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Herd Instinct: Lawsuit Over Bison Sent to Ted Turner's Ranch

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 25, 2010 3:30 PM

In Montana, folks take their wildlife very seriously. A coalition of preservation groups has reportedly sued the state of Montana and the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks over bison. The bison in question were moved to media mogul Ted Turner's ranch after being spared from a government ordered slaughter when they were found to be potentially infected with a disease that could harm that state's other passion, steak. Or, more accurately, cows.

According to the Associated Press, Turner agreed to take the homeless animals onto his property and care for them for five years in exchange for 75 percent of their offspring, or an estimated 150 animals. The plaintiffs suing in a Gallatin County court object to the gift of actual animals in exchange for Turner's loving care. "They need to remain in public hands," plaintiff Glenn Hockett with the Gallatin Wildlife Association told the AP. "Paying [Turner] by bartering the public's wildlife is a violation of the public trust." 

The AP reports the plaintiffs are asking the court either to move the herd back onto public land or pay Turner in more a more conventional manner. The state of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim said Tuesday the transfer of the bison was within the agency's authority. After repeatedly testing negative for the disease brucellosis, which can cause cows to lose their calves, the bison were quarantined and for years were unable to find a place to roam on public property. That is when Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer asked Ted Turner to help. This past February, the bison were transferred to Turner's Flying D Ranch outside of Bozeman, MT.

At this time, Turner's rep wouldn't say whether he would intervene in the court action. "We were in this from the beginning to help out," said Russ Miller, general manager of Turner Enterprises Inc. "We'll rely on the agencies we're trying to help out to sort it out."

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