BILLINGS, Mont. -

A Montana judge says bison from Yellowstone National Park still count as wild animals even after they were relocated and placed into fenced pastures.

The ruling shoots down a claim from some eastern Montana officials and property rights advocates who argued that relocated bison fall under authority of the Department of Livestock.

District Judge John McKeon wrote in Monday's order that state law allows the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to capture, confine or relocate bison. He says such activities do not change the animal's wild status.

The plaintiffs sued in 2012 hoping to stop the relocation of 68 bison to central Montana's Fort Belknap and Fort Peck Indian reservations.

State wildlife officials last week announced plans to relocate a group of roughly 135 Yellowstone bison before next winter.