BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP)--A piece of land north of Yellowstone National Park that's meant to serve as a pressure valve for bison leaving the park in the winter went unused during its first season under lease.
Several government agencies and private conservation groups reached a $3.3 million deal with the Church Universal and Triumphant in December to remove all cattle from its Royal Teton Ranch to make room for 25 bison that had tested negative for brucellosis. The disease can cause animals to miscarry.
But wildlife managers say a mild, windy winter and fewer bison in the park's northern region prompted the animals to stay well south of the property. It is unlikely any bison will travel north into the area until next winter.
"I think the population numbers are down and there was a lot of open habitat for them in the park this winter," said Pat Flowers, Region 3 manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. "When they don't need to move to find forage, they often won't move."
FWP paid $300,000 toward the 30-year lease, while the National Park Service contributed $1.5 million and conservation groups gave $1 million. The ranch will receive $76,500 annually for the next 19 years.
"One year doesn't tell the tale for sure," Flowers said. "It's a 30-year agreement and I guarantee you bison will use this property."
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