Facility's Integrity Shattered; Conditions Poor

For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Stephany Seay 406-646-0070

Gardiner, Montana - Eight Yellowstone bison calves, captured and orphaned by state and federal agencies, escaped the Corwin Springs quarantine facility near Gardiner, Montana on Monday of this week.

"This quarantine is a failed experiment that should be stopped at once," said Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) Project Director Dan Brister. "Bison are escaping and wild animals are entering. By definition quarantine is 'a strict isolation imposed to prevent the spread of disease.' The incompetence of Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks and the Department of Agriculture in allowing the quarantined animals to potentially mingle with wild animals is astounding," he added.

Bighorn sheep and mule deer were observed inside the facility last winter and spring.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) and USDA's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) run the joint state-federal quarantine feasibility study under the premises of creating "a disease-free herd," and restoring "wild bison" to public and tribal lands. The captured wild calves are living in domestication. They are imprisoned within double-electric fences, wear ear tags and are fed hay like livestock. The bison calves are routinely handled and experimented on by scientists.

After somehow managing to escape through a double fence, the domesticated bison remained in the immediate area and were easily recaptured.

"Quarantine is the antithesis of buffalo restoration. Wild buffalo restore themselves naturally, every year when members of the Yellowstone herd attempt to migrate, but the government keeps getting in the way and killing them for trying," said BFC spokesperson Stephany Seay.

The agencies obtain the wild Yellowstone bison calves from capture and slaughter operations carried out under the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP). The IBMP is a taxpayer-funded state/federal plan drafted at the urging of Montana's livestock industry. Approximately 100 bison calves have been captured from Yellowstone and transported to the facility. Over the summer, 48 calves were removed from quarantine and sent to slaughter to be dissected and studied. None of the calves killed were infected with brucellosis.

Wild bison have never transmitted brucellosis to domestic cattle, even where they have coexisted for decades (Grand Teton National Park).
Representatives from the Buffalo Field Campaign, a wild bison advocacy group, toured the facility last spring and were shocked at the conditions in which the wild calves were being held.

"We found old syringe-needles from when the property was an elk ranch," said BFC co-founder Mike Mease, "and there is an old semi-tractor still parked in one of the active pastures and a lot of junk--scrap metal and old machinery--scattered around the place. They haven't even installed freeze-proof irrigation to maintain the larger pastures, so the bison are stuck in small corrals unfit even for cattle."

At a public meeting in Gardiner, Montana last winter, FWP scientist Keith Aune boasted that they would "train [the now-domesticated calves] how to be wild." He went on to say that running the quarantine facility "is a lot like ranching."

American Bison once spanned the continent, numbering between 30 and 50 million. The Yellowstone bison are America's only continuously wild herd, numbering fewer than 4,000 animals, less than .01 percent of the bison's former population.