HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Legislature will consider year-round bison hunting and prohibitions on the animals’ movements amid a slew of bison-related measures to be tackled during the second half of the legislative session.
Senate Bill 143 is one of the most contentious bison bills this session. Besides extending the current three-month bison hunting season year-round, the measure would increase the number of bison that could be killed and prohibit the transfer of wild bison.
Republican state Sen. John Brenden, of Scobey, says the bill is necessary to contain bison herds coming out of Yellowstone National Park. Montana hunting regulations allow some bison that move out of Yellowstone to be killed every winter, but Brenden says that’s not enough.
Hunters, both with licenses from the state and from several Indian tribes with treaty rights, have killed an estimated 172 of the park’s more than 4,000 bison this winter. Wildlife managers say slightly more than twice that number of animals needs to be killed to keep the population in check.
“Hunting has to play a part of it, managing the herd, selling some of the buffalo to folks for food production — it’s got to take a combination of all things to make it work,” Brenden said.
Opponents, including conservationists, however, say the bison population could be devastated by a year-round hunting season, as it has in the past.