BILLINGS (AP) — Montana livestock officials have finished hazing several hundred bison back into Yellowstone National Park to keep the wild animals from transmitting disease to cattle.
Many of the park’s bison carry brucellosis, which can cause pregnant livestock to miscarry.
The drive took several weeks. Christian Mackay with the Department of Livestock says the effort was slowed by a federal court order banning the use of a helicopter to haze the animals.
Environmentalists said the helicopter had been scaring federally protected grizzly bears, and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies successfully sued to stop the practice.
As a result, workers on the ground could not drive the bison as far as the helicopter in any given day, Mackay said. That allowed some animals to repeatedly return to Montana.
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Wildlife advocates say hazing would not be needed if the bison could linger longer in Montana. The animals exit the park annually in search of winter range at lower elevations in Montana.
A temporary restraining order prohibiting the use of the helicopter expired in late May before the hazing was completed.
But Mackay said officials decided not to resume using it in part because the lawsuit from the Alliance for the Wild Rockies is still pending before U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell in Helena.
Overall, state livestock workers spent a combined 1,146 hours working bison on the west side of Yellowstone this season, compared with 942 hours during the 2011 bison drive.