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Trailers hauling wild bison out of Yellowstone National Park were delayed a few hours Thursday morning when a protester chained himself to a 50-gallon drum in the road leading to the bison capture facility.

Comfrey Jacobs, 20, ignored a sign saying “Authorized Personnel Only” and sat down in the middle of the dirt road leading to the Stephens Creek bison trap in Yellowstone National Park near Gardiner.

Park managers have closed the road to public access for several weeks while the bison capture is underway.

Comfrey had already wired the barrel to the park's road barricade and positioned banners nearby saying “Hunters for Bison Habitat” and “Road Closed.”

After donning ski goggles, he slipped his left arm through a PVC pipe and locked it inside a barrel filled with concrete chunks. Then he waited for park employees or law enforcement to show up.

“I would have preferred to do it on the weekend when the hunters are out because I'm pro-hunter in my messaging. But I've been watching the patterns of the (bison) shipments and midweek has been when they show up,” Jacobs said. “I had no guarantee that they would. But besides trying to prevent transport to slaughter, I was also disrupting business as usual.”

This is the second season that Jacobs, a resident of Grand Junction, Colo., has worked with the Buffalo Field Campaign, a nonprofit group focused on protecting park bison.

He said he has been volunteering in the Gardiner area for several weeks and finally decided to employ civil-disobedience tactics to try to keep bison from being hauled to processing plants.

Jacobs said he didn't tell anyone about his plan until he was in place. Then he notified his fellow volunteers.

“It was a surprise for everyone but me,” Jacobs said.

Yellowstone National Park has operated the Stephens Creek bison trap since the beginning of February. Park spokesman Al Nash said 318 bison have been trapped so far.

The park has renewed the capture and slaughter operation this year to reduce the population of bison that must be confined to the park for much of the year.

The last time the trap was used in 2008, more than 1,300 bison were sent to slaughter.

The Interagency Bison Management Plan cites a target number of 3,000 to 3,500 bison in the park. The population as of the end of the summer was around 4,400.

Interagency Bison Management Plan-affiliated tribal partners, including the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes, the InterTribal Buffalo Council and the Nez Perce tribe have signed agreements with the park to slaughter the bison in their facilities.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is also transporting some bison to research facilities to study birth-control methods.

Meanwhile, members of three regional tribes are still participating in a hunt of bison that stray outside the park. Both tribal and Montana hunters have killed around 263 bison.

Nash said the park planned to eliminate between 600 and 800 bison this winter. With 581 already gone, the park could halt capture operations soon, Nash said.

Jacobs said the National Park Service has neglected its duty as stewards of the Yellowstone ecosystem.

“I have taken these drastic actions because I feel it is my civil duty as an American citizen to protect this national treasure,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs said he's participated in civil-disobedience protests with other organizations, so he's familiar with tactics that make it difficult for law enforcement to remove him easily.

After disconnecting Jacobs from the barricade, officers used a tractor to move him and his barrel to the side of the road. There, he watched three trailers leave the facility carrying 15 to 20 bison each.

It took law enforcement officers until 10 a.m. to free Jacobs using welding and other cutting tools.

Jacobs was arrested and taken to Mammoth, where he was charged with the federal offense of interfering with an agency function, Nash said.

Jacobs said he was also charged with disorderly conduct and breaking the road closure.

Then he was released on bond and must return on March 11 for his hearing.

“I'll take responsibility for my personal actions and hope I can go back to being a volunteer at BFC without it negatively affecting the campaign,” Jacobs said, “and continue to advocate for year-round habitat for bison in the state of Montana.”

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