Why not manage Yellowstone bison with fertility control darts?

Feb. 13, 2016, Mammoth, Wyo. - Yellowstone starts rounding up bison Monday. Hundreds of the animals will probably be sent to slaughter. While the annual operation draws protests, a Wyoming woman says there is another solution: darted bison birth control.

Every winter, Yellowstone's bison start migrating north out of the Park, in search of food. Area ranchers are concerned brucellosis infected bison will spread the disease to nearby cattle herds. So, in 2000, a court settlement between Montana and Yellowstone requires the Park to eliminate about a thousand animals.

Starting February 15, Park employees will start bringing bison into the Stephens Creek corrals, near Yellowstone's northern border. A Park press release says public and tribal hunts kill about 300 bison. The rest will be sent to tribal groups for what the park calls "processing and distribution of meat."

The practice has generated years of protests.

But, Environmental Historian Dr. Patricia Fazio points to the success of a birth control method, called PZP, which is produced by a non-profit organization in Billings. The founder of the Science and Conservation Center, Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick passed away in December. But in June, he pointed to the success of darting mares with PZP in a wild horse herd near Cody.

"We have wild horse ranges that have reduced or eliminated the need to round up and remove horses from the range," he said.

But, would PZP work on bison? Fazio says it already has on Catalina Island.

"The PZP was so successful, that they're not using it right now," she said.

Fazio said PZP stopped the herd growth, and in a scientific study authored by Kirkpatrick, showed no harm to the cows.

"This is not opinion, or just a casual observation," she said. "It's been published in peer-reviewed journals."

We contacted Yellowstone for comment, but we were told no one was available to talk to us. Instead, we were directed to a 2015 publication edited by Yellowstone wildlife biologists.

The publication said, in part, "No fertility control methods that are affordable, easily delivered, highly effective, and reversible are currently available for delivery to wild bison and elk that are spread across a vast landscape."

But, Fazio believes wild horses are more likely to run when darted than bison. She says to the Park,

"Give it a try."

In an interview last June, Dr. Kirkpatrick expressed frustration over Yellowstone's unwillingness to use PZP. He said the Park was investigating another, less effective birth control.

Originally published Feb. 13, 2016 by KULR TV.

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