Residents, Hunters, and Bison Advocates Communicate Distaste with Current Bison Management

For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, January 29, 2007

Stephany Seay (919) 818-9351 or (406) 646-0070

Helena, Montana - Montana residents from Yellowstone's gateway communities in Gardiner and West Yellowstone, along with hunters and members of Buffalo Field Campaign, will meet with Governor Brian Schweitzer at 2:30 this afternoon to discuss their objections to Montana's bison hunt and the current management of Yellowstone bison.

The meeting coincides with Montana's unveiling of the state's new quarter, featuring the skull of a bison. "The new quarter is appropriate for Montana under the Schweitzer administration," said Mike Mease of the wild bison advocacy group Buffalo Field Campaign. "A bison skull is the perfect symbol for a state whose policies favor dead bison over live bison. We were hopeful that Schweitzer would uphold the promises on which he was elected," Mease added, "but under his watch nearly every buffalo to enter Montana has been killed."

Every bison to migrate into Montana across Yellowstone's western boundary this year has been killed and there are currently no bison in the area. During the most recently completed phase of the West Yellowstone bison hunt, which ran from January 1 to 16, the lack of bison in Montana resulted in 24 out of 25 hunters being unable to fill their tags.

Glenn Hockett, President of the Gallatin Wildlife Association, calls the Schweitzer administration to task: "Using hunters to systematically kill every bison that enters Montana is not something I am proud to be a part of. This bison hunt, not the hunter, is to blame. It is flawed on so many levels. The IBMP is severely flawed as well and we can no longer blame the Racicot or Martz administration or the DOL for that matter. This is now the Schweitzer administration's responsibility."

The Gallatin Wildlife Association is strongly opposed to Montana's management of wild bison and, along with the Buffalo Field Campaign, has asked Montana to provide year-round habitat for wild bison and to allow the species to establish a resident population before a hunt is considered. 

Residents living within the bison's migration corridors are furious at the state's lack of tolerance for bison, the danger posed to their communities by the current bison hunt, the disregard for their property rights and the treatment of bison.

"I've lived here all my life, I'm 51 now, and I love the fact that we are still able to co-exist with the wildlife," wrote Horse Butte resident Ann Stovall in a letter to Schweitzer.

"I am really upset with this whole bison hunt, that it's is being allowed near a residential neighborhood. It's bad enough that you are allowing these so-called hunters to hunt these magnificent animals in the first place, but what is really bad is that the hunters and the Department of Livestock are given priority above the safety of the people and animals that live out here."

On Tuesday, a hunter illegally shot a bull Yellowstone bison on private property within Hebgen Lake Estates where no hunting is allowed. Though Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) confiscated the bison and recommended prosecution, a Gallatin County judge refused to look at the video evidence and ordered the bison meat be given back to the hunter.

"Do state buffalo hunt regulations stampede our property rights?" Asked Ed Millspaugh, president of West Yellowstone's Hebgen Lake Estates, whose home is less than 125 yards from where the hunter fired upon the bison.

Hebgen Lake Estates, a buffalo-friendly neighborhood, issued a notice to the State of Montana in February 2006 outlining their concerns and displeasure with Department of Livestock activities in their neighborhood. They received a response from the DOL that essentially said their concerns would be ignored.

Wild bison are native to Montana yet ecologically extinct everywhere outside of Yellowstone National Park. Montana provides no year-round habitat for bison. Bison management currently falls under authority of the Montana Department of Livestock, who, with state and federal assistance, manages them as a nuisance animal. Once hunting season ends, wild bison will be managed by the Department of Livestock. There is never a time in Montana when wild bison are not hunted, hazed, shot, or slaughtered.

Buffalo Field Campaign opposes Montana's bison hunt. BFC maintains that habitat should come before a hunt and calls on the state to provide year-round habitat for wild bison and for the restoration of a viable population on public lands in Montana.

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 4,000 animals, .01 percent of the bison's former population.

1,873 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 30.

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