Theodore Roosevelt National Park is rounding up its bison this week in the South Unit of the park, to reduce the size of the herd from 500 to 350.
“So we control the population, so we don’t have resource damage or overgrazing. Once you start to have resource damage it is very difficult to fix it,” said Eileen Andes, public information officer for TRNP.
Andes has been part of about four roundups at the park, and said it is a unique experience.
“It is unusual get close to these animals in a safe manner. They are pretty big,” said Andes.
When Theodore Roosevelt National Park wrangles up the bison they don’t use traditional cowboys and horses. They actually use two helicopters to gather the herd together. It is a safer means for the people working with the bison.
“They are unbelievable creatures. They have been in existence quite along time. They are very sensitive to their surroundings, and what is going on. It is a good idea to keep them as calm as possible,” said Jesse Schiferl, who is a Chief Ranger at TRNP.
After the herd is gathered together, they are sorted out into holding pens by weight. From there they are shipped out on trucks and distributed to tribes around the nation by the Intertribal Buffalo Council.
“It is important and significant meat product into the food system on these tribal reservations. It is considered cultural use. We also try to get meat for things such as pow wows . . . to bring back those traditional purposes,” said Patrick Toomey, Technical Services Provider for the Intertribal Buffalo Council.
The roundup will last until Thursday, but it might be awhile before people see another one in the South Unit.
“We did one in the North Unit of the park last year, and we are able to a roundup in the South Unit this year. We will take a year off next year, before doing another one in the North Unit, ” said Andes.
The Intertribal Buffalo Council said about 60 tribes from around the nation can be recipients of the bison surplus, including local North Dakota tribes like Standing Rock.