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Yellowstone's wild bison slain in record numbers

| Friday, March 22, 2013, 8:30 p.m.
Bison graze on Feb. 4, 2011, near U.S. Route 89 just outside of Gardiner, Mont.

BILLINGS, Mont. — Hunters killed more wild bison migrating from Yellowstone National Park this season than they have in decades, with the numbers driven by strong participation from American Indians who harvest the animals under long-standing treaty rights.

Roughly 250 bison have been killed since last fall after leaving Yellowstone for low-elevation winter range in Montana.

Combined with a mild winter, that means there's unlikely to be a repeat this year of the colossal slaughters that have killed thousands of bison in the last two decades in the name of disease control.

Fewer bison leave the park when the weather is mild, and wildlife officials said the largest harvest since 1989 is relieving some of the pressures posed by a burgeoning population. The park had more than 4,200 animals at the season's start.

Still, hunting carries its own challenges, beyond criticism from animal rights advocates.

After scores of gut piles from harvested bison recently were found outside the park's northern boundary near the town of Gardiner, wildlife officials said they removed 8,000 pounds of bison waste and one carcass. That was done out of worry the remains could attract hungry grizzly bears now emerging from their winter dens, posing a safety risk to nearby residents.

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