File photo of a bison in Yellowstone National Park (PHOTO: Yellowstone National Park)
Sometime between 9 p.m. on Wednesday and 6 a.m. on Thursday, someone intentionally compromised the fences at Stephens Creek, releasing approximately 73 of the 96 bison that were inside the pen.
A press release from Yellowstone National Park says that most, if not all, of the bison remained in the immediate area. Most returned to the pen via the same illegal fence openings over the course of the morning.
Park staff repaired the fence to re-secure the facility by mid-day.
The 96 bison captured this week had not yet been processed or tested for brucellosis. Some would have been held for possible quarantine, while others would have been transferred to Native American tribes and shipped to slaughter.
The National Park Service has initiated a new criminal investigation for this incident.
The park is reviewing security measures at the facility and says it will make improvements immediately.
Yellowstone National Park superintendent Dan Wenk said in the press release, "This act of sabotage, along with the incident that occurred on January 16, is a setback for bison conservation. Creating a successful quarantine program will allow the transfer of live animals to tribes to develop conservation herds on tribal lands. The saboteurs are only ensuring more bison will be shipped to slaughter."
The press release also provided the following information:
Operations at the Stephens Creek facility are taken in support of the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) goal to reduce the population this winter. Partners are aiming to cull 600-900 animals through a combination of shipping and the public and tribal hunt.
On January 4, 2018, the IBMPpartners agreed to a 2018 winter operations plan that calls for a reduction of Yellowstone’s current population of 4,800 bison because the state of Montana has limited tolerance for natural bison migrations from the park onto state lands.
Bison capture and shipping operations may continue through March.