BILLINGS, MT - Montana wildlife officials on Monday released a short list of five entities that could receive bison from Yellowstone National Park under an experimental program to establish new herds of the animals.
The roughly 145 bison have been held in recent years on behalf of the state at a Bozeman-area ranch owned by philanthropist Ted Turner. They were captured from the park in 2005 and 2006, put into quarantine and tested repeatedly to make sure they don't have the disease brucellosis, which can lead to miscarriages in livestock if the disease is spread.
Ten entities have expressed interested in receiving the animals. That was narrowed to five proposals based on guidance from a panel of state, federal and tribal officials that met last week, said Ron Aasheim, spokesman for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
No deadline has been set for a final decision. Aasheim said the state has been asked to move the animals off Turner's ranch by November.
Details of the proposals are:
-- The Fort Peck Indian Reservation's Assiniboine and Sioux tribes: After receiving several dozen bison from the quarantine program in 2012, the tribes are seeking more animals to augment an existing herd on their northeast Montana reservation. They would be used for cultural and conservation purposes.
-- Utah Division of Wildlife Resources: The agency has requested 30 bison to increase genetic diversity and augment two existing herds of the animals that are managed by the state in the Henry Mountains and Book Cliffs.
-- Wildlife Conservation Society: The New York-based conservation group requested 30 bison for zoos in the Bronx, Queens and Ohio. The animals would be used to establish nucleus herds to promote future conservation.
-- Cherokee Nation: The American Indian tribe requested 35 bison to establish a herd on tribal lands in northeast Oklahoma. Its proposal said the animals would be used for education, economic development and to preserve the animal's genetics.
-- American Prairie Reserve: The private group is seeking an undetermined number of bison to integrate with its existing herd of about 450 bison on land in north-central Montana. The animals would be classified as livestock and grazed on private, state and federal land.