Are the bison on Montana's Fort Peck Reservation wildlife or livestock? That's the question Montana District Judge John C. McKeon is being asked to decide in a court motion issued by a collection of pro-ranching groups.

Citizen's for Balanced Use executive board member Kerry White explained why the definition is important for ranchers who encounter bison that stray from the reservation.

"The management agency for wildlife is Fish, Wildlife and Parks and so they would be the only ones who would be able to do anything about the bison," White said. "You couldn't call the county sheriff, or the county commissioners. Plus, [the bison] could be diseased and Fish, Wildlife, and Parks doesn't have anyone under the disease section... that all falls under the Department of Livestock."

Some environmental groups are arguing that defining the bison as livestock simply because they were quarantined and shipped would make other animal shipments impossible.

"That's not true at all," White said. "State law relates to bison only. It doesn't have any effect over transplanting or relocating any other type of wildlife. That argument simply doesn't hold water. I think it may be thrown in there simply to confuse the court."

White said that if the bison are defined as livestock it will give ranchers more options when dealing with potential conflicts with Bison such as broken fences, injuries, and the possible spread of brucelosis.

Kerry White: