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Bison released Thursday near Morton; first wild roamers in county since 1885

Bison released Thursday near Morton; first wild roamers in county since 1885

Nov 2, 2016 - From staff reports

For the first time in 131 years, wild bison are being introduced to the Wind River Indian Reservation.

The event, to be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, at a bison enclosure near Morton, will feature an address from representatives of the National Wildlife Federation, as well as several ceremonial and religious performances by members of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe. Following these proceedings, 10 wild bison from the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa will be released to roam.

The National Wildlife Federation has reintroduced bison to other areas in the past, focusing on tribal lands in Montana and Wyoming.

Typically, the federation has sought to relocate bison populations from public land, such as Yellowstone National Park, to tribal land where they previously lived before mass slaughter during America's westward expansion period all but wiped them out.

Bison are the sole remaining native ungulate species that has yet to be reintroduced to tribal land somewhere in Wyoming. A federation press release describes Thursday's event as the "first step" in a longer-term repopulation effort.

"The return of bison to the Wind River reservation will be the culmination of decades of work to restore the area's wildlife populations and ecosystems," the statement reads. "It's also part of a larger quest to restore bison, once essential to the Plains Indians' existence, across tribal lands."

Among those planning to be in attendance Thursday are federation CEO Collin O'Mara and tribal partnerships director Garrit Voggesser, Wind River Native Advocacy Center executive director Jason Baldes, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service deputy regional director Matt Hogan, and Eastern Shoshone Tribe Council member and state tribal liaison Leslie Shakespeare.

The reintroduced bison will not be Wyoming's only free-roaming bison population; many more bison are to be found in Yellowstone Park and other locations, and still more are kept at farms in various locations around the state. However, bison populations have been absent from the Wind River reservation and its land since 1885, before Wyoming was granted statehood.

Those wishing to attend the ceremony can find it byturning off of Highway 287 toward Ethete on Highway 132, driving past the stop light and continuing for 11 miles, then turning left on US 26 and driving about four miles. The press release states that the bison enclosure is just past Morton, on the left.

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