One year ago, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks employee Arnold Dood said he was given the task of “evaluating the opportunity to restore a huntable population of wild bison somewhere in Montana.”
Dood, a 35-year-old veteran of the MT-FWP, has been rounding up ideas from people all across the state about potential issues, problems, and benefits an area could have with free ranging bison about.
In the mid-19th century, there were an estimated 60 million North American Bison roaming the continent. By the 1890s, that number dwindled to less than 400 living in the wild. Those few left inhabited north central Montana.
Brucellosis, a disease that causes pregnant cows to abort their fetuses, is a word that’s always mentioned in any discussion of bison. Although it’s never been documented that wild bison have given cows the disease, cattle ranchers are still weary of that possibility. Brucellosis is transmitted through an exchange of body fluids.
Dood cites the Fort Belknap Indian Community in north central Montana as a tribe that has worked in the past with the MT-FWP in potentially obtaining quarantined Yellowstone bison that have tested positive for brucellosis. Right now they have a herd of approximately 400.
The Crow Tribe has a herd of bison that they will often hunt, and the Flathead Reservation has the National Bison Range. All seven Indian reservations in Montana have been eager at the idea of obtaining more bison. The Blackfeet Reservation is adjacent to Glacier National Park, and so bison inhabiting that area is a possibility.
The InterTribal Bison Cooperative was formed in 1990 to assist tribes in returning buffalo to Indian country. Today, the ITBC has a collective herd of more than 15,000 bison divided among 57 tribes.
Unlike cattle, bison will not overgraze an area and will leave the grass at a certain length before moving on. Their pointed hooves and heavy bodies serve to break up and till the soil for better plant growing.