Nez Perce bison hunt brought to an end

By Matthew Brown
, Montana (AP) 3-08

The Nez Perce Tribe and Montana wildlife officials said they’ve committed to solving a dispute over bison hunting that arose after the tribe killed more of the animals than the state wanted.

The Lapwai, Idaho tribe agreed to end its bison hunt March 2 – about two weeks earlier than planned. That came after the state had threatened possible legal action “for over-harvest of bison.”

The tribe insists it is within its rights under an 1855 treaty to take more bison than the state says it should.

Both parties said they would hash out just what those rights allow prior to next year’s hunting season.

Nez Perce staff attorney Darren Williams said the parties would come up with a document that would be a “framework” for how many bison can be harvested.

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks regional supervisor Pat Flowers said he thought the two sides could work through their differences.

Fifty-four bison near Yellowstone National Park were killed by the tribe through Friday, according to the state. Sixty-three were killed by state-licensed hunters and members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes took 39 through hunts that are already over.

State officials had said they expected the tribes to take a combined half of all bison harvested, with the remaining half going to state hunters. Tthe Nez Perce had taken more than a third of this year’s hunted bison.

But Nez Perce tribal officials disagree with how the state measures the total bison harvest.

In a letter to Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, tribal chairman Samuel Penney pointed out that the state participates in a separate winter slaughter of bison that so far this season has claimed more than 600 animals.

Those animals are killed under a federal-state agreement meant to prevent bison from transmitting a disease to livestock. Penney said excluding those animals from the harvest count “cannot be squared” with the tribe’s rights.