MONTANA. Yellowstone National Park Rangers
captured at least 178 bison this morning in the Stephens
Creek bison trap on Yellowstone's northern boundary.
According to the Park Service (NPS), the number of buffalo
captured may go up to 200 today, the full capacity of
the trap. The NPS plans to send all the captured bison
to slaughter without testing for brucellosis and without
cooperation from Montana.
Most of the bison had been grazing north of Gardiner
inside Yellowstone National Park. The Park Service initially
captured 105 bison then later in the morning another
73 bison were hazed from the Church Universal and Triumphant's
Royal Teton Ranch and captured in the Stephens Creek
In 1999 more than 13 million tax dollars were given
to the Church in exchange for land and conservation
easements aimed at providing habitat for the Yellowstone
bison and other wildlife. The Church's refusal to give
up cattle operations on the Ranch has negated any benefits
of the land deal and to date the lands remain off-limits
According to the terms of the Interagency Bison Management
Plan (IBMP), all bison captured before the late winter/early
spring population count is conducted are supposed to
be tested for antibodies to brucellosis or held in the
trap and released in the spring. The provisions of the
IBMP clearly state, "The agencies will test all
captured bison, send seropositives to slaughter, and
temporarily hold up to 125 seronegative bison at the
Stephens Creek capture facility…If the late-winter/early-spring
bison population is above the 3,000 target, specific
management actions may be undertaken at the Stephens
Creek capture facility or outside the Park in the western
boundary area to reduce its size." Sending bison
to slaughter without testing violates the Plan because
the late-winter, early-spring count has yet to be conducted.
The Park Service says that filling the Stephens Creek
trap now would severely limit their bison management
options for later in the winter, which is why they intend
to send all the captured buffalo to slaughter, without
testing or holding the bison until spring, as the Park
Service has done in the past.
"Sending these bison to slaughter without testing
before the late-winter/early-spring bison counts are
conducted clearly violates the Interagency Bison Management
Plan," said Josh Osher of BFC. "These safeguards
were put in place so the government's actions would
not compound potential natural winter kill. By sending
these bison to slaughter without testing in order to
free up the capture facility for more of the same, the
National Park Service could be responsible for a devastating
population crash in America's last wild herd of bison."
The Park's decision to capture today led to a rift with
the state of Montana. According to Governor Schweitzer's
office, the state will not participate in the capture
operation. Governor Schweitzer's spokesperson Mike Volesky
said, "Any time we're in the midst of hunting no
state agents will be involved in capture, testing, or
transport of bison to slaughter." Volesky went
on to say, "These are park bison and the park is
going to do what the park is going to do with them."
The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced
yesterday that they will suspend Montana's bison hunt
along the Park's western boundary beginning today, 1/2
hour after sunset. The Montana Department of Livestock
(DOL) plans to resume hazing operations as soon as Thursday.
"In this power play between the National Park Service
and the State of Montana, the only loser will be the
bison," said Dan Brister, Project Director for
the Buffalo Field Campaign. "The Park Service is
entrusted with protecting America's national treasures.
Instead the agency is flexing political muscle by killing
the bison it is supposed to safeguard."
Al Nash, Chief of Public Relations for Yellowstone National
Park told representatives of Buffalo Field Campaign
that the Park Service has conducted nine hazing operations,
in which they force wild migrating buffalo off of their
critical winter range habitat in order to protect Montana's
"Yellowstone used to be a wildlife sanctuary. Under
the watch of Superintendent Suzanne Lewis it has been
transformed into a buffalo slaughter facility set up
to do the bidding of Montana's livestock industry,"
said Mike Mease, Campaign Coordinator and cofounder
of the Buffalo Field Campaign.
State and Federal agencies participating in the Interagency
Bison Management Plan justify Montana's lack of bison
tolerance on the unfounded fear that bison may transmit
brucellosis, a European livestock disease, to cattle.
Bulls, yearlings and non-pregnant females pose no risk
of transmitting the bacteria. There has never been a
documented case of wild bison transmitting brucellosis
"The Park Service is working with its neighbors
to protect Montana's brucellosis-free status; the only
option available is to capture and send the bison to
slaughter," said Yellowstone National Park spokesperson
In the past ten years Montana and the U.S. Government
have killed 2,479 wild Yellowstone bison, more than
half of the existing herd.
"The Park Service claims that they are 'managing
for a wild population of bison,' but when an agency
impedes natural migration, advocates for a state's livestock
industry over protecting wildlife, and captures and
slaughters buffalo, that can hardly be considered doing
anything but the bidding of Montana's livestock industry,"
said BFC's Stephany Seay.
The bison that inhabit the Yellowstone region are the
last wild, genetically pure, unfenced bison left in
the country. They are the only bison to have continuously
occupied their native range and they are the last bison
to follow their natural instinct to migrate. Like other
wild ungulates, bison move to lower elevations outside
the park in response to the region's harsh winters.
Yet, unlike other wild ungulates, wild bison are not
allowed to leave Yellowstone National Park and are subject
to hazing, capture, and slaughter when they do.
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.
BFC video footage and photos are available upon request
and may be viewed at http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org.