Game Warden Hazes Wildlife to Protect Personal Cattle

For Immediate Release:
March 17, 2004

Ted Fellman (406) 646-0070

Gardiner, Montana - The National Park Service (NPS) sent another 30 wild buffalo to slaughter today, bringing the total number of buffalo killed in the past month on the northern boundary of Yellowstone National Park to 183 and counting. There are still about 100 recently captured buffalo that will be tested for brucellosis exposure over the next days. There has never been a documented case of brucellosis being transmitted from wild buffalo to livestock.

Currently 174 buffalo are being held at the Stephens Creek trap inside of Yellowstone National Park, roughly half of them are yearlings that have been vaccinated with an ineffective cattle vaccine. Peer reviewed scientific studies have concluded that RB51 offers no significant protection for brucellosis to bison. The Park Service has indicated that only 200 buffalo can be held in the trap until later this spring, meaning that another 76 buffalo will likely be sent to slaughter this week. Last March, the Park Service killed 231 wild Yellowstone buffalo, a number likely to be exceeded by this year's slaughter.

"Buffalo slaughter is becoming an almost daily routine in Yellowstone," said Dan Brister of the Montana-based Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC). "With rangers luring buffalo into traps with trails of hay, handing them over to stock inspectors who ship them to slaughter, and inoculating them with cattle vaccines and ear tagging them, we should start calling it Yellowstone National Ranch."

Yellowstone is the only place in America continuously occupied by native buffalo. The park provided sanctuary to 23 individuals that survived the 19th century near extinction. The Yellowstone herd is the largest remaining population of genetically pure bison. Slaughtering bison is in direct contradiction with the Park Service's mandate to protect park resources unimpaired for future generations.

"The National Park Service's mission includes conserving wildlife, yet they have systematically harassed, captured, vaccinated, confined, slaughtered, and shot members of the Yellowstone buffalo herd over the past month," remarked BFC coordinator Ted Fellman. "Submitting wild buffalo to testing procedures that involve holding them in head clamps with their noses pinched by metal rings is cruel and gruesome. The Park Service is domesticating this unique herd, destroying the wild quality that makes them a national treasure."

Earlier this morning, a local game warden hazed two buffalo on foot from near the Royal Teton Ranch (RTR). Although Randy Wuertz works for the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, he also has about 25 head of cattle on RTR land. The owners of the RTR received more than 13 million tax dollars in 1998 for land and conservation easements intended to provide winter range for native buffalo. However, about 180 cows continue to graze there, while wild buffalo are slaughtered to protect them.

"It's quite a conflict of interest to have a local game warden hazing native buffalo to protect his own cattle grazing on land that should be designated winter range," said Mike Mease of the BFC. "They are hazing buffalo right to the trap where they are being conditioned by all the hay that is left there as bait. Wild buffalo are being managed to death."

In the past ten years the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) and NPS have slaughtered 2,666 buffalo in and around Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone buffalo slaughter is slated to cost taxpayers nearly $3 million a year until 2015.

The slaughter has prompted members of Congress to introduce the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act (H.R. 3446), which will place a three-year ban on the capture and slaughter of Yellowstone buffalo, dismantle the Stephens Creek trap, and allow buffalo access to historic public lands habitat immediately adjacent to the park. It has more than 75 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.

The Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) is the only group working in the field, everyday, to stop the slaughter of Yellowstone's wild buffalo. Volunteers defend the buffalo on their traditional winter habitat and advocate for their protection. Daily patrols stand with the buffalo on the ground they choose to be on and document every move made against them.