A federal judge says he will allow the slaughter of hundreds of wild bison that wandered from Yellowstone National Park into Montana.
U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell said in a 72-page ruling Monday that he will deny requests from sportsmen, Indian tribes and environmentalists to stop the mass kill.
Montana ranchers fear the 525 bison, which are currently corralled along the border of the snowed-in national park, will transmit brucellosis to livestock. The disease can cause cows to miscarry their young.
217 of the wild buffalo have tested positive for the illness so far, and those will be slaughtered first.
“Distasteful as the lethal removal may be to some, it is clearly one of the foremost management tools – time honored – necessarily utilized to protect the species, the habitat, and the public,” the judge wrote.
“If slaughtering buffalo is time-honored, it’s high time for a change,” said Dan Brister, head of the Buffalo Field Campaign, according to Reuters.
The environmental advocates, including Buffalo Field Campaign and Western Watersheds Project, alleged that the planned slaughter was a violation of government regulations and the public trust.
An attorney for the plaintiffs said they plan to appeal, The Associated Press reports.
There are currently 3,700 bison in the Yellowstone herd. When numbers dip below 2,100, the government will be prohibited from killing straying buffalo.