Buffalo rub

A bison rubs against a boulder to scratch an itch in Yellowstone National Park. The blessing singled out bison for protection from hunters and shipment to slaughter as the National Park Service tries to reduce their population in Yellowstone.

BRETT FRENCH, Gazette Staff

PRAY — Bison managers expect between 600 and 900 of the animals at Yellowstone National Park to be culled this winter by hunting or slaughter.

Federal, state and tribal officials met in Montana on Tuesday to work out the details for a winter management plan for the bison herds, agreeing the population should be decreased or stabilized, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.

There are nearly 5,000 bison in the two park herds, park officials estimated. The removal of 600 bison would keep the population relatively stable, according to park biologists.

During summer surveys, park staff counted nearly 4,000 bison in the northern herd, which migrates out of the park near Gardiner, Montana. About 850 bison were counted in the central herd, which exits the park near West Yellowstone, Montana.

A number of bison are culled each year because of an interagency agreement that calls for a population of about 3,000 bison and limits where the animals are allowed to roam in Montana. More than 1,200 bison were removed last winter with most shipped to slaughter.

Native Americans from five tribes and some Montana licensed hunters are allowed to hunt the bison when they leave the park each winter. The park also captures migrating bison for slaughter.

The herds are intermingling with bison in the central herd more likely to migrate to the north of the park, said PJ White, a Yellowstone biologist. The central herd experienced a more than 40 percent decrease this year compared to last. The majority of bison removals occur to the north of the park.

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