BISON HUNT: The Latest Injustice
In addition to hazing, capturing, testing, slaughtering, quarantining,
and humiliating America's last wild buffalo, this icon of
the American West is now a victim of a "sport hunt"
in Montana. By gunning them down as soon as they enter the
state, Montana is refusing to consider the real possibility
of a future for wild buffalo, a future in which they are not
immediately killed or harassed in the state's gateway communities.The
buffalo hunt was reinstated by Montana in November 2005 and
is a direct result of political pressure from Montana's cattle
industry, and is authorized by the Montana Department of Livestock.
The managing agency, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP),
has issued recommendations to expand the bison hunt for the
'06-'07 season, doubling it from last year's 50 permits to
The FWP Commission met in early August made the unfortunate
decision to increase the number of bison hunt permits to an
astounding 140 (Press
Release- 8/03/06- Bison Hunt Expanded by MT Fish, Wildlife,
and Parks). With Montana's zero-tolerance for
wild bison in the state, they are perpetually harassed, slaughtered
and are ecologically extinct here; how can a hunt even be
considered until wild bison are respected as a valued native
wildlife species and allowed to fully recover their native
Hunt Update 2006-2007:
FWP will issue 140 bison hunt permits for the Gardiner and
West Yellowstone area combined. Ninety-five of these will
be for either sex (bull or cow bison) and 45 will be specifically
for cow or calf bison. The hunt is set to begin November 15,
2006 and last through February 15, 2007. There are no plans
to expand bison habitat. The Department of Livestock (DOL)
maintains authority over the hunt, meaning they can cancel
it anytime to conduct hazing, capture and slaughter operations.
ATTN: HUNTERS! Do not be used as a tool in
the DOL's bison eradication toolbox! Your voice can send a
very powerful message to FWP that a hunt is not acceptable
until wild bison are respected as wildlife and allowed to
fully recover and naturally restore themselves throughout
Montana. Tell FWP you oppose a bison hunt until buffalo are
wild and free in Montana and the DOL is completely stripped
of bison management authority.* All of the "Why BFC Opposses
the Bison Hunt" text can stay the same.
BFC Opposes the Current Bison Hunt
The wild bison of the Greater Yellowstone Area are the last
wild and genetically pure buffalo left in the country. The
Buffalo Field Campaign opposes Montana's bison hunt because
the state holds a zero-tolerance policy for wild bison. Bison
are not considered a wildlife species by the state, are granted
no habitat within Montana's borders, and are managed by the
state's Department of Livestock. The Buffalo Field Campaign
also questions the ethics of the bison hunt because buffalo
do not give "fair chase" like deer or elk. Please
read on for more in-depth information.
1. NO HABITAT, NO HUNT!
Part of the reason for the Buffalo Field Campaign's opposition
to the current hunt is that buffalo aren't afforded any habitat
within Montana's borders, not even on publicly owned lands.
Once they step foot outside the borders of Yellowstone National
Park and into Montana, they are treated like a nuisance animal
and incessantly hazed, captured, and slaughtered.
In April 2000 the Executive Board of The Montana Chapter of
The Wildlife Society passed a resolution stating: "Wild
bison remain ecologically extinct in Montana." Montana
has not allocated any habitat for Yellowstone's wild bison
herd. The only exception being the Eagle Creek Special Management
Area located within the Gallatin National Forest, adjacent
to Yellowstone National Park, and this is precisely one area
where buffalo are being gunned down.
Buffalo do not have access to habitat in the state, and are
not even respected as a native wildlife species in Montana;
they are aggressively “managed” by the MT Department
of Livestock as a “nuisance animal in need of disease
control.” Wild buffalo must be given the respect of
being considered a recovered resident native wildlife species
BFC’s position can be summed up in four words: no habitat,
no hunt. We're not against hunting; we're against this hunt.
Once buffalo have been allowed to establish a viable population
within Montana, and once they are respected and valued as
a wildlife species, then we can consider the possibility of
a hunt. Further, Tribal consultation should be sought and
treaty rights upheld before any hunt is considered.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks claims that hunters will
be doing a service to the local communities by removing "problem"
buffalo that are causing damage to private property and threatening
human safety. Almost no property damage is caused by buffalo
migrating into Montana with the exception of damage caused
when DOL agents haze buffalo through people's fences on private
property. Moreover, where the buffalo enter Montana, they
have friends; the majority of private residents (See
Update from the Field Nov. 25, 2004 Update) that live
where the buffalo roam want them around, and would like the
DOL and other government agents to cease and desist their
bison harassment activities.
2. LIVESTOCK AGENCY ILL-EQUIPPED TO MANAGE WILD BUFFALO
Another serious concern the BFC has regarding this hunt is
that Montana's Department of Livestock (DOL), rather than
Fish, Wildlife and Parks – the state’s wildlife
management agency - is the agency authorizing the hunt. The
goal of the DOL is to protect the livestock industry, and
that comes at a high price: dead wolves, coyotes, buffalo
- the list goes on. The current hunt sets the dangerous precedent
of putting the DOL in charge of wild hunting buffalo. In the
nine years that the DOL has had management authority over
wild buffalo that migrate into Montana from Yellowstone National
Park, nearly 3,000 buffalo have been killed, more than half
the existing herd. Countless others have been hazed and captured
by the DOL with significant consequences to the health of
the herd and those individual buffalo.
The DOL has clearly demonstrated over the past decade that
they are the wrong agency to manage buffalo or any wildlife
species in any capacity. The current hunt sets a dangerous
precedent for buffalo and all wildlife. The DOL should stick
to managing and inspecting livestock, while buffalo management
authority should be returned to Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
3. WILD BISON SHOULD BE RESPECTED AS A VALUED, NATIVE
Wild buffalo are native to Montana, yet they are ecologically
extinct in the state today. Once an estimated 50 million buffalo
roamed the vast landscape of North America, and today, the
only wild and genetically pure population to continuously
occupy its native range is the Yellowstone herd. But, Yellowstone
National Park is too small (bison
population fact sheet) for many wildlife species. Numerous
animals must migrate from the high plateau of Yellowstone
to locate winter and spring forage and calving grounds. Naturally,
the wild buffalo, a migratory species, are no exception.
Buffalo must be considered a wildlife species managed by the
FWP before any buffalo hunt is considered. Currently they
are aggressively “managed” by the MT Department
of Livestock as a “nuisance animal in need of disease
The current hunt does not consider the real possibility of
a future for wild Montana buffalo in which they are not killed
in the gateway communities.
Montana likes to celebrate the image of the wild bison on
our license plates and in gift shops, but where are the real
animals? Vastly absent from their former range, in Montana,
they are only found on ranches, fenced in preserves, quarantine
facilities, slaughterhouses, or else shot in the field, hazed,
captured, or killed after crossing imaginary boundaries. The
Yellowstone herd is the last wild herd left in the country.
Buffalo Field Campaign believes the wild buffalo deserve a
special place in Montana; we would like to see Montana recognize
the wild bison as a native – and valued – wildlife
species once again. Millions of tourists would come from far
and wide, economically benefiting our state just to be in
the presence of wild buffalo. Montana should be proud and
honored to share the land with this symbol of the American
spirit and icon of the West.
4. THE HUNT DOES NOTHING TO STOP THE CURRENT MANAGEMENT
The country’s last wild buffalo will continue to suffer
hazing, capture, test-and-slaughter, and will still be under
the gun whenever they step foot outside Yellowstone National
Park. Cattle have infected our wildlife with brucellosis (brucellosis
fact sheet), and because of this buffalo suffer extremely
harsh management tactics. Montana's beef/cattle industry (boycott
the beef/cattle industry) has been holding wild buffalo
prisoner for far too long, and we are determined to change
the status quo. You can help.
This hunt in no way impacts the supposed threat of brucellosis
transmission, the issue that drives the Interagency Bison
Management Plan (IBMP fact
sheet). There has never even been a documented case of
brucellosis transmission from wild buffalo to livestock. Ever.
“This canned hunt is just one more tool in the DOL’s
buffalo eradication toolbox,” said BFC co-founder and
subsistence hunter Mike Mease. “The livestock industry
is using hunters to do its dirty work, and is once again ignoring
the voice of the Indian people, hunters and the public. We
will not support a hunt until buffalo are respected as a wildlife
species in Montana, and are allowed to establish a strong,
thriving herd within the state. It’s simple: No habitat,
5. IT’S UNETHICAL; THERE IS NO “FAIR CHASE”
IN HUNTING BUFFALO
Regardless of one’s position on hunting, bison differ
greatly from deer and elk. Bison evolved to stand and face
their predators, while deer and elk evolved to flee (what’s
termed by hunters as “fair chase”). Many people
– hunters and non-hunters alike – compare shooting
a buffalo to shooting a parked car, or a couch. The element
of fair chase is non-existent.
Yellowstone buffalo are used to tens of thousands of Park
tourists each year and they are not afraid of humans with
guns. Gun-bearers will have no trouble walking right up to
a buffalo and blast it with a high-powered rifle right at
the Park border. The only time buffalo flee from humans is
when the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) chases them
with snowmobiles, ATVs, helicopters, and horses. Now they
want to shift some of the blame to hunters.
Governor Brian Schweitzer, and some proponents of the hunt,
claim that next year, after this hunt, the buffalo will become
"wilder." They are already wild; they just don’t
run from humans. A case in point is that over the 9 years
that the DOL has been chasing bison with snowmobiles, helicopters,
ATVs and horses, the bison remain unafraid of humans.
The wild buffalo of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are
the last genetically pure remnant of the vast populations
that once migrated freely throughout the Great Plains, from
Mexico to Canada, Florida to Alaska. Buffalo Field Campaign’s
vision is to ensure that this unique herd shall flourish in
as much of its natural and historic range as possible –
forever. Our purpose and intent is to protect and preserve
the Yellowstone bison from harm – also forever.
Buffalo are a uniquely American icon, a fact made apparent
by the presence of their image on countless Montana highway
signs and license plates, on the insignia of the National
Service, the U.S. Department of Interior, and on the signs
and windows of countless businesses.
The remaining wild buffalo need lasting protection to preserve
their ecological genetic, cultural, aesthetic, and spiritual
significance. We envision a new Montana in which wild buffalo
are recognized and managed as native wildlife and treated
as an asset rather than a liability.
Please browse our web site for more in-depth information about
the issue, including fact sheets, video clips, words from
our volunteers, press releases, and more. Please contact us
if you have any questions regarding our work for the last
wild buffalo in America.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP THE
Please let Governor Schweitzer know you oppose the hunt and
the current management scheme responsible for the harassment,
death and confinement of America's last wild buffalo.
Governor Schweitzer has said that buffalo will enjoy more
tolerance in Montana. In his statements, Schweitzer said that
the DOL is "ill-equipped" to manage wild buffalo
for the State of Montana. To date, Montana's only response
to this has been the reinstatement of a bison hunt. Governor
Schweitzer is listening, but it will take endless pressure,
endlessly applied to stop the current harm to our last wild
buffalo. Please call, write, fax or visit Montana's Governor
and urge him to stop the hunt and give wild buffalo lasting
protection in Montana today! If you are a Montanan, please
say so; if you are from outside Montana, please let the Governor
know that you will not spend one more dime in Montana until
wild buffalo are treated with respect here.
GOVERNOR BRIAN SCHWEITZER
Mail: State Capitol, P.O. Box 200801, Helena, MT 59620-0801
Please also continue to let Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
(FWP) know you oppose this hunt for all the reasons mentioned
here, as well as your own.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP)
Attn: Public Comment
P.O. Box 200701
Helena, MT 59620-0701.
1. No habitat, no hunt! Wild buffalo must
be provided year-round habitat in Montana, the opportunity
to restore themselves and establish a viable population within
the state before a hunt can be considered. If they insist
on a hunt, suggest that FWP increase the bison hunt application
fee, with at least $15 from each application going towards
the purchase of Montana bison habitat.
2. No Department of Livestock (DOL)! Though
FWP crafts the regulations of the hunt, the DOL remains the
authorizing agency and - as we witnessed this year - can cancel
the hunt to harass and slaughter buffalo. The DOL should stick
with inspecting and managing cattle, and should have no dealings
in any aspects of wildlife management. FWP must strengthen
their backbones and demand the DOL's authority be revoked.
3. If FWP insists on a hunt, it must be as
fair as possible. To prevent hunters from hovering at the
border of the national park, suggest FWP create a buffer zone
of *at least* 1/2 a mile from Yellowstone's boundary. Also,
demand that they forbid hunters from shooting buffalo on Dale
Koelzer's property, the site of the Duck Creek bison trap
and the agents' bison harassment headquarters in West Yellowstone.
4. Tell FWP that you expect them to better
educate hunters on the behavior of wild buffalo. Buffalo will
mourn their fallen brothers and sisters, and if a hunter insists
on killing a buffalo, they must respect them enough to give
them the opportunity to do this. Hunters should be forbidden
to harass mourning buffalo and must refrain from throwing
rocks or other objects at them.
5. Wild buffalo must be classified - year
round - as a native wildlife species. Currently, wild buffalo
hold a dual status in Montana. During hunting season they
are classified as both "an animal in need of disease
control" and also a "game species." As natives
to all of Montana, buffalo should be permanently classified,
respected and valued as a native wildlife species.
6. Question FWP about whether this hunt,
given the lack of fear bison have toward humans, can meet
the state's legal requirement of "fair chase," and
if FWP genuinely believes that the bison will become more
skittish around humans in time, how will that behavior change
affect the ability of millions of tourists to enjoy the bison
in Yellowstone National Park, and why hasn't FWP ever evaluated
that potential impact in any of its hunt documents?
Please include your own thoughts, ideas and feelings. Remind
FWP that the Yellowstone bison herd is the last wild herd
left in the country and that as such, it deserves protection,
not more persecution. If you are a hunter, your voice has
a special place in these discussions; wild buffalo need you
to advocate for their right to roam free and restore themselves
on all available habitat prior to any hunt.
Please also write a Letter to
the Editor to help shed light on the buffalo’s plight.
Thank you for helping to protect the last wild buffalo in