Yellowstone, MT - Montana Governor Judy Martz
received a letter today from Horse Butte Neighbors Of
Buffalo (HBNOB) calling for an end to the hazing, capture,
and killing of wild Yellowstone buffalo on Horse Butte
for the foreseeable future. The letter is signed by
59 adult residents of Horse Butte, the majority of the
community, which is located just north of West Yellowstone
Montana on a peninsula of Hebgen Lake.
The letter also asks for the closing of buffalo capture
facilities and the transfer of buffalo management from
the Montana Department of Livestock back to wildlife
specialists. It also formally requests the Governor
to meet with HBNOB to discuss common sense approaches
to living with buffalo tailored to the sentiment of
"We welcome the buffalo out here," said Karrie
Taggart, co-founder of HBNOB. "We don't bother
them and they don't bother us. In fact, we love to see
them. What other community in America can boast of having
wild buffalo in its midst? Living with wildlife, as
we do, is an extraordinary privilege."
Buffalo are naturally drawn from Yellowstone's deep
snows in winter and spring to the lower elevation forage
and sunny south facing slopes of Horse Butte, but they
are never allowed to stay for long. Despite local support
for buffalo, year after year the Montana Department
of Livestock conducts hazing, capture, and killing operations
on Horse Butte.
"Horse Butte is mostly public land and it's a peninsula,"
resident Jeannette Therien pointed out. "Surrounded
on three sides by water, it's not like buffalo are going
to go anywhere else. But Montana isn't even willing
to give them access to this bit of our state."
Brucellosis, a disease that can cause cattle to abort
calves, is carried by some buffalo, and it's the stated
reason for Montana's intolerance for wild Yellowstone
But as Horse Butte resident Liz Kearney noted, "There's
never been a recorded instance of brucellosis being
transmitted from buffalo to livestock in the wild. In
Wyoming, buffalo with brucellosis and cattle have grazed
together for decades without problems. What's more,
elk carry brucellosis too, yet they are ignored by livestock
officials. Brucellosis is nothing but an excuse to keep
wild buffalo out of even this little corner of Montana."
According to the letter, HBNOB formed to promote coexistence
with buffalo and to let it be known residents do not
support DOL's "cruel, expensive, and unnecessary
hazing and killing of buffalo."
"It is not in our best interests, nor Montana's,"
Taggart declared, "and, as our name suggests, we
favor a different way to treat America's only genetically
pure, truly wild buffalo."
Cattle used to graze on a public allotment on Horse
Butte, but this past spring a deal was negotiated between
the Forest Service and the Munns family of Idaho who
held that lease. The Munns now graze most of their herd
on national forest land in Idaho, closer to their home
operation. In the letter, HBNOB members thank the Munns,
as "neighbors and friends," for their willingness
to transfer their public grazing lease.
The letter points out that the Munns still graze a small
cattle herd on Horse Butte on their private fenced pasture.
However these vaccinated cows are trucked in only in
summer after buffalo are back in the Park, miles away.
Property owner Jim Eneboe commented, "It is simply
irrational and disingenuous to suggest that livestock
is endangered and that yearly hazing and killing, and
the expense of millions of dollars, plus untold strife
brought to this community, is in any way necessary."
The letter formally requests a visit by Governor Martz
to open a dialog toward common sense solutions that
will be good for buffalo, good for the cattle industry,
and good for Montana's image. Paraphrasing the letter,
instead of being the state that slaughters buffalo,
Montana could be the state that touts a few wild buffalo.
"It's what we want here at Horse Butte," said
Karrie Taggart, "and we're willing to work, in
a collaborative fashion, to make it happen. But the
senseless, knee jerk hazing and killing of buffalo must
The letter was sent to the Governor a month after the
slaughter of Yellowstone buffalo was debated on the
floor of United States House of Representatives. On
an Appropriations amendment vote, 199 Representatives
called for an end to the killing.
Copies of the letter were also sent to Montana's congressional
delegation, the Supervisor of the Gallatin National
Forest, the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, the Director
of the National Park Service, and the Superintendent
of Yellowstone National Park.