Just two years after the state Game and Fish Commission decided to hold the Jackson Hole bison herd at 50 animals, the commission has agreed to roughly double the herd's size.
Even with about 100 bison, however, some animals must be killed because the herd presently numbers about 120.Game and Fish officials decided in 1986 to hold the herd to 50 animals because of problems created by the bison moving in on elk feed lines on the National Elk Refuge northeast of Jackson.
Those plans, which would have required many of the bison to be killed or relocated, generated debate in Jackson where opponents claimed such a small herd would not be genetically viable.
"The public was quite strong opposing the 50," said Rex Corsi, the state's chief game warden.
Instead, the public wanted a herd ranging in size from 160 animals to 360, he said.
A proposal to relocate some of the animals to reduce the herd's size became a problem because of fears that the bison would transmit brucellosis, a disease that causes females to abort their fetuses, to cattle.
Still, the National Park Service has asked Gov. Mike Sullivan to consider the possibility of transferring some of the bison out of the Jackson Hole area.
Commissioner Norm Pape called the objective of keeping the herd at 50 animals unrealistic and suggested that those animals killed to reduce the herd to 90 to 110 bison be given to the Wind River Indian Reservation tribes for use in their summer Sun Dance festival. The tribes could use up to one dozen bison for the festival, said Pape.