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Bison capture facility

Bison are being held in the National Park Service's bison capture facility at Stephens Creek, shown here in 2015, in preparation for shipment to slaughter.

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff

Officials began the controversial Yellowstone National Park winter bison capture operation on Friday, Feb. 16.

There are 96 bison currently corralled at the Stephens Creek facility, just outside of Gardiner and the North Entrance to Yellowstone. Some of the bison will be held for possible quarantine. Some will be transferred to Native American tribes and shipped to slaughter.

The facility is the same place where someone cut a fence to allow 52 bulls to escape in January. No charges have been filed against anyone in that incident. The fence has been repaired.

The capture and shipment to slaughter is part of the Interagency Bison Management Plan agreed to by state and federal officials with a goal to reduce the park's bison population. This winter the partners are aiming to cull 600-900 animals through a combination of shipping and public and tribal hunting. As of Feb. 2, the most recent report, tribal and public hunters had killed 91 park bison.

Yellowstone is home to about 4,800 bison. The state of Montana, where bison migrate in the winter out of the park into areas near Gardiner and West Yellowstone, has limited tolerance for natural bison migrations from the park due to fears about spread of the disease brucellosis. Brucellosis can cause cattle to abort. The same disease is carried by free-roaming elk in the region.

Bison capture and shipping operations may continue through March, depending on the availability of animals.

Information about the number of animals that are captured, processed, shipped and hunted will be provided every other week in the Bison Operations Updates on the IBMP website.

The public can learn about the annual bison migration from senior bison biologist Rick Wallen in a Facebook Live interview.

For more information about bison management, visit