Bison herd being cut at national park in North Dakota; excess animals will go to Indian tribes

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MEDORA, North Dakota — The National Park Service plans to reduce the bison herd in the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park by as much as two-thirds.

The agency has scheduled a five-day roundup next week of the 600 bison in the southwestern North Dakota park. Between 350 and 400 excess animals will go to American Indian tribes, with the Intertribal Buffalo Council determining the distribution.

The Rapid City, South Dakota-based council was formed in 1990 to work toward re-establishing bison herds in Indian Country. It currently has a membership of 56 tribes in 19 states, and a collective herd of more than 15,000 bison.

The roundup will begin Sunday, with a helicopter herding the bison into a handling facility near Fryburg. It's scheduled to wrap up Thursday.

All bison will be checked by a veterinarian and tested for brucellosis, an infectious disease that has never been found in park bison, The Bismarck Tribune reported. Animals kept in the park will be marked with a microchip and a metal ear tag for identification.

Park wildlife biologist Blake McCann told the Tribune that he has conducted air and ground surveys of the bison and they appear to be healthy, sustained by plentiful forage in a year of good moisture.

"They're a pretty incredible animal, with a lot of power and speed," he said.

The park regularly culls its herds of bison, wild horse and elk to keep healthy, manageable populations. Roundups are not open to the public.

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