HELENA, Mont. - The hunting of bison that wander from Yellowstone National Park in search of winter forage will resume next month, more than a decade after the practice was canceled amid a barrage of protests from around the country.
The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission approved a limited hunting season for the animals Thursday. The 4-1 vote authorized 10 bison hunting licenses to be issued for hunting between Jan. 15 and Feb. 15 in an area north of the park where migration is most likely as snow deepens in the park.
Critics told commissioners it is the wrong time to resume hunting of bison and suggested more study. Stephany Seay, a member of the Buffalo Field Campaign, a group that opposes the hunt, said Yellowstone bison are so acclimated to tourists that they do not offer a ''fair-chase hunt'' and likened the hunt to shooting a car.
Josh Osher, another member of the bison-protection group, said society is not ready to support resumption of a hunt outside Yellowstone. He urged delaying action until Gov.-elect Brian Schweitzer takes office next month and appoints three new members of the five-member commission.
But advocates of a hunt said allowing 10 bison to be shot, from a population of more than 4,200, will not affect survival of the herd or ignite the protests that greeted the previous hunt. Commission members, noting the 2003 Legislature authorized the hunt, said it is a necessary first step toward eventually managing bison as a game animal.
''It's a piece of the puzzle,'' said Chairman Dan Walker of Billings. ''It's important that we go about our work and establish this hunting opportunity.''
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