A controversial plan that would lead to the slaughter of 1,000 bison is being proposed by officials at Yellowstone National Park. Many bison are reportedly straying away from the pack and infecting cattle herds in Montana with dangerous diseases.

The plan would allow for 1,000 bison that wandered into Montana to be rounded up and slaughtered by Native American tribes. The plan would be ongoing, allowing for 1,000 bison to be killed on an annual basis.

The bison at Yellowstone are the last sizeable herd of purebred buffalo in all of the United States. They are a top attraction for many tourists who visit the park, which covers areas of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Slaughtering 1,000 bison would be the single largest reduction since 1,600 bison were removed from the herd during the winter of 2007-08. Last summer, estimates found that the total number of bison was around 4,900. While the population of the animals is nowhere close to historic levels, officials at the park aim at maintaining around 3,000 bison.

Officials from Yellowstone, along with federal and state officials and native tribal leaders, are planning to review the proposal that would allow for the slaughter of 1,000 of these animals. They hope to have a final plan put into place before the upcoming winter.

Yellowstone spokesperson Amy Bartlett said, “No formal decision has been made, but the park proposal is for 1,000 fewer bison.”

The number of bison that migrate outside of Yellowstone and into cattle farms will likely depend on the level of snowfall. If the snowfall is light, fewer bison are expected to migrate.

Montana state veterinarian Marty Zaluski said, “You can’t predict how many bison will go into the trap. Nature has a way of defying your best expectations.”

Last year, more than 700 bison were captured and turned over to native tribes for slaughter. Some bison were also killed by hunting. While some native tribes support the program, others oppose it, saying that it is wrong to continue to slaughter the once thriving species.

Spiritual leader of the Blackfeet Tribe in Montana Jimmy St. Goddard said that killing the bison evokes a painful chapter of American history.

St. Goddard said, “Killing these buffalo is shameful.”

A formal plan should be announced in the coming days.

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