BILLINGS, Montana (AP) — Officials have transported 50 Yellowstone National Park bison to the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes in Montana.
The animals transferred Friday were under quarantine by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service located north of the park in the Gardiner Basin, the Billings Gazette reported.
The move was the fifth transfer since April 2019, with a total of 154 bison moved from the park to the reservation.
The relocations are meant to divert disease-free Yellowstone bison to restoration programs led by tribal groups.
“As a keystone species, bison are critical to the health of the ecosystem as well as to other species that inhabit grasslands,” said Chamois Andersen, senior Rockies and Plains representative for Defenders of Wildlife.
“Thanks to these efforts, more than 16 tribes have started cultural herds with animals from Yellowstone, descendants of the wild bison that once roamed the prairie in the millions,” Andersen said.
There are 64 female and 25 male bison still under quarantine in Yellowstone facilities. Later this month, corrals are scheduled to gather bison for slaughter, with the meat distributed to participating tribes.
The quarantine and slaughter programs, along with hunting outside the park, are used to reduce bison populations.