Wyo. (AP) -- Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal
refused Wednesday to support giving bison from overcrowded
herds at Yellowstone National Park to American Indian
tribes, saying he feared spreading the cattle disease
The Intertribal Bison Cooperative, a nonprofit group
dedicated to returning bison to Indian country, suggested
the idea during a meeting with Freudenthal on management
of Yellowstone's bison.
"If you don't want them, just give them to us,"
said Fred DuBray, the South Dakota-based group's executive
But Freudenthal said that would be too risky to the
nation's cattle industry, which has nearly eradicated
brucellosis from its herds. He told the group to wait
until better testing methods were developed.
Yellowstone's bison are considered the last reservoir
of the disease, which can cause cows to abort their
calves. It also causes undulant fever in humans. The
infection in the herd is the reason Yellowstone bison
have been killed by state and federal authorities when
they leave the park and enter cattle country.
"It's a pretty steep canyon to jump off of without
knowing if you have a parachute," Freudenthal said.
"I don't think as governor of Wyoming I can take
that risk. ... I don't think any states would take that
step to endanger their brucellosis-free status."
Cooperative members proposed building quarantine facilities,
where vaccine and other research could occur, and said
the bison would be tested for brucellosis before being
"We think (brucellosis) has been blown out of proportion,"
said DuBray, who called the slaughter of bison "an
unnecessary and needless approach to the problem."
Currently, livestock officials can kill bison if they
stray into Montana from the park out of brucellosis
concerns. Even so, Yellowstone's herds have grown to
near record levels. The park's bison management plan
calls for a population of 3,000 -- but the herds are
near 4,000 animals.
DuBray argued that the herds, which contain valuable
genetic information, must be protected from other diseases
and said moving some of the animals elsewhere could
prevent its decimation.
"Usually, when you have a small gene pool, you
like to spread it around so it's not wiped out,"
The cooperative also lobbied Freudenthal for a position
on the Greater Yellowstone Interagency Brucellosis Committee,
saying it deserves a spot at the negotiating table.
A memo creating the committee excluded tribal interests
as members, though federal law encourages Indian representation
in such groups.
Freudenthal appeared more open to that proposal, but
said he needed time to think about it.
"I wouldn't link these two issues because you don't
know which one will move on at which pace," he
The cooperative, which represents 51 tribes in 16 states,
also plans to speak with governors in Idaho and Montana
about their proposals.