, 2004

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) _ A proposed quarantine facility for Yellowstone National Park bison to eventually provide herd startups for Indian reservations and wildlife refuges is being considered, state officials say.

The center could open by January, with production of brucellosis-free animals beginning within three years.

Officials are considering using a former Corwin Springs elk farm, now leased by the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, to hold up to 200 bison. Possible homes for the animals include central Montana’s C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge and the Canadian plains.

``We have some suitable landscapes in Montana and adjoining states,″ said Keith Aune, chief of research and technical services for the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

About $500,000 for the program’s first year was appropriated by Congress in 1997, Aune said. If the first year is a success, the next two years would cost another $1.7 million.

While there are hundreds of thousands of privately owned bison in the country, only about 8,300 are genetically pure wild animals and Yellowstone has the largest herd of them. However, fears of the livestock disease brucellosis have kept authorities from transplanting the Yellowstone bison. The disease causes domestic cattle to abort.

Marc Bridges, executive officer of the Montana Department of Livestock, said his office supports the quarantine proposal. However, he said the prospect of herds suitable for transplant is a long way off.

The idea got a guarded response from Amy MacNamara of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. She said her group fears it will divert attention from efforts to give bison more breathing room around the park.

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