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Bison

Cody – Although the Northern Arapaho tribe’s effort to move Yellowstone bison onto the Wind River Indian Reservation hasn’t moved ahead as quickly as they hoped, Wyoming Assistant State Veterinarian Jim Logan says they are still moving forward with the plan.
    At the April 16 meeting of the Wyoming Brucellosis Coordination Team Logan gave an update on where the situation now sits.
    “The Arapaho tribe and two others had applied with APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) to receive the bison from a brucellosis quarantine facility, and the Arapaho were the only tribe deemed ‘ready’ to take bison,” said Logan. “Legally, the tribe can go anyplace and buy bison free of brucellosis and import them as long as they meet the Wyoming Livestock Board’s (WLSB) import requirements.”
    He said part of the hang-up has been APHIS requirements on bison coming from the quarantine facility, relating to fencing, commingling, testing, etc.
    The tribe intends to pasture the bison on what’s known as Grazing Unit 32, a 32,000-acre fenced pasture near Boysen Peak on the west side of the Wind River Canyon. Currently the pasture does not have adequate fencing for bison.
    “Their contingency plan was to make an arrangement with the Red Canyon Ranch northwest of Thermopolis that’s already set up for bison, and we took a tour of that and it looked good and at that point everything looked like it was a go,” said Logan.
    However, that deal fell trough. In the meantime, the tribe has talked with owners of another ranch near the Red Canyon Ranch. “The latest information I have is they are in the process of fencing on that ranch to make it compatible with the bison requirements,” noted Logan.
    In regard to concern about the 30 percent seroprevalence rate in elk on the reservation, Logan said the elk are quite a bit west of where the bison will be. “Game and Fish personnel say it’s very rare the elk from the Dubois area would ever go near where the bison would be pastured,” he said.
    Before the bison are moved Logan said MOUs (Memorandums of Understanding) must first be signed between the Northern Arapaho and APHIS and the tribe and the WLSB. Currently the MOU between the tribe and the WLSB is in the hands of the tribe’s attorney.
    “The concern of the WLSB, and the majority of producers in the area, isn’t a disease issue,” said Logan. “We’re pretty satisfied they’re clean, but we’re concerned from a management standpoint. We want to make sure the bison are adequately contained and don’t pose a threat, disease or otherwise, to wildlife and livestock interests in the area.”
    In the MOU, Logan said the most pertinent item out of nine management points is that the bison will be considered livestock. “In the MOU they’re required to be maintained on tribal properties, and if they escape they’re subject to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Chapter 41 rules, which gives the WLSB authority to lethally remove them. That would be something we could fall back on.”
    Although the tribe’s original plan was to move the bison to Wyoming in early April, now they’ve begun calving. “At this point the whole thing’s up in the air,” said Logan. “We will probably try to tour the new place to see the progress sometime in the last week of April.”
    “The Livestock Board is not trying to facilitate this thing – we’re an interested party,” said Logan. “We’re trying, if this occurs, through the use of an MOU to have some ability to protect livestock producers in the area.”
    Interested parties will meet to discuss the proposed project at 7 p.m. April 30 in Thermopolis at Big Horn Federal. The Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Hot Springs Conservation District and the Wyoming Livestock Board will sponsor the meeting. David Stoner of the Arapaho Ranch will be present, as will the fencing contractor.
    Producers from the allotment on the south side of the mountain have already met, and he said they’re “very concerned about the proposition.”
    Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Wind River Indian Reservation – In 1990 the InterTribal Bison Cooperative was formed to coordinate and assist tribes with the return of bison to Indian country.
    The Northern Arapaho Tribe of Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation has been a part of that effort and this spring held public meetings and created a plan to bring Yellowstone bison to a part of the reservation from an area in Montana where they’ve been quarantined for several years and tested multiple times for brucellosis.
    The ITBC now has a membership of 57 tribes, with a collective herd of over 15,000 bison.
    In a recent General Council meeting of the Northern Arapaho, however, Ken Trosper, who’s worked closely with the issue, says the tribe ultimately voted against bringing bison onto their Arapaho Ranch land.
    “The tribe wasn’t presented facts regarding brucellosis transmission, and that’s why the effort was voted down,” says Trosper. “They were being told our ranch would have to kill all its cows if we brought bison onto the reservation because of brucellosis, which isn’t true at all.”
    “I don’t know how we’re going to move forward from here, but we’re going to do something,” he explains. “There’s a lot of contention right now among the people because of the way the resolution was presented in the Council. They didn’t understand it.”
    Trosper says the resolution’s wording wasn’t very clear, and many people thought they were voting for the bison when, in fact, they voted against.
    Work had already begun on fencing for a 650-acre pasture within the larger area, which runs along the west side of Wind River Canyon, designated for use by the bison.
    Trosper says the tribe generally holds three General Councils each year, and he says the bison issue is ongoing. He hopes to bring the issue back to one of the two remaining Councils.
    “The resolution that failed only pertained to ranch property, so that doesn’t exclude the rest of the reservation,” he explains.  
    Of maintaining their hold on the Yellowstone bison currently available, he says they can only be held for so long before they’re available to any federal or public agency.
    “What’s sad about it is we went through all the hoops and won the bison, but we lost the chance because some guys that didn’t know the facts about brucellosis were saying things like cattle could pick up the disease from bison manure,” says Trosper, adding that none of those who protested the idea in General Council had been present at any of the planning meetings.
    By not voting to bring bison back to the Northern Arapaho Tribe, Trosper says, “We’re turning our back on thousands of years of culture, and a lifestyle built on bison.”
    Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..