Yellowstone National Park is taking steps toward turning part of its bison trap at the northern edge of the park into a certified brucellosis quarantine facility.
Park officials have been talking since at least April with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state livestock officials about upgrades they could make to the Stephens Creek Facility, as well as testing requirements needed to certify bison as brucellosis-free, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported Sunday.
The move is meant to eventually get the 24 male bison at the trap to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation without first transferring them to quarantine corrals at Corwin Springs.
Male bison must be quarantined for a year before they can be deemed free of the disease, which is feared by the livestock industry because it causes cattle to abort their offspring.
Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk said sending bison to Corwin Springs would cost more than quarantining them at Stephens Creek, even with the facility upgrades it will require.
"I don't think the cost is going to be that high," he said. "We feel like we're in a better place in terms of doing the research we want to do on these animals."
Work on the facility has not started because the park is waiting for the Montana Department of Livestock and the federal agriculture department to provide specific requirements. Marty Zaluski, Montana's state veterinarian, said he is working on finalizing the rules.
More than half of Yellowstone bison are believed to have been exposed to the disease. There has been no documented case of bison transmitting the disease to cattle in the wild but that fear has driven efforts to control the Yellowstone population and limit where bison are allowed.
A 17-year-old management plan calls for the population to be culled to about 3,000 bison in the park, and the numbers are managed through hunting and shipping the animals to slaughter.
Quarantining bison is seen as a way to reduce the number slaughtered each year and to establish more bison herds around the U.S.