Nat Geo photo of bison cull causes controversy

National Geographic has published a photo on their Instagram account that may have a national impact on local practices. This image: and the accompanying caption has been liked 114 thousand times. The comments and caption are fomenting controversy over the practice of culling the migrating bison herds. The bison herd in Yellowstone is the largest un-fenced herd in existence. The animals annually migrate into Montana during the winter. The practice for decades has been to harvest a number of the animals to manage the population and prevent the spread of disease to livestock. Officials have decided to continue bison management practices in 2016. In an effort to reduce the current population of 4,900 bison in the Greater Yellowstone area by 600 to 900 animals. Because the Yellowstone bison population has high reproductive and survival rates, officials state that it will be necessary to cull 600-900 animals to offset the population increase expected this year. This is done by two methods: Public and tribal hunting outside the park, Capturing bison near the park boundary and then transferring them to Native American tribes for processing and distribution of meat and hides to their members. “Many people are uncomfortable with the practice of culling bison, including the National Park Service,” says Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk. “The park would gladly reduce the frequency and magnitude of these operations if migrating bison had access to more habitat outside the park or there was a way to transfer live bison elsewhere.” Federal officials have offered alternatives to the annual cull including relocation programs and quarantine zones in order to avoid the annual cull. Bison are a migratory species and they move across a vast landscape. When they are inside Yellowstone, they have access to all habitat. But in the winter, when some bison migrate to lower elevations outside the park in search of food, the surrounding states and some private landowners don’t offer the same access to habitat. Wild bison are only allowed in limited areas outside of Yellowstone because some are infected with the disease brucellosis that can be transmitted to cattle. Also, there are human safety and property damage concerns in some areas. The size of the population and the level of tolerance outside the park are two issues often debated. #reboot #news