Utah Rancher Gives Bison Warning to Montana


With a series of eight public meetings kicking off tonight (get schedule here) to formally discuss the management of bison in Montana, it brings up a question.  What is it really like to live with a wild bison herd?

According to www.Utah.com, the Henry Mountains in south-central Utah are home to the only free-roaming and huntable herd of bison in the 48 contiguous United States.   The website reports that the herd was established in 1941 with bison from Yellowstone National Park.

Gary Hallows, a rancher in Loa, Utah, has been intricately involved with the Henry Mountain bison both through his ranching operation and his time as President of the Utah Cattlemen’s Association.

Gary gave Northern Ag Network a rundown of the area’s topography and the bison’s history.

The bison’s range, Gary says, encompasses 200 to 300 square miles.  It’s rough country that is surrounded all the way around by grazing allotments. 

He gave us some of his experiences with using the grazing allotments along the bison range.

Adding to those troubles, Gary says that a spooked herd of bison can do some real damage.

He adds that people, whether there to watch the animals or hunt them, can often be the catalyst for their fear.

Working and living alongside the bison has become the norm for people along the range.  When Gary was the Utah Cattlemen’s Association President, the group worked to establish a more strict bison management plan.  Their work on the effort has both cut the number of bison back to better fit the AUMs available on the range and established Utah law stating that it is illegal to transfer cattle AUMs to bison AUMs.  Gary told us that since a management plan was agreed to by all parties, it’s established what is acceptable and not and who will pay for damages.  This, he says, has made the situation is a lot more “livable.”

In the meantime, Gary’s advice to Montana farmers, ranchers, and landowners was to keep involved and get the Department of Livestock involved as well.

Gary told us that they have collared some of the bison in an attempt to keep a better tally on the population.  With great reproduction rates, Gary says this is something that they’ve struggled with keeping track of in the past.

While speculation is evident, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has not officially come out with formal plans for a wild, free-roaming herd.  They have announced that they want to develop a bison management plan in the state.  An environmental impact statement for that plan is currently being assembled and is expected to take at least three years.  Once completed, it will have a number of alternatives that may be considered including no action.  For more details on that EIS, please read “Wild Bison?  Give FWP Your Opinion This week!”

© Northern Ag Network 2012

Haylie Shipp


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