National Park Service Sends 24 Buffalo to Slaughter, Captures 100 More

For Immediate Release:
January 12, 2006

Stephany Seay or Dan Brister: (406) 646-0070

Gardiner & West Yellowstone, Montana - Without cooperation from Montana, Yellowstone National Park sent twenty-four of America's last wild buffalo to slaughter today, including twelve bulls which pose no risk of transmitting brucellosis. Another forty buffalo may be sent to slaughter facilities tomorrow with the assistance of USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Yesterday, National Park Service (NPS) Rangers captured 208 wild buffalo inside the Stephens Creek Capture Facility. Another 100 buffalo have been captured today. The Stephens Creek trap's capacity is 200 buffalo, yet the Park Service is currently holding around 280.

"Yellowstone used to be a wildlife sanctuary. Under the watch of Superintendent Suzanne Lewis it has been transformed into a buffalo slaughter facility set up to do the bidding of the livestock industry," said Mike Mease, Campaign Coordinator and cofounder of the Buffalo Field Campaign.

The NPS is in violation of the Interagency Bison Management Plan because it intends to send all the captured bison to slaughter without testing for brucellosis antibodies, prior to conducting their mandatory late-winter/early-spring count.

"Sending these bison to slaughter without testing before the late-winter/early-spring bison counts are conducted clearly violates the Interagency Bison Management Plan," said Josh Osher of BFC. "These safeguards were put in place so the government's actions would not compound potential natural winter kill. By sending these bison to slaughter without testing in order to free up the capture facility for more of the same, the National Park Service could be responsible for a devastating population crash in America's last wild herd of bison."

In West Yellowstone, along the Park's western boundary, Montana's bison hunt has been suspended and the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) conducted a hazing operation today of approximately 30 wild buffalo that had never left the state's tolerance zone, or hunt area. DOL agents on snowmobiles hazed the mixed group of buffalo across the ice of Hebgen Lake towards the northern peninsula of Horse Butte. Twelve buffalo - yearlings, young bulls and females - fell through the ice of the lake. Two buffalo died in the water and others showed signs of hypothermia after being pulled onto the ice. BFC volunteers documented the event.

BFC's Project Director, Dan Brister, who witnessed the event, said, "It was horrible, the twelve bison were swimming around a small opening in the ice, pawing at the edges and stepping on one another as they frantically tried to pull themselves from the water. Two drowned before our eyes before the agents made any effort to pull them from the water."

There are no cattle within 40 miles of today's attempted hazing operation.

"Governor Schweitzer stated that the DOL is "ill-equipped" to manage wild buffalo and today's actions compounded with years of aggressive abuse and harassment underscore the truth of his words," said BFC's Mike Mease. "We call on the state to act immediately and strip the DOL of any and all wild bison management authority." 

Buffalo Field Campaign patrols have been monitoring this herd's movements for weeks. They arrived on Horse Butte over three weeks ago and stayed for a while before returning to the Park again on their own. "This was an utterly needless action on the part of the DOL," said Josh Osher, BFC's policy coordinator. "These bison had never left the tolerance zone and they were starting to head back east again on their own."

State and Federal agencies participating in the Interagency Bison Management Plan justify Montana's lack of bison tolerance on the unfounded fear that bison may transmit brucellosis, a European livestock disease, to cattle. Bulls, yearlings and non-pregnant females pose no risk of transmitting the bacteria. There has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting brucellosis to livestock.

In the past ten years Montana and the U.S. Government have killed 2,505 wild Yellowstone bison, more than half of the existing herd.

The bison that inhabit the Yellowstone region are the last wild, genetically pure, unfenced bison left in the country. They are the only bison to have continuously occupied their native range and they are the last bison to follow their natural instinct to migrate. Like other wild ungulates, bison move to lower elevations outside the park in response to the region's harsh winters. Yet, unlike other wild ungulates, wild bison are not allowed to leave Yellowstone National Park and are subject to hazing, capture, and slaughter when they do.

"This is the last wild herd of buffalo and they are being treated like a nuisance instead of being respected as the sacred beings they are," Said BFC's Stephany Seay. "They deserve our protection and respect, not this senseless persecution of misguided government agencies."

Buffalo Field Campaign is the only group working in the field, everyday, to stop the slaughter of the wild Yellowstone buffalo. Volunteers defend the buffalo on their native habitat and advocate for their protection.