Genetically pure bison are back at the Fort Belknap Reservation after a century’s absence.

Fish and Wildlife released 34 wild bison free of cattle genes to hoots and hollers from about 150 people who gathered Thursday to watch.

“It’s a great day for Indians and Indian Country,” said Mark Azure, who heads the tribe’s bison program, moments after the final two big bulls rumbled out of a trailer and trotted away onto the prairie.

Soon, members of the herd were just brown specks on the horizon.

The bison were transported from the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Last year, state Fish, Wildlife and Parks transplanted 70 bison from Yellowstone National Park to Fort Peck, with the plan being to transport half of those to Fort Belknap. Yellowstone animals are remnants of pure bison that once roamed the entire state.

Legal action by ranching and property rights interests held up the transfer to Fort Belknap, but earlier this summer, the Montana Supreme Court said the transfers were legal setting up Thursday’s bison return.

“It helped us, our ancestors, survive out here on the prairie,” Azure said of the bison. “So to be able to take that next step, and return the favor, so to speak, it feels good.”

Of the 34 that were released in a 1,000-acre pasture with and 8-foot fence, all but two were hauled in a semi-trailer. Two big bulls were separated from the herd and transported separately. One cow was injured and was not released.

Tribal officials see accepting the animals as a way to help manage bison that leave Yellowstone Park each year and are hazed or killed and perpetuate the long-term survival of the species in Montana.

“On the cultural side, they took care of us at one time and now it’s time for us to take care of them,” said Mike Fox, tribal councilman.


Responses to "A woolly homecoming: Crowd cheers as 34 wild bison are released at Fort Belknap (Video)"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wild bison meat is supposed to be healthier than beef. We may one day wish that we kept the bison and did not bring in the cows. Maybe someday bison meat will be more common than beef in our culture. Any way it is great the that bison re becoming more numerous and returning to their old range. I would like to see a wild bison herd roaming the prairie again.

  2. Anonymous says:

    We don't need bison or any other meat to survive. We would all be much healthier as herbivores and certainly the survival of these animals would not be in such peril. In addition, diabetes, heart disease and many other illnesses would be dramatically reduced or eliminated. There would be much less starvation and environmental damage and pollution. Killing animals is never a wise solution to anything.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Congrats,I have had the joy of being near bison twice in my life and it has always been a awe inspiring moment. I am glad that they are back on there Native Lands.

  4. Maryam says:

    A hoooo!! Welcome home!!

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