For Immediate Release:
January 10, 2006
Stephany Seay: (406) 646-0070
West Yellowstone, Montana - Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) announced today that it will suspend Montana's bison hunt along Yellowstone National Park's western boundary, effective 1/2 hour after sunset on Wednesday, January 11. The Montana Department of Livestock (DOL), the hunt's authorizing agency, has maintained management authority during Montana's first bison hunt in more than 15 years.
"This just goes to show who's really in charge of the bison hunt," said Dan Brister of the wild bison advocacy group Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC). "The DOL calls the shots in Montana. Today's decision is a prime example of what happens when you put livestock interests in charge of wildlife and shows how far Montana's tolerance for buffalo goes."
There are no cattle within forty miles of West Yellowstone. The western boundary region of Yellowstone National Park is a critical migration corridor for the country's last wild bison. With the moratorium on hazing, wild bison have been able to access critical winter forage, moving in and out of the Park of their own accord.
"The absence of the DOL's aggressive hazing and capture operations have been a welcome respite to wildlife and residents," said BFC's Stephany Seay. "If buffalo were allowed to access available habitat year-round and the DOL was no longer in charge, there would be far less opposition to the state's bison hunt."
BFC opposes Montana's bison hunt because wild bison are not valued as a native wildlife species in Montana and are never allowed in the state without being subjected to hazing, capture, slaughter, quarantine or shooting. BFC also opposes the DOL's role as authorizing agency in the hunt and all wild bison management activities.
In the past ten years Montana and the U.S. Government have killed 2,479 wild Yellowstone bison, more than half of the existing herd. Twenty-two wild bull bison have been killed in Montana since September: nineteen were shot by Montana hunters, two by Montana's Department of Livestock (DOL), and another by a Yellowstone National Park ranger.
"The so-called tolerance zone doesn't really exist," said Mike Mease, subsistence hunter and cofounder of BFC. "These buffalo can get hazed one day and shot the next. On the west side of the Yellowstone River the buffalo are being hazed by the Park Service almost every day, while on the east side of the river they're shot by hunters. Now the hunt will be suspended at the whims of the DOL. Hunters should be infuriated."
Deer, elk, moose and antelope enjoy habitat in Montana as well as a respite from hunting when the season ends. Bison, however, are always targets of persecution at every time of year, whenever they step foot into Montana's borders.
The state justifies its lack of bison tolerance on the unfounded fear that bison may transmit brucellosis, a European livestock disease, to cattle. There has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting brucellosis to livestock. Bulls pose no risk of transmitting the bacteria.
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.
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.