For Immediate Release:
March 22, 2006
Stephany Seay 406-726-5555
West Yellowstone & Gardiner, Montana - Near West Yellowstone the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) captured seven more of America's last wild bison Tuesday afternoon and sent them all to slaughter Wednesday morning. This morning near Gardiner National Park Service wranglers captured 250-300 wild buffalo in the Stephens Creek bison trap, located within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. These actions are based on unfounded fears of wild bison transmitting the livestock disease brucellosis to cattle.
The DOL did not test the bison they captured for exposure to the disease. It is uncertain if the National Park Service intends to test the buffalo they captured for exposure to brucellosis.
There are no cattle within forty miles of West Yellowstone. In Gardiner, approximately 150 cattle graze on private land owned by the Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT), adjacent to Yellowstone's northern boundary, located within North America's largest wildlife migration corridor.
There has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting brucellosis to cattle, even where bison and cattle have co-existed for decades (Grand Teton National Park). Bulls, calves, yearlings and non-pregnant buffalo pose no risk of transmitting brucellosis, while pregnant buffalo pose merely a theoretical risk.
"All you have to do is educate yourself to clearly see that this war against wild buffalo is not about brucellosis, but about the grass and who gets to eat it." Said Stephany Seay, a Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) spokesperson. "The bottom line is that the cattle industry fears wild bison re-inhabiting their native range, much of which is located on America's public lands."
In 1999, U.S. taxpayers spent $13 million for land and conservation easements intended to allow bison to access critical habitat - land owned by CUT - adjacent to Yellowstone's northern boundary. Though CUT received the money, the deal remains unfinished and wild bison continue to die for merely approaching the property.
The DOL, on Tuesday, trapped five buffalo in a pullout along highway 287, blocking traffic to load them onto a livestock trailer. The buffalo were then transported to the state-run, federally funded Duck Creek bison capture facility, located on private land just a mile from the western boundary of Yellowstone National Park. Two bison were hazed off of private land in the Duck Creek area and then trapped. On Tuesday the DOL also hazed a bull bison from highway 287 back into Yellowstone National Park. They shot him with yellow paint balls before pushing him across the boundary.
"The DOL is a rogue agency, capturing and slaughtering buffalo against the wishes of the Governor and the people of Montana," said Seay. "They have no business meddling in wildlife management and should stick to what they know, inspecting livestock."
In recent weeks, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer has been saying that capture and slaughter along the Park's western boundary (where Montana is the lead agency) is "not the direction we want to go." Schweitzer has recently told the media that he would like to remove cattle from the bison's critical winter range by purchasing easements, "We've been hearing all about Governor Schweitzer's supposed increased tolerance for bison," said BFC's Dan Brister. "Either the DOL doesn't care what the Governor thinks or Schweitzer's 'increased tolerance' is mere rhetoric."
Since fall, not including today's actions in Yellowstone, bison management activities have eliminated 1,025 wild bison from America's last wild population. It is yet uncertain by how much Yellowstone's actions will increase that number. Winter has been especially hard on wildlife this year and the winterkill mortality rate is reportedly extremely high. Hazing operations increase winterkill numbers because bison are forced to use up critical energy reserves needed to survive Yellowstone's harsh climate. Bison attempt to access lower-elevation habitat for winter survival and spring calving, yet state and federal agents prevent them from doing so.
The Yellowstone bison herd, America's only continuously wild herd, now numbers fewer than 3,500 animals. Management activities since fall have caused the unnecessary deaths of 938 wild bison, while 87 wild bison calves have been relegated to confinement for an ill-conceived experiment, which will result in at least half being killed. Wild bison are a gregarious, migratory species native to North America and once spanned the continent, numbering an estimated 30 to 50 million.
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.