BILLINGS, MONT. — The number of Yellowstone National Park bison killed through disease management and hunting is on track to hit an all-time high this winter, after 87 more animals were caught Friday.
The planned slaughter of those animals would bring to 1,090 the number of bison killed by government agencies and hunters this winter. The prior high mark was 1,084, in 1997.
Of this year's total, the overwhelming majority were captured to guard against the potential spread of brucellosis by bison leaving the park. The disease is carried by some bison and feared by the cattle industry because it can cause pregnant cows to abort.
The transmission of brucellosis between bison and cattle has not been documented.
The death toll in Yellowstone this winter underscores the difficulty government agencies have had in finding a lasting solution to the disease. A state-federal agreement signed in 2000 was intended to give bison more room to roam outside the park, but that has largely not happened.
Government officials blame funding constraints, difficulties developing a vaccine and opposition from the livestock industry.