Two Oklahoma tribes have offered to take a group of about 135 bison from Yellowstone National Park that went through an experimental program to establish new herds of the animals, Montana state officials said.
Applications came in from Quapaw Tribe and the Cherokee Nation as well as private groups in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska and New York. The animals have been held for the past several years on behalf of the state at a Bozeman-area ranch owned by philanthropist Ted Turner.
They were captured from the park in 2005 and 2006, put into quarantine and tested repeatedly to make sure they don't have the disease brucellosis. Backers hoped they would serve as seed stock for new herds of bison and promote the conservation of the species driven to near-extinction in the late 1800s.
Unlike most of the half-million bison in the U.S. that are in commercial herds, Yellowstone's wild bison are considered genetically pure. Over the next several weeks, a panel of state, tribal and federal officials will review the proposals before recommending one or more applicants for approval.
Spokesman Ron Aasheim said the agency hopes to relocate the bison by the end of November. A public comment period will be scheduled to give interested parties a chance to weigh in before a final decision is made, he said.