Bison Chased for Miles Pursued by Helicopter Deep into Yellowstone; Calves Injured, Separated from Mothers

For Immediate Release:
May 14, 2009

Stephany Seay, BFC, 406-646-0070 / bfc-media"at"

West Yellowstone, Montana - The Montana Department of Livestock initiated full-scale hazing operations today to force wild bison off of cattle-free Horse Butte and surrounding public lands on the Gallatin National Forest.

The Department of Livestock also violated the private property rights of the Galanis family, who owns the 700+ acre Yellowstone Ranch Preserve on Horse Butte. The DOL sent in their helicopter (photo by Lance Koudele) to chase bison family groups from Galanis' property. Mounted horsemen and a Forest Service law enforcement officer also violated the covenants of Yellowstone Village residents by entering the private subdivision to look for bison and chase them into areas where the helicopter could haze them. The Galanis Family and residents of Yellowstone Village have designated their properties as "Buffalo Safe Zones" (photo by Lance Koudele) and have repeatedly told the agents and the MT Governor that bison are welcome, agents are not.

montana department of livestock helicopter haze 05 14 2009

Photo by Lance Koudele

"I had fifty bison on my property this morning, and now they are gone," said Horse Butte resident Susan McClure. "The DOL is destroying the very reason people like me live in this state and they are destroying the reason people come here to spend money: they come to see the bison. We're being told by the Department of Livestock that as private property owners, under the Interagency Bison Management Plan we don't have a say, our private property rights are null and void."

In addition to the MT Department of Livestock, agents from Yellowstone National Park, Gallatin National Forest, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, and Gallatin County also participated. Montana State Veterinarian Marty Zaluski and Montana Department of Livestock Executive Officer Christian Mackay were also present.

During today's operation Buffalo Field Campaign patrols documented a newborn bison calf being hazed for miles with a broken leg along Forest Service Road 6697. Another newborn was separated from its mother during the hazing operation and is now orphaned.

"This week's operation is a shockingly clear demonstration of wildlife harassment and abuse and if someone treated a domestic animal this way, they'd find themself in jail," said BFC's Stephany Seay "Bison family groups of bison, including pregnant cows, yearlings, and newborn babies whose legs are just developing are being cruelly run nonstop for miles through difficult terrain and rushing river currents, hounded by screaming horsemen and a deafening helicopter."

The agencies' goal is to appease cattle interests and rid Montana of wild bison family groups by Friday, May 15th.

"There is not a single cow anywhere near here, and there will never be cattle on Horse Butte," said Buffalo Field Campaign spokeswoman Stephany Seay. "Livestock interests have no business wasting millions of federal tax dollars to chase bison off of their native habitat where they should be free to roam."

Today's hazing operation, like those throughout this week, push bison from Horse Butte deep into Yellowstone National Park, using a helicopter and mounted horsemen (photo by Lance Koudele). Bison will be chased to areas seven to twenty miles within Yellowstone National Park's interior. In the past three weeks government officials have commenced large-scale hazing operations on Gallatin National Forest, where there are no cattle, disrupting the ecosystem while forcing wild bison - including many newborn calves - off of their spring calving grounds deep into Yellowstone National Park. Agents use horses, snowmobiles, ATVs, and a helicopter to coerce the buffalo.

"Here we are at the edge of the world's first national park, and each spring it becomes a war zone, with the DOL's helicopter even flying miles into Yellowstone's interior, disturbing wildlife and park visitors, all for the sake of the 'holy cow,'" said Mike Mease, Campaign Coordinator of Buffalo Field Campaign. "It's time to stop mismanaging bison for cattle interests."

Fewer than 3,000 wild bison exist in the United States, all inhabiting areas in and around Yellowstone National Park. Since 2000, under the Interagency Bison Management Plan, thousands of wild American buffalo have been harassed and killed, with millions of federal tax dollars wasted each year to carry out these abusive, superfluous operations. The purported excuse for the brutal activities is to prevent the transmission of brucellosis, a European cattle disease, from wild bison to livestock. Wild bison have never transmitted brucellosis to cattle, and further, there are no cattle within miles of the area where the bison were grazing. Closer investigation of the issue and the history of the livestock industry reveal that brucellosis is being fraudulently used to cover up the industry's gratuitous control of grassland use.

Buffalo Field Campaign is the only group working in the field, every day, to stop the slaughter of the wild American buffalo. Volunteers defend the buffalo and their habitat and advocate for their lasting protection.