Early Thursday morning, Yellowstone National Park officials discovered 73 bison had disappeared from their pen.
This is the second time in just over a month that bison were intentionally released from the Stephens Creek Facility. The animals had just been captured and put into the facility earlier in the week as part of the Interagency Bison Management Plan. The plan’s goal is to reduce bison population due to the fear of spreading diseases to other species during the bison's annual migration from the park to Montana
Morgan Warthin, Yellowstone's public affair specialist, said the park's intention was to create a successful quarantine program that allows the transfer of live animals to native tribes, and to develop conservation herds on tribal lands.
“Unfortunately, these incidents are only ensuring the quarantine program will fail, and that ultimately more bison will be shipped to slaughter,” said Warthin. “And that is not what we want.”
The park is looking into security measures at Stephens to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
“Our intention is to make improvements immediately to that security,” said Warthin. “The other thing the park has done is that it has initiated a criminal investigation to this incident, and finally we have law enforcements officers on the scene today.”
Most of the released bison remained in the immediate area, and have since been returned to their pens.