The Message is Clear: America Wants our National Mammal Roaming Free

For Immediate Release:
February 24, 2018

Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign, 406-646-0070
Mike Mease, Buffalo Field Campaign, 406-640-0109
Ken Cole, Buffalo Field Campaign, 208-890-3666
James Holt, Nez Perce Tribe & BFC Board of Directors, 208-791-3306

Bison Calf Stephens Creek Quarantine

Gardiner, Montana
- Yellowstone National Park's Stephens Creek buffalo trap has once again been targeted. Yellowstone reports that sometime between the evening of January 21 and the morning of January 22, captured wild buffalo were released by someone from the Stephens Creek capture facility. This is the second time in about a month that the highly controversial Stephens Creek bison capture facility has been targeted.

"The destruction of the trap fence only highlights the deadlock inherent in the current Interagency Bison Management Plan priorities," said Nez Perce Tribe and Buffalo Field Campaign board member, James Holt.

Approximately 96 of the country's last wild, migratory buffalo - America's national mammal - had been captured in the trap days before the incident. Yellowstone National Park operates the trap as a means to appease Montana livestock interests, who hold extreme prejudice against native wild buffalo and frown upon them roaming their native Montana home lands.

In mid-January, 52 bull bison were released from Yellowstone's quarantine pens. Yellowstone had been holding the bulls, some for up to two years, for still unapproved quarantine purposes. Quarantine is viewed by some wildlife advocates as a domestication process, a program being force fed to Indigenous buffalo cultures as the only means they will see the return of their relatives, the buffalo, to tribal lands.

"This second attempt to free wild buffalo from unnecessary and political confinement should send a strong message to Yellowstone National Park that there are many people who strongly oppose the current mismanagement of this American icon," said BFC's media coordinator, Stephany Seay. "The Stephens Creek buffalo trap stands as a monument to oppression and control over beings who were born to roam free. They are the embodiment of wildness and freedom, and these qualities are precisely the reason they were chosen to represent this nation, supposedly the land of the free."

Yellowstone National Park wranglers have since re-captured the released buffalo, along with a couple hundred more. Buffalo Field Campaign's Gardiner patrols reported Friday evening that there were more than 300 buffalo in the Stephens Creek trap.

All buffalo captured at Stephens Creek are destined for direct shipments to slaughter, or confinement, slaughter and domestication through an as yet unapproved quarantine plan. Yellowstone, Montana, and other government officials distort the reality of capture for slaughter or quarantine, claiming it is necessary in order to appease Montana's intolerance for the native grazers.

"Through a political livestock industry-crafted population cap, Yellowstone National Park officials are licking the boots of the Montana livestock industry to drive down the last wild, migratory bison population in the nation - our national mammal - to an extremely minimal population, which is driving the world's most important bison population towards extinction," said Ken Cole, Buffalo Field Campaign's executive director.

In a press release dated February 22, Yellowstone's Superintendent Dan Wenk stated that targeting the Stephens Creek trap to release imprisoned buffalo was a "setback for bison conservation," and suggested that quarantine is a "beneficial" tool to restoring bison onto tribal lands. However, there is already evidence that wild buffalo have been exploited and commercialized through the quarantine process, and under Yellowstone's proposed 50-year quarantine plan, it is likely to happen again. In fact, the first quarantined bison were transferred to Ted Turner who has been managing them – according to – for "optimum economic production" and selling them at auction at prices of $11,000-$42,500. This underscores the fact that quarantined buffalo could end up in the hands of a private, for profit entity, not just tribes.

Buffalo Field Campaign's petition (PDF) to list the Yellowstone bison under the Endangered Species Act, and also as a Species of Conservation Concern (PDF) on national forest lands, clearly shows that both capture for slaughter and quarantine are a serious detriment to this last wild population, and also harmfully intrudes upon the numerous Tribes who hold treaty rights in the Greater Yellowstone.

"Buffalo Field Campaign does not support the deviation from adopted protocols by federal officials in the Interagency Bison Management Plan process," said Holt. "It is the policy of Buffalo Field Campaign to support treaty tribes and their reserved hunting rights. Based on the statements by Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk, we believe it is time for meaningful consultation with treaty tribes regarding this new development in quarantine use at the trap, and the potential impacts to treaty resources. BFC and our supporters also seek clarity on the statements made by Wenk on the disposition of Yellowstone's Stephens Creek trap as it relates to wild bison. BFC's primary concern has always been protecting wild, migratory buffalo on the landscape. It is time to embrace a renewed focus on wild bison as our national mammal, while honoring treaty-reserved hunting rights."

Buffalo Field Campaign takes strong objection to Yellowstone's attempt to use Native American cultures as a tool to garner sympathy for their oppressive and destructive bison management schemes.

"It is unjust and immensely disrespectful for Yellowstone to make flagrantly blanket statements in regards to the sentiments of Indigenous Peoples about the domestication of wild buffalo relatives through the quarantine process," said James Holt. "Quarantine removes wild, migratory from the landscape and is a toxic mimic of true wildlife restoration. Quarantine is another tool of oppression, and an insult to Native Peoples who want their relatives, the buffalo, to restore themselves as wild and free beings upon their ancestral lands."

Yellowstone National Park claims that they are forced to undertake current bison management schemes by court order. However, as signatories to the Interagency Bison Management Plan, Yellowstone or any agency, can issue a 30-day written notice (PDF) to terminate the already expired Plan. Buffalo Field Campaign has submitted an alternative plan (PDF) to Montana and Yellowstone that respects wild bison like wild elk in Montana. Yellowstone also claims that they engage in such highly controversial management tactics due to Montana's intolerance for wild buffalo, a statement which is grossly misleading.

"Montanans at large, the majority in this vast state, have repeatedly expressed their desire for wild, migratory buffalo on the landscape," said Mike Mease, cofounder of Buffalo Field Campaign. "It is only the small but vocal minority of Montana's livestock industry who Yellowstone is sacrificing America's national mammal for, and it's time for this war to end."

Brucellosis is often used as the excuse for Yellowstone and Montana's extreme and abusive bison management actions, yet there has never been a documented case of wild bison to cattle transmission since the arrival of invasive cattle to this continent. Cattle first introduced brucellosis to North American wildlife populations, and elk in the Greater Yellowstone region have also been exposed, but, more importantly, elk have been blamed numerous times for transmitting the livestock disease back to cattle, without consequence.

"All of these ranchers and the state and federal agencies who serve them keep pinning the brucellosis blame on buffalo, who are completely innocent, while elk, who have transmitted the livestock disease to cattle in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, are free to roam," said Buffalo Field Campaign's Mike Mease. "Also, Grand Teton National Park is a perfect example of where bison and cattle coexist without any threat of disease transmission. This is clearly a war against wild buffalo - over the grass and who gets to eat it - that has no foundation in logic. There is a common-sense solutioin: focus on the cattle to remove the problem."