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Yellowstone bison shipped to Fort Peck Reservation

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Posted at 7:03 PM, Feb 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-16 16:50:10-05

Last week, Yellowstone National Park sent 116 bison to the Fort Peck Reservation in northeast Montana.

In a video released by the park, bison can be heard noisily bolting from the back of trailers at Fort Peck after a long ride from the park.

“You can just imagine these animals that were born in the wildness of Yellowstone, then moved into a corral for the last, in this case, last 300 days. Now they've just been on a truck for 500 miles,” said chief Yellowstone bison biologist, Chris Geremia.

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Though the bison were sent to Fort Peck last week, the park stayed quiet about the transfer until now because of past threats and protests when bison were moved.

Geremia said, “To date, we've brought 414 animals to Fort Peck since 2019. Roughly 300 of those animals have now been moved to 26 other tribes, from as far away as Alaska to Michigan.”

Bison are held in quarantine facilities in Yellowstone for about a year for males and up to three years for females. Geremia added, “Females will need to be in the program for that length of time, but then also breed and calf and raise that calf to six months of age. So it takes a long time to get there.”

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Geremiah estimates the northern bison herd at 4,500 right now and probably 5,500 by next summer. That’s right about at the ten-year average. In the future, the park may be sending a lot more bison to Fort Peck. That’s because last summer Yellowstone greatly expanded its bison quarantine facility.

"There's a really good chance that in two winters from now, we will be moving over 300 animals from here to the Assiniboine and Sioux. These are the last animals that were the members of the last wild herd on this planet. So being able to bring those animals back to tribal areas means a ton to the people who live there,” said Geremia.

He noted that since the transfer program began in 2019, the Fort Peck Tribe has only kept 15 of the bison it has received. The rest have been sent to tribal and public lands across North America. He adds that the tribe already has its own bison herd, thanks to receiving the original 2006-2007 bison quarantine study animals from the park, so it has not needed a lot more animals from Yellowstone.

WATCH: Extended interview with chief Yellowstone bison biologist Chris Geremia

Yellowstone biologist talks about bison transfer to Fort Peck