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BISON MANAGEMENT PLAN UNDER WAY

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A long-range bison management plan is being prepared for Yellowstone National Park, including an environmental impact statement to address concerns that the animals can transmit the disease brucellosis to cattle.

The plan is being put together by the National Park Service, the Forest Service, and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and public comments will be accepted until Sept. 10.Six possible alternatives will be considered for the bison, which have caused a controversy because of their ability to transmit brucellosis to cattle, which can abort their calves if they get the disease.

For the past few years, Montana has conducted hunts of those bison that leave Yellowstone's northern boundaries, and the hunts have drawn the wrath of animal rights' groups.

"At this time, the three agencies have not identified a preferred alternative," the Park Service said.

Those alternatives are:

- Bison would be allowed to roam across park boundaries with no restraints and no restrictions or control.

- State personnel and those participating in state-supervised hunts would continue to be allowed to shoot bison that leave Yellowstone.

- Only state personnel would be allowed to shoot bison that leave the park.

- Yellowstone personnel would shoot bison that approached or attempted to cross park boundaries.

- Bison approaching or crossing park boundaries would be trapped; those found to be carrying the brucella organism would be killed, while the rest would be returned to the park.

- Bison populations in the park would be controlled by shooting and trapping in the park, and the herd would be maintained at specific predetermined numbers to try to keep bison from leaving the Yellowstone.