Update From the Field--Montana Approves Bison Hunt
For the first time in 15 years, hunters will shoot Yellowstone
bison as they exit the park on their seasonal migration
into Montana. The Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Commission
adopted regulations for the 2005-2006 bison hunt at
its meeting earlier today.
The Commission approved two seasons: one between Nov.
15, 2005 and Jan. 15, 2006 and another from Jan. 16,
2006 to Feb. 15, 2006. The hunts will take place along
the park’s northern boundary near Gardiner, MT
and along its western boundary near West Yellowstone.
A total of 50 permits will be issued, including 10 already
issued for last year’s cancelled hunt.
This latest incarnation of a buffalo hunt in Montana
is nothing more than an affirmation that Montana will
not tolerate wild buffalo in the state. As the policy
is currently laid out, wild buffalo entering Montana
will remain under the authority of the Montana Department
of Livestock (DOL). The DOL’s only “concession”
to the buffalo is to refrain from hazing, capturing
and killing them for the three months that hunters will
shoot any buffalo that wanders out of Yellowstone National
Park. If more than 25 buffalo are out of the Park in
either period or if any buffalo wanders past the allotted
area, the DOL may decide to haze or capture the buffalo
leading to a temporary suspension of the hunt. In either
case, any wild buffalo that enters Montana between November
15 and February 15 will be killed for following their
Beginning February 16 the DOL will implement a massive
capture, test and slaughter program with the goal of
transporting 100 buffalo calves that test negative for
brucellosis antibodies to the quarantine facility near
Gardiner, Montana. The DOL, together with the National
Park Service, will likely capture well over 500 buffalo
throughout the winter and spring to reach their goal
of 100 calves for quarantine. The agencies (including
the same FWP game wardens that will administer the hunt)
will continue to terrorize one of the most sensitive
ecosystems in the United States with daily hazing operations
that include low-flying helicopters, snowmobiles, ATV’s,
trucks and horses. Many buffalo will be needlessly killed
or injured until the landscape is completely empty of
buffalo. Those that do survive the spring will have
next year’s hunt to look forward to before the
hammer of the livestock industry once again falls the
The buffalo hunt is still completely unacceptable for
all of the same reasons it was last year. In fact, this
year’s proposal will lead to more buffalo being
killed in the fall than under current operations. In
essence, the addition of a buffalo hunt will completely
eliminate any and all wild buffalo that enter Montana.
The FWP Commission’s decision is nothing more
than a political whitewash that will not succeed in
hiding the ugliness and blatant injustice of the current
policies. Three significant criteria highlight problems
with the proposed hunt. First, wild buffalo in Montana
should be under the sole management authority of FWP.
The Dept. of Livestock has no rightful business managing
wildlife, particularly the last wild buffalo herd in
the United States. Second, buffalo must be given access
to sufficient habitat in Montana where they can establish
resident herds. In other words, “No Habitat, No
Hunt!” Third, Native American tribes throughout
the region must be included and involved in the decision
making process for the management of wild buffalo that
migrate outside of Yellowstone National Park. A long-term
comprehensive management plan should be developed that
includes all of the interested parties, especially traditional
Native Americans who maintain a relationship with the
buffalo that transcends modern wildlife management theories
Read BFC's Press
Release on today's hunt approval:
* How We Can Stop the Hunt: A Call to Action!
In the early 1990s, the last time Montana authorized
a buffalo hunt, images of the hunt were broadcast from
coast to coast. These images of buffalo being shot repeatedly
and at close range created a public outcry that damaged
Montana's reputation and ultimately led to the cancellation
of the hunt.
While such public opposition stopped last year's hunt
a few days before it was set to begin, Montana seems
intent on going forward with a hunt this year. If they
do, we will be there so everyone in the country can
see what a bison hunt really looks like.
With hunts this year set to take place simultaneously
near West Yellowstone and Gardiner, BFC will need to
be both places at once. We are making preparations to
rent and equip a second field camp, but we can't do
it without your help.
The number of BFC patrols will likely double, meaning
we will need twice as many video cameras, radios, and
volunteers. We will also need more food, equipment,
and supplies to keep those volunteers warm, dry, and
well-fed through high-stress circumstances in one of
the coldest climates in North America.
We are calling on our network of supporters to help
meet the costs of these additional patrols. You make
it possible for us to be with the buffalo and it is
more important than ever that we are here this year.
Please send a contribution or make a secure online donation
from our web site today. Donations are tax-deductible
and go directly to our front-lines work.
If you are interested in joining us in the field as
a volunteer during the 2005-2006 winter/spring season,
* Last Words:
"Gory network television images--wounded buffalo
bleeding onto the snow struggling desperately to get
back on their feet, being shot three and four times
before they died--drummed up an outrage that sent everybody
involved scrambling to explain."
Outside Magazine, May 1991 (on the last Montana buffalo