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Half Of Yellowstone's Bison Dead

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You may have heard how disease hit Yellowstone’s buffalo population pretty hard, but it’s worse than you think: Over half of Yellowstone’s bison population is dead. Kaput. Gone. Over 1,600 were hunted or sent to slaughterhouses as part of the park service’s controversial anti-brucellosis program. But another 700 starved or died within the park because of a particularly harsh winter.

All told, the park estimates its bison herd has dropped from 4,700 in November to about 2,300 as of today. As a reaction, the park service is halting its annual slaughter program, which seeks to prevent the spread of the disease to livestock in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Brucellosis can cause miscarriages, infertility and reduced milk production in domestic cattle, but some buffalo advocates say there’s little evidence proving that bison can transmit brucellosis to cows.

Ranchers have little tolerance for bison outside the park, and have aggressively sought to manage the herds to protect the sale of Montana beef.

The park service, meanwhile, is caught in the middle.

Bison have shown resiliency in the past, so there’s hope the Yellowstone population can bounce back. But the standoff between conservationists and ranchers is unlikely to be solved anytime in the near future.

— Ted Alvarez

Where the buffalo roam — and die (CNN)