For Immediate Release:
January 2, 2006
Stephany Seay: (406) 646-0070
Gardiner, Montana - In spite of continuous national public outcry calling for Montana to cancel its controversial bison hunt, the state's zero-tolerance policy against the country's last wild bison continues. On New Years Day it resulted in another bison death in Gardiner, Montana, just outside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park.
In the past ten years Montana and the federal government have killed 2,477 wild Yellowstone bison, more than half of the existing herd. Twenty wild bull bison have been killed in Montana since September; seventeen have been shot by Montana hunters, two by Montana's Department of Livestock (DOL), and another was shot by a Yellowstone National Park ranger inside the Park.
Nearly all of the bison that have been killed in Montana's hunt have been shot less than five miles from the boundary of Yellowstone National Park. Two bison have been shot at the site of the Duck Creek Bison Capture Facility. The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks claims bison have access to 460,000 acres of Montana lands during the hunt, yet the terrain is mountainous and rocky and bison naturally require lower-elevation grasslands. Only a tiny fraction of the so-called "tolerance zone," or hunt-area, is being used by bison. Further, immediately after the bison hunt ends on February 15, the 460,000 acres will no longer be available to wild bison.
"Unlike other hunted species in Montana, wild bison are never allowed in the state without being subjected to harassment or death," said Dan Brister of BFC. "As soon as this bison hunt is over, the Department of Livestock will be out in force hazing, capturing and sending to slaughter or quarantine facilities any Yellowstone bison that steps foot in Montana."
The Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC), a Montana-based wild bison advocacy group, opposes this hunt because wild buffalo have no protected habitat in Montana and are never allowed in the state without being captured, slaughtered, shot, or hazed. Deer, elk, moose and antelope enjoy habitat in Montana as well as a respite from hunting when the season ends. Bison, however, are always targets of persecution at every time of year, whenever they step foot into Montana's borders.
"This hunt is a sham because wild bison aren't even considered a wildlife species in Montana, they are managed by the state's Department of Livestock, and they have no protected habitat in the state," said Stephany Seay of BFC. "Montana's illegitimate bison hunt is a disgrace to Montana and it's hunting heritage. Permanent habitat, wildlife designation, and management by trained wildlife professionals must come before a species can be legitimately hunted."
Seventeen of eighteen non-Indian permits have been filled during the first phase of Montana's bison hunt, which ends January 15, 2006. The Crow Nation has rejected the two permits offered by the state. Other tribes may follow suit.
Montana claims its bison hunt is popular among citizens, yet Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is ignoring the thousands of phone calls and letters he has received urging it's immediate cancellation. Citizens nation-wide have been calling on Montana to end its zero-tolerance policy and afford lasting protection to the country's last wild herd of bison.
The state justifies its lack of bison tolerance on the unfounded 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. Bulls pose no risk of transmitting the bacteria.
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, the region's harsh winters forces necessary migration into lower elevation lands where available forage is found. Yet, unlike other wild ungulates, wild bison are not allowed to leave the confines of Yellowstone National Park and face a zero-tolerance policy when they enter Montana and consequently it's killing fields.
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.