BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Wildlife advocates have filed a formal petition seeking federal protections for Yellowstone National Park's wild bison herds.
Western Watersheds Project and the Buffalo Field Campaign said in Thursday's petition that the park's roughly 4,900 bison, or buffalo, are unique from other bison that have been bred with cattle.
They say the Yellowstone animals face numerous threats. That includes a capture and slaughter program that has killed more than 3,600 bison since 2000 to prevent the spread of a disease carried by many bison.
The groups requested an initial ruling within 90 days from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Fish and Wildlife Service rejected previous petitions to protect bison as a threatened or endangered species in 2007 and 2011.
There are about 500,000 bison in North America today, but most are part of commercial herds and only about 20,000 are considered wild. Tens of millions once roamed most of the continent before overhunting drove them nearly extinct by the end of the 19th century.
The filing of the petition comes a day after a group of about 100 wild bison relocated from Yellowstone were brought to northeastern Montana's Fort Peck Indian Reservation.
Fort Peck's Assiniboine and Sioux tribes plan to use the bison for food, in cultural ceremonies and as seed stock to help create new herds elsewhere.
Yellowstone National Park includes portions of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.