Park Service Ignores Mandate and Caters to Livestock Industry

For Immediate Release:
February 15, 2006

Stephany Seay (406) 726-5555

Gardiner, Montana - Today, wranglers at Yellowstone National Park captured another sixty-nine wild buffalo in the Stephens Creek Capture Facility, within Yellowstone's northern boundary. This capture brings Yellowstone's February capture total to 262 wild buffalo.

Since Monday, the National Park Service (NPS) has sent 171 buffalo to slaughter. None have been tested for brucellosis, the supposed reason for the Park's aggressive management. The NPS sent sixty-eight buffalo to slaughter this morning, fifty on Tuesday, and fifty-two on Monday. As in January, Montana has refused to transport the buffalo to slaughter, prompting involvement from the US Departments of Agriculture and Homeland Security.

"The Park Service works for the American people who have repeatedly urged them to stop slaughtering buffalo and to take proactive measures to ensure their future," said Stephany Seay of the Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC). "Instead Yellowstone officials choose to ignore the public and continue to slaughter buffalo."

So far this year, the NPS has captured nearly 1,000 wild Yellowstone buffalo and has sent nearly 800 to slaughter. In January the NPS captured 672 wild buffalo, sending 583 to slaughter and 86 calves to the Corwin Springs quarantine facility where at least half will eventually be slaughtered. Three buffalo died in the Stephens Creek capture facility in January from injuries and mishandling by government officials.

"Yellowstone's buffalo slaughter is disgraceful and unnecessary," said BFC's Mike Mease. "Rather than expending its limited resources on capturing and slaughtering buffalo, the Park Service should work to safeguard critical winter habitat outside Park boundaries."

The Yellowstone bison herd, America's only continuously wild herd, now numbers fewer than 4,000 animals. Wild bison are a migratory species native to North America and once spanned the continent, numbering an estimated 30 to 50 million.

Some of the bison captured by the NPS migrated onto or near the Royal Teton Ranch, owned by the Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT), and located within North America's largest wildlife migration corridor directly adjacent to Yellowstone's northern boundary. In 1999 U.S. taxpayers spent $13 million on conservation easements to allow wild bison to access these lands. The deal remains unfinished. CUT owns less than 150 head of cattle.

Fear that bison may transmit brucellosis to cattle is the purported justification for the aggressive management of wild buffalo by state and federal agencies. Yet there has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting brucellosis to livestock, even during the decades before the current plan was enacted. None of the adult bison slaughtered by the Park Service this year were first tested for brucellosis.

On Tuesday, the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) forced Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) to again suspend Montana's bison hunt along Yellowstone's northern boundary. DOL agents shot a bull bison that they claim was a threat to a small herd of privately owned cattle. Bull bison pose no risk of transmitting the cattle-borne disease brucellosis.

The NPS and the DOL defend their actions under the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP). Under the IBMP, wild bison are largely confined to Yellowstone National Park, which lacks critical winter range. The state-federal IBMP was purportedly crafted to "protect and maintain a wild, free-roaming population of Yellowstone bison" while maintaining Montana's brucellosis-free status. In reality, the livestock industry is the Plan's sole beneficiary. Under the IBMP, bison are routinely slaughtered, shot, hazed, and otherwise prevented from carrying out their natural migration, all of which alter their behavior and erodes their wildness. BFC opposes the IBMP and advocates for protected bison habitat in Montana, as well as more sensible, livestock-based risk management, including fencing and vaccination of domestic cattle in Montana.

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.