from the Field
An uneasy calm has returned to West Yellowstone.
Patrols have stood with about 20 buffalo now grazing
in the Gallatin National Forest outside of Yellowstone
National Park. We had been bracing ourselves for
more hazing, or perhaps worse now that the Horse Butte
Trap appears to be ready. However, no additional
Department of Livestock agents have come to town this
week. Instead, our volunteers face bitter cold
(this morning temperatures dropped to -15 degrees) and
the tranquility of wild buffalo roaming free on our
On the north side of the Park, however, tensions are
rising. Volunteers there report that nearly 50
buffalo were hazed from Gardiner to the Park's northern
entrance on Tuesday. Then over 40 more buffalo
walked out of the Park and joined the group gathered
near the entrance. On Wednesday morning, this
group of about 90 buffalo moved to the Gardiner High
School football field where they grazed under the watchful
eyes of both the Park Service and our volunteers.
Tensions grew as the buffalo began to head off in the
direction of the Stephens Creek Trap. Then two
coyotes appeared in the hills and started howling at
the buffalo. These wild warning calls turned the
buffalo back. The herd returned deeper into the
Park, passing the Roosevelt Arch at the Park entrance.
All these movements of buffalo around Gardiner raise
interesting questions about where buffalo are allowed
to roam near the northern boundary of Yellowstone National
Park. Both the Stephens Creek Trap and the town
of Gardiner are actually inside the Park. Last
March, the Park Service captured 231 wild buffalo at
the Stephens Creek Trap. Only about 34 of those
buffalo had left the park for one night. All 231
bison were captured inside the park and sent to slaughter.
The National Park Service killed nearly 200 wild bison
that had merely approached the northern boundary of
the park. The message is clear-even inside of
Yellowstone National Park, wild buffalo are not allowed
to roam free.
In this update you will find more news about the fate
of the Yellowstone buffalo along with action items to
contact the Park Service and tell them not to vaccinate
wild buffalo. Thank you for your continued support.
Together we will stop the slaughter of the last wild
buffalo in America.
For the buffalo,
* Park Service Plans to Vaccinate Yellowstone
On Tuesday a story about Yellowstone National Park's
plans to vaccinate bison for brucellosis ran in regional
newspapers like the Billings Gazette and the Bozeman
Chronicle, as well as being picked up by some national
newspapers like the LA Times. The story indicated
that the Park Service will capture bison at the Stephens
Creek Trap near Gardiner this season, where they will
test the bison for exposure to brucellosis and ship
the positives to slaughter. Yearlings and calves
that test negative will be vaccinated with RB51, held
until spring, and then released with an ear tag.
You can read the entire story at:
This plan is remarkably similar to the Environmental
Assessment that APHIS is completing for bison that leave
the Park. Some of you might have even commented
on that plan last month during the public comment period.
The Park Service is moving ahead on this ill-conceived
plan without even seeking public comment.
Of course, just because they didn't ask us, doesn't
mean we can't still make our public comments.
Below you will find an opinion piece submitted to regional
newspapers that ran the story. Below that is contact
information for Yellowstone National Park. Please
take a moment to let the Park Service know that you
do not support their plans to vaccinate the last wild
bison in America.
* Vaccinating Yellowstone Bison is Ineffective
and Degrades their Wild Character
A recent story on Yellowstone National Park's plans
to vaccinate bison for brucellosis failed to address
a few critical points. The Yellowstone bison herd is
the only continuously wild herd in the United States.
It is descended from just 23 wild bison that survived
the mass eradication of the 19th century and is the
largest remaining single population of genetically pure
bison. Yellowstone bison are a unique cultural
and biological treasure because they are the last wild
bison in America. Vaccinating them would degrade
that wild character.
Vaccines, like RB51, are designed for livestock, not
wildlife. Rather than focus on Yellowstone's wild
bison, management efforts should be directed at cattle
herds. The Park's plan fails to consider the impacts
of capturing and handling America's only continuously
wild herd of bison. Such handling will negatively
impact the health of bison yearlings and calves.
Tests used to determine which bison go to slaughter
and which get the vaccine detect only brucellosis antibodies,
not actual infection. This means that bison sent
to slaughter could actually be the members of the herd
most resistant to brucellosis. Nature is already
doing what this program will fail to do.
Holding orphaned yearlings and calves in captivity,
cut off from the rest of their herd and denied sufficient
range to roam, further compromises their wild character.
When they are released in spring with an ear tag, the
domestication of the last wild bison in America will
be complete. Maybe we should change the Park's
name to Yellowstone National Ranch, since wildlife there
will no longer be treated as wild.
The vaccine that the Park Service plans to use, RB51,
is unproven. The vaccine has never been used on
wild bison. The Park Service should not proceed
until long-term studies on wild bison are conducted
and the results are determined. Figures cited
in the story were from experiments conducted on domestic
bison. Yellowstone bison have carried brucellosis
for nearly a century, and, as the recent herd size demonstrates,
have shown no noticeable effect in terms of viable birth
rates. On the other hand, cattle that recently
contracted brucellosis from elk in Wyoming had been
vaccinated with RB51. If the vaccine doesn't work
on the cattle for which it was developed, why would
it work on wild bison?
RB51 is not effective in bison. According to a
recent peer-reviewed study (Davis, D.S. and Elzer, P.H.,
2002, Brucella Vaccines in Wildlife, Veterinary Microbiology
(90): 533-544.), "It was determined that RB51 did
not confer significant protection in the vaccinated
animals. In terms of abortions and infections,
the RB51 bison vaccinated with three injections did
not differ significantly from the non-vaccinated bison..."
A month hasn't even passed since APHIS (US Department
of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Service) concluded its comment period for an Environmental
Assessment (EA) on its plans to vaccinate Yellowstone
bison with RB51. The proposed plan calls for vaccination
of yearlings and calves who leave the Park. The
authors of the EA admit that the "efficacy [of
RB51] in bison has not been definitively determined."
The public comments haven't even received an official
response, yet the Park Service is moving ahead on a
pilot program that calls for the exact same vaccination
inside the Park. What does this say about public
process? Is the Park Service, in its rush to vaccinate,
seeking any public input? Have they even considered
the range of public comment recently collected on the
same issue? If an EA is required for bison outside
the Park, a similar process should be undertaken for
bison inside the Park.
Vaccinating Yellowstone bison with an ineffective vaccine
will not eliminate brucellosis from the herd.
Because the disease has little effect on bison and because
wild bison have never transmitted brucellosis to livestock,
management efforts should focus on cattle. There
are very few head of cattle ranging in areas where Yellowstone
bison migrate in winter and spring. The cattle
are routinely rounded up and vaccinated for a number
of diseases. A far more effective, economically
viable alternative would manage cattle for disease while
treating the last wild herd of bison in America as wildlife
Ted Fellman is media coordinator for the Buffalo Field
Campaign, the only group working in the field, everyday,
to stop the slaughter of Yellowstone's wild buffalo.
He can be reached at bfc-media"at"wildrockies.org.
* Tell the Park Service Not to Vaccinate Wild
Please contact Yellowstone National Park Service officials
and tell them not to vaccinate wild bison:
Yellowstone National Park
PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
Acting Public Affairs Officer
Yellowstone National Park
PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
(307) 344 2013
Possible points to make to the NPS:
… Vaccinating Yellowstone bison degrades their
… The test used to determine which bison to ship
to slaughter tests for exposure, not infection.
This means that bison carrying brucellosis antibodies
will be shipped to slaughter even though the disease
does not affect them, and in the case of bull bison
is not even likely to be transmitted.
… RB51 is unproven and ineffective in bison.
… Keeping yearlings and calves in captivity until
spring is cruel and further erodes their wild character.
… The NPS should seek formal public comment before
taking an action that threatens the wild character of
the last wild bison in America.
… The mission of the NPS is to protect wildlife,
not to protect the livestock industry from a perceived
threat. Eradicating brucellosis from the Greater
Yellowstone Ecosystem is unrealistic and will disrupt
all wildlife. Ask the NPS to do its job and protect
* Support the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation
The Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act, H.R. 3446,
calls for a three-year moratorium on the hazing, capturing
and killing of Yellowstone bison.
The bill is currently sitting in the House Resources
Committee waiting for enough co-sponsors to call for
hearings. We currently have over 54 co-sponsors
signed on to the bill. Please check to see if
your representative is a co-sponsor of H.R. 3446 on
our website at: http://www.wildrockies.org/Buffalo/politico/3446.html.
If they have not already joined in defense of the last
wild buffalo, please encourage them to do so by calling
or sending an email. Also, letters to the editor
in your local paper are a good way to encourage support
for the bill and to spread the word.
* Donate Now and Support BFC through a
Thank you for supporting the BFC!
Thanks so much to all of you have been generous over
the past month! Winter expenses, housing, and
feeding up to 40 volunteers and media and legal work
done however frugally add up. We couldn't be doing
it without your support - so thanks to each and every
one of you who have helped out!!!
I want to tell you about another exciting development.
Our good friends at Earth Friends are again supporting
our work with a matching grant. We need to generate
a 3 to 1 match so if you've considered making a donation
- this is a great opportunity to leverage your giving
dollars. Donations are tax deductible and go directly
to front lines work. Just write "match"
in the memo of your check or online donation and I'll
keep you updated on our progress.
Donations are tax deductible and go directly to front
lines work. BFC is the only group in the field
365 days a year with the last, free roaming buffalo.
With humble thanks,
May the wild buffalo roam free,
West Yellowstone, Montana 59758
Thank you for supporting the BFC!
* BFC Wish List
-- Volunteers in the Field to Defend the Buffalo
-- Waterproof Gators
-- Wool Pants (available right now through Cabellas)
-- Warm Waterproof Gloves
-- Polypropylene Long-john Bottoms
-- Ski Boots with Three-Pin Bindings
-- Snow Shoes
-- Warm Winter Boots
-- Cross Country Skis
-- Air compressor
-- 4 portable battery chargers for automobiles
-- 35 mm film
Thank you for your support. If you have any questions
about a gear donation, please contact Amy at (406) 646-0070
Donations may be sent to:
BFC, PO Box 957,
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
* Last Words
"It's obviously not the silver bullet, but it is
one of the tools in the toolbox."
-Tom Linfield, Montana State Veterinarian, describing
plans to vaccinate Yellowstone bison.
Here are a couple of other tools that we'd like to add
to the toolbox:
… Managing cattle.
… Vaccinating cattle.
… Moving cattle.
… Acknowledging a natural time-space separation
between wild bison and cattle in the winter.
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