For Immediate Release:
February 16, 2006
Dan Brister, 406-646-0070
Gardiner & West Yellowstone, Montana - Montana's first bison hunt in 15 years is officially over today. Forty buffalo were killed, all but one of which were bulls. Thirty-two were killed near Gardiner within a four-mile radius adjacent to Yellowstone's boundary. Eight buffalo were killed in West Yellowstone; two of these were shot at the site of the Duck Creek bison capture facility located on private land along Yellowstone's western boundary.
"With all the hazing, capture, and slaughter taking place during this so-called hunting season, it's obvious that Montana's new hunt is just another means for Montana to kill wild buffalo," said Dan Brister, Project Director of the Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC). "It was premature to open a hunt on bison before opening year-round habitat for them."
Yellowstone National Park sent another 65 buffalo to slaughter this morning, bringing their slaughter total to 819 since early January. Twenty-six buffalo currently being held in the Stephens Creek capture facility will be sent to slaughter later this week.
Bison are native to Montana, yet the state has refused to respect them as a valued, native wildlife species. Bison are denied access to year-round habitat in Montana, and are still managed by the state's Department of Livestock (DOL) rather than trained wildlife professionals. BFC maintains that bison, like deer and elk, should be given year-round access to public lands in Montana before they are hunted.
"Hunters need to stand up for wild buffalo in Montana like they have done for elk," said subsistence hunter and BFC co-founder Mike Mease. "While documenting the hunt, we were fortunate to establish good relationships with some hunters and we found that we want many of the same things: wild, free-roaming buffalo respected as wildlife in Montana. But hunters need to speak up and become a voice for the last wild buffalo."
Montana holds a zero-tolerance policy for wild bison, blamed on the fear that bison may transmit brucellosis, a European livestock disease, to cattle. There has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting brucellosis to livestock.
The hunt's authorizing agency, the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL), suspended the hunt numerous times to harass wild buffalo. In West Yellowstone one such operation caused 14 bison to fall through the ice of Hebgen Lake, drowning two. There are no cattle within forty miles of West Yellowstone. The hunt along the northern boundary was also suspended numerous times so agents could harass and kill buffalo.
"You can't have a legitimate hunt while the DOL remains in charge," said Stephany Seay of BFC.
Yellowstone National Park wranglers have been conducting massive capture and slaughter operations since mid-January, just across the Yellowstone River from where hunters were also killing buffalo.
Bison are currently managed under the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP), a joint state-federal agreement that protects a handful of cattle interests while sacrificing the wild, nomadic nature of the country's last wild buffalo. In the past ten years the state of Montana and the federal government have killed 3,328 wild Yellowstone bison. 868 have been killed since September. According to the Park Service, that number will increase this week.
"BFC's position can be summed up in four words: no habitat, no hunt," said Mike Mease. "We're not against hunting; we're against this hunt. Once buffalo have established a viable population within Montana, once they are recovered and valued as a wildlife species, and once tribal consultation is sought and treaty rights upheld, then we can talk about a hunt."
Montana issued two permits each to eight Indian tribes, yet half the tribes refused to participate in the Montana-sanctioned hunt. Outside of Montana's hunt, the Nez Perce exercised their treaty rights and killed five buffalo in the Gardiner area, traditional hunting grounds for the Nez Perce, protected under their 1855 treaty rights.
"The Nez Perce didn't come just because it's free meat," said Lakota elder and BFC co-founder Rosalie Little Thunder. "They are coming to remind themselves that we have to go back to another way of thinking and another way of living. We have a relationship with the buffalo. It sustains us. We owe not only the Buffalo, but the Earth, quite a bit."
Buffalo Field Campaign is the only group working in the field, everyday, to stop the slaughter of the wild Yellowstone buffalo. Volunteers defend the buffalo on their native habitat and advocate for their protection.