Department Of Livestock Ignores IBMP Adaptive Change Agreement; Unnecessary Haze Exacerbates Bison Migration

For Immediate Release:
April 13, 2007

Exclusive BFC Video & Photos Available Upon Request

Stephany Seay (406) 646-0070

West Yellowstone, Montana - The Montana Department of Livestock's (DOL) massive bison hazing operation on Tuesday and Wednesday is aggravating bison migration and endangering motorists traveling highway 191 and 287 near West Yellowstone. Commerce, tourism and local residents are being adversely impacted by DOL activities.

Buffalo Field Campaign helps facilitate safe highway crossings for bison and warns motorists of their presence on the road. Prior to the DOL's hazing operation, the bison had safely migrated to Gallatin National Forest's Horse Butte Peninsula, public land where cattle never graze. Bison are supposed to be tolerated there, according to adaptations made to the Interagency Bison Management Plan in November 2006.

"According to the adaptive changes, these buffalo should have been left alone," said Stephany Seay, spokesperson for Buffalo Field Campaign. "There are no cattle within 40 miles of here, and now hundreds of bison are having to cross the highway again, unnecessarily."

The Department of Livestock's agent in charge of field operations, Rob Tierney, made it clear that he was not familiar with the specifics of the agreement or its timelines. When asked why DOL was not implementing the changes he said that the agreement only applied to bull bison, yet it applies to all bison. This week's hazing operations took place a full month earlier than specified in the IBMP agreement, which allows for the adaptive changes until May 15.

"What is the point of having an agreement if Montana's State Veterinarian refuses to apply that agreement and is given full discretion to do so?" asked BFC Project Director Dan Brister. "What could be more 'low risk' than native bison on National Forest land where cattle never graze?"

The DOL forced the buffalo in the opposite direction of their migration, pushing them back over Highway 191. Bison follow instincts rather than political boundaries, so migration has resumed and they - again - have to cross the highway.

On Tuesday and Wednesday thirteen DOL and other IBMP agency law enforcement vehicles were present during the hazes. By Thursday the agents were gone and the bison had resumed migration. No law enforcement efforts are made to help warn motorists of bison along the highway.

Mike Mease, BFC Campaign Coordinator raises serious concerns, "By repeatedly hazing the buffalo before they are ready to return to the Park on their own, the DOL is putting both motorists and bison in unnecessary danger."

There has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting the European livestock disease brucellosis to cattle, even prior to implementation of Interagency Bison Management Plan.

American Bison once spanned the continent, numbering between 30 and 50 million. The Yellowstone bison are genetically unique and are America's only continuously wild herd, numbering fewer than 3,600 animals, .01 percent of the bison's former population.

1,912 bison have been killed since 2000 under the Interagency Bison Management Plan. Last winter Federal and State agencies killed or authorized the killing of more than 1,010 bison. So far this winter two bison were captured and sent to slaughter by Montana Department of Livestock agents and hunters have killed 58.