1,098 American Bison Killed Since November

For Immediate Release:
March 17, 2008

Buffalo Field Campaign, Stephany Seay 406-646-0070

West Yellowstone & Gardiner, Montana - Yellowstone National Park officials shipped 57 wild bison to slaughter this morning, bringing to 1,098 the number of wild bison killed this winter. This year's death toll surpasses that of 1996-1997, when 1,084 bison were killed, constituting the largest wild bison slaughter since the 19th century.

"More wild bison have been killed this year than at any time since the 19th century," said Dan Brister, Buffalo Field Campaign Project Director. "With the Spring migration just beginning and the government showing no sign of relief, this year's slaughter could easily surpass 2,000 bison."

Between February 8 and March 17, Yellowstone National Park and the Montana Department of Livestock have captured 1,040 wild bison and slaughtered 929. At least three have died from injuries sustained in confinement in the Stephens Creek trap inside Yellowstone National Park, where 108 bison currently await shipment to the slaughterhouse. State and treaty right hunts, which have ended, took a total of 166 wild bison.

"It would seem as though history was not learned the first time, for here we are today, watching these same government entities enacting the same policy," said Nez Perce tribal member James Holt.

While the government's official reason for the slaughter is to prevent the spread of brucellosis from wild bison to cattle, no such transmission has ever been documented and the bison being sent to slaughter are not being tested for the disease. Outside Yellowstone's western boundary there are no cattle on any part of Gallatin National Forest's Horse Butte Peninsula at any time of the year, making a brucellosis transmission impossible and Montana's intolerance for bison in the area unjustifiable. Along the northern boundary of Yellowstone, fewer than 200 head of cattle graze Church Universal & Triumphant (CUT) lands.

Thousands of people nation-wide have written, called, emailed, attended public meetings and otherwise contacted decision-makers involved in the Interagency Bison Management Plan, urging them to stop the slaughter and provide habitat outside of Park boundaries where wild buffalo can survive and freely roam. Thus far, their voices have been ignored.

"The government is ignoring the will of the people in its haste to cater to the demands of the livestock industry," said Stephany Seay, a spokesperson for Buffalo Field Campaign. "The people are insisting that the buffalo slaughter stop, but we are being ignored by a Park Service intent on killing buffalo by the thousands."

American bison of the Yellowstone region are the last truly wild bison left in the United States and currently number fewer than 3,500 individuals. They are behaviorally and genetically unique, still following their natural migratory instincts and are free from cattle-gene contamination. Less than 1.5% of bison in the U.S. are genetically Bison bison (Freese et al. 2007). Current genetic studies identified only 3 genetically pure bison populations: Yellowstone, Wind Cave and Grand Teton (Halbert 2003), with current studies on the latter two populations questioning their genetic integrity. In the United States, only one wild bison population has continuously occupied its native range since prehistoric time: the Yellowstone bison (Gates et al. 2005). Loss of genetic diversity stemming from the near extinction of the species (Boyd and Gates 2006) coupled with extreme loss of historic bison range (Hornaday 1889; Boyd 2003), raises the risk of ecological extinction for wild bison (Freese et al. 2007).

"The systematic destruction of these herds is decimating genetic diversity and destroying instinctual behavioral patters, wiping out family groups, paralyzing their evolutionary potential," said Seay. "All of these actions are being done under the guise of protecting Montana's brucellosis-free status, yet it is clear that brucellosis is a smokescreen being used to control public lands and prevent native wild bison from restoring themselves on their native habitat."

More than 3,000 wild American bison have been killed or otherwise removed from the remaining wild population since 2000 under actions carried out under the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP), as well as state and treaty hunts. Wild American bison are a migratory species native to vast expanses of North America and are ecologically extinct everywhere in the United States outside of Yellowstone National Park.

Buffalo Field Campaign strongly opposes the Interagency Bison Management Plan and maintains that wild bison should be allowed to naturally and fully recover themselves throughout their historic native range, especially on public lands.

Buffalo Field Campaign is the only group working in the field, every day, to stop the slaughter of the wild American buffalo. Volunteers defend the buffalo and their native habitat and advocate for their lasting protection.