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Weekly Update from the Field February 12, 2004
* Update from the Field
* Park Service Plans to Vaccinate Yellowstone Bison
* Vaccinating Yellowstone Bison is Ineffective and Degrades their Wild Character
* Tell the Park Service Not to Vaccinate Wild Bison
* Support the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act!
* Donate Now and Support BFC through a Matching Grant
* BFC Wish List
* Last Words

* Update from the Field
Buffalo Supporters,
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 public land.
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,
Ted Fellman
BFC Media
* Park Service Plans to Vaccinate Yellowstone Bison
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 in Yellowstone.
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 Bison
Please contact Yellowstone National Park Service officials and tell them not to vaccinate wild bison:
Suzanne Lewis
Yellowstone National Park
PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
(307) 344-2002
Cheryl Matthews
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 wild character.
… 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 the wildlife!
*  Support the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act!
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 Matching Grant
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,
BFC Programs
POB 957
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 or buffaloatwildrockies.org.
Donations may be sent to:
BFC, PO Box 957,
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
(406) 646-0070
*  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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