The herds of some 4,500 bison that roam Yellowstone National Park are the only remaining purebred bison in the country, but they are infected. Local ranchers were hoping to remotely vaccinate the bison, which are carrying a disease that can be transferred to cattle, using biobullets.
On Tuesday, the federal government turned down the ranchers’ nearly $9 million proposal, emphasizing that the project would cost too much and could ultimately affect the wild nature of the bison.
Environmental and wildlife advocacy groups are applauding Yellowstone’s decision in favor of letting the bison remain wild. "It was a mismanagement scheme based on a livestock model. We don't vaccinate skunks against rabies or mosquitoes against West Nile virus," says Stephany Seay of the Buffalo Field Campaign.
On the other side of the argument, ranchers are ultimately concerned that the bison will pass on brucellosis, a disease that can cause miscarriages in cattle and bison, to their livestock.
Neighboring states, such as Montana, have already approved the use of biobullets to protect their herds. Montana was quick to use these small absorbable projectiles to maintain its brucellous-free certification, which in turn protects the market value of cattle.
The use of biobullets and vaccinating the bison could cut the disease rate by 35 percent during the next 30 years.