For Immediate Release:
January 9, 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. Two more bull bison were killed in Gardiner on Saturday, just outside the boundary of Yellowstone National Park. The shooters included a man from Belgrade and a man from the Little Shell Tribe.

Montana issued bison hunt permits to eight Montana Indian tribes to assist their diabetes programs. Montana's Indian bison hunt legislation, section 87-2-731 of Montana Code Allocated 2005, Allocation of Wild Buffalo Licenses to Tribes for Traditional Purposes, states "Wild buffalo taken pursuant to the special licenses issued under subsection (1) must be harvested by tribal members in accordance with the traditional ceremonies of each tribe." As far as BFC witnessed, the Little Shell hunter held no ceremony in reverence for the buffalo.

"How can we, as Native People exhibit prayer so it is understood by those watching? With this hunt the Native People have been forced [by the state] to expose their most holy relationship. How many other people have their religion treated this way? With this rudeness Native People have the chance to show people how to honor life as well as death, and the relationship to the buffalo." Scott Frazier a Crow and Santee Elder wrote.

All eighteen non-Indian permits have been filled for the first phase of Montana's bison hunt, which ends January 15. Of the eight tribal permits issued for this phase only the Little Shell Tribe has used theirs. The Crow Nation and the tribes of the Fort Belknap Reservation (Assiniboine, or Nakoda, and the Gros Ventre Nations) have rejected the two permits offered them.

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. Twenty-two wild bull bison have been killed in Montana since September: nineteen were shot by Montana hunters, two by Montana's Department of Livestock (DOL), and another by a Yellowstone National Park ranger.

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 overwhelming majority of this 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.

The National Park Service has been engaged in numerous hazing operations during the state's bison hunt, along Yellowstone's northern boundary near Gardiner, Montana. Sunday was the only day last week that there wasn't a haze. On Saturday, Park Rangers forced two groups consisting of 61 wild bison off of their native landscape - including portions of the CUT ranch - back into the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park, where they added nearly 290 more bison that had never even left the park, pushing them further towards the Mammoth area. The haze into the Park also disrupted area pronghorn, a species of special concern. Today, the NPS hazed another 100-plus buffalo back into the Park.

"The so-called tolerance zone doesn't really exist," said Mike Mease, subsistence hunter and cofounder of BFC. "These buffalo can get hazed one day and shot the next. On the west side of the Yellowstone River the buffalo are being hazed by the Park Service almost every day, while on the east side of the river they're shot by hunters."

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. 

"Permanent habitat, wildlife designation, and management by trained wildlife professionals must come before a species can be legitimately hunted," said Stephany Seay of BFC. "Montana's bison hunt lacks each of these elements, and therefore they are conducting an illegitimate hunt that we strongly oppose."

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.