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Fort Peck’s Cultural Herd of genetically pure Yellowstone buffalo received over 100 new animals, according to the National Park Service.

In early January, the NPS transferred 112 buffalo from Yellowstone National Park to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, according to a February 9, 2023 press release. The shipment includes seven males, 53 females, and 52 buffalo calves. 

This is the single largest transfer to date under Yellowstone Park’s Bison Conservation Transfer Program and was the result of multiple regional and national partnerships. 

The NPS and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service transferred 294 buffalo from Yellowstone to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation since 2019.

All of the animals in last month’s transfer completed phases one and two of brucellosis quarantine protocol at Yellowstone and APHIS facilities and will finish phase three on the reservation. This is all part of the program’s commitment to maintaining Montana’s brucellosis free status for domestic livestock. 

The APHIS developed quarantine protocols in October 2003 and validated them during 2005-2010. The three phases of quarantine:

Phase one: Managers capture bison in or near the park during the winter. Buffalo considered suitable for the quarantine are taken and tested for brucellosis. If they have tested negative they are put into isolation and tested every 30 to 45 days for the disease. Buffalo that test negative over two testing periods are moved into the next part.

Phase two: Buffalo in these individual test groups undergo brucellosis testing by age and sex requirements. Once they meet high standards and are certified as brucellosis free.

Phase three means managers can transfer buffalo to other fenced pastures. 

In a new location the buffalo are sent, brucellosis tests are done at six and 12 months to reassure the safety. Managers keep these buffalo apart from other animals at least until the six month test is completed. 

Thereafter, managers can release buffalo on public or tribal lands for conservation and cultural purposes.

On Fort Peck, these animals are marked as the “cultural herd.” Another herd of buffalo there years before are marked as the “business herd.” These are not genetically pure and have cattle genes mixed with their DNA. 

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