YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — The National Park Service says it found some of the 52 bison that escaped from holding pens in Yellowstone National Park after someone cut the fence.
The bison were found in the Mammoth Hot Springs area on the northern end of the park. However, the Park Service says no effort will be made to recapture the bison unless they return to the holding facility.
Park staff discovered Tuesday that 52 bison had escaped the Stephens Creek facility near Gardiner, Montana, when someone cut the fence.
The bison were being isolated to assure they were free of brucellosis, a disease that can cause livestock to miscarry. Bison confirmed to be free of the disease were eventually to be set free on tribal land.
The Park Service has opened a criminal investigation.
The bison were headed to the Fort Peck Tribes in northeastern Montana. Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke said the release could delay the delivery of bison to the reservation for another two years.
The Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service must decide whether the quarantine period will have be restarted, or whether the bison bulls that wandered away can still be considered a minimal risk for brucellosis.
The transfer of the bison to American Indian tribes is part of a 17-year plan to cull the Yellowstone bison population to about 3,000. Hunting is also part of that plan.