Park Officials Ignore Mandate & Public Opinion, Cater to Livestock Interests

For Immediate Release:
February 13, 2006

Stephany Seay (406) 726-5555

Gardiner, Montana - On Friday, February 10, the National Park Service (NPS) captured 193 buffalo inside Yellowstone National Park and plans to slaughter them all, bringing the number captured in the last month to 865 and the number killed to 779. 86 calves were sent to the Corwin Springs quarantine facility earlier this year. As in January, Montana has refused to transport the buffalo to slaughterhouses, prompting involvement from the US Department of Homeland Security.

"Yellowstone officials are blatantly ignoring the will of the American people by slaughtering, rather than protecting, wild bison," said Stephany Seay of the wild bison advocacy group Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC). "Destroying nearly 800 of the country's last native wild buffalo to appease one small cattle ranch should be a punishable crime."

Some of the bison captured by the Park Service migrated onto or near the Royal Teton Ranch, owned by the Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT). The ranch is located within North America's largest wildlife migration corridor directly adjacent to Yellowstone's northern boundary. In 1999 U.S. taxpayers spent $13 million on conservation easements to allow wild bison to access these lands. The government never finalized the deal.

Fear that bison may transmit brucellosis to the CUT cattle is the purported reason for the slaughter. There has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting brucellosis to domestic livestock. Bulls, calves, and non-pregnant cow bison pose no risk of transmitting brucellosis. None of the adult bison slaughtered this year were first tested for brucella antibodies.

Wild bison are a nomadic species native to North America and once numbered 45 million. Today there are less than 4,500 wild bison in America, all members of the Yellowstone herd.

Under the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP), wild bison are largely confined to Yellowstone National Park, which lacks adequate winter range. The Plan was set up to protect and maintain a wild, free-roaming population of Yellowstone bison while maintaining Montana's brucellosis-free status. However, even decades prior to the Plan's inception there has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting brucellosis back to cattle. Under the Plan bison are prevented from carrying out their natural migration, which alters their behavior and erodes their wildness. BFC opposes the Plan and advocates for more sensible, livestock-based risk management, including fencing and vaccination of domestic cattle in Montana.

"It suddenly seems that bison are safer in Montana than they are in Yellowstone National Park," said Mike Mease of the BFC "In surprising contrast to the Park Service, Governor Schweitzer has recently shown some tolerance for bison." Mease was referring to Schweitzer's orders last week that the Montana Department of Livestock release nine bison captured near West Yellowstone. "Yellowstone officials ought to be ashamed," said Mease. "An agency mandated to protect wildlife has no business slaughtering the buffalo," he said.