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Folks react to judge's ruling to let Yellowstone bison roam

By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, kmozzone@ktvm.com
Published On: Jan 08 2013 06:38:54 PM MST
GARDINER, Mont. -

Hugo Condori and a couple of his friends pulled over on Highway 89 to watch bighorn sheep feed just outside of Gardiner.  

"For me, it's impressive to see in the roads, in less than two hours from Bozeman, such great animals," says Condori.

Condori's in Montana to study and says he was excited for the opportunity to see bison for the first time.

"It's pretty interesting to see such big animals in groups.  It's kind of amazing to see them, how they interact with other people, with the cars, even in the roads," explains Condori.

While visitors like Condori are thrilled to catch a glimpse of Yellowstone's wildlife outside of the park, some of the folks who call Gardiner home don't have the same perspective.

When winter rolls in, so do Yellowstone bison, right into the Gardiner Basin.  In 2011, it led Park County, alongside many property owners and ranchers, to sue in order to keep the animals out.

Montana district court Judge E. Wayne Phillips dismissed a lawsuit challenging the state's decision to allow Yellowstone bison to roam across 70,000 acres outside of the park.  He says struggles with bison are an inevitable consequence of living in Montana with its abundant wildlife.

"I love living here with all of the wild animals and I can't imagine not having them here," says Gardiner business owner Rebecca Kreklau.

Kreklau says she's already seen a number of bison camped out at Gardiner High School.  She says the issue of whether to allow Yellowstone bison to roam outside of the park is a complicated one and says she understands the concerns of many landowners and ranchers.  

Yet, Kreklau says she's happy with the judge's decision.

"The park doesn't really have firm boundaries and so, we need to learn to coexist on the landscape and I hope that this is the first step towards a lot of steps to make it so that landowners, property owners and the visitors can enjoy the Gardiner Basin," says Kreklau.

We've talked to ranchers before who told us bison put their cattle at risk, since they're known to carry the disease brucellosis, and have destroyed their property, costing them hundreds of dollars worth of repairs.

Other landowners say they haven't had any problems in the past several years and are interested to see what happens next.