For Immediate Release:
March 23, 2005

Stephany Seay, 406-646-0070

West Yellowstone, Montana -  This morning Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) agents sent three of America's last wild and genetically pure buffalo to slaughter. Three others are expected to be released this afternoon.  The test used to determine the fate of the buffalo is inaccurate, in that it only detects exposure to brucellosis and not the disease itself.  The three buffalo sent to slaughter may not have had brucellosis at all.

On Monday the DOL captured six buffalo: a group of five bulls and an additional old, lone bull.  The six buffalo were held within the Duck Creek trap, located on private land adjacent to Yellowstone National Park.  For the past two weeks DOL agents have been baiting buffalo out of the park with fresh hay onto the private land of Dale Koelzer, where they operate a buffalo trap.

The buffalo sent to slaughter today are all bulls, which pose no risk of brucellosis transmission. Further, there will be no cattle in the area until June, by which time the buffalo will have already migrated back into the Park.  There are only a few cattle that arrive from out-of-state to graze smaller private parcels, and there are no grazing allotments on the western boundary's public lands.  There has never been a documented transmission of brucellosis from wild buffalo to livestock.

Dr. Paul Nicoletti, DVM from the University of Florida, and a leading expert on brucellosis stated, "Bison bulls, calves, yearling, and non-pregnant cows pose no measurable risk of bacteria transmission.  The risk is further reduced by spatial and temporal separation of cattle and bison; for example, cows are not present on the west side of the park between October and June."

Since October, all of the buffalo slaughtered by the DOL have been bulls.

"If brucellosis is the real reason for the buffalo harassment and slaughter, why do they keep killing bulls who pose zero risk of transmitting the disease?" asked Stephany Seay of the Buffalo Field Campaign.

Buffalo are a migratory species and whether there are 1,000 or 10,000 buffalo, they will always migrate out of the park. The buffalo use three watercourses on the west side: the Madison River, Cougar Creek, and Duck Creek.  Each spring they migrate to the Horse Butte Peninsula on the Gallatin National Forest, publicly owned land surrounded by water. Horse Butte provides a natural buffer and is the buffalo's traditional birthing grounds.  Further, there are no active cattle grazing allotments there.

Dr. Nicoletti added, "Current management strategies result in the unnecessary killing of large numbers of bison, are not appropriate for use in wild, free-ranging species, and are not publicly acceptable.  Potential solutions that should be considered include the mandatory vaccination of domestic livestock, closure of specific cattle grazing allotments, removal of cattle from private land through acquisition or easement, spatial and temporal separation of cattle and bison, phasing out elk feed grounds, and the restoration of more natural winter conditions in Yellowstone National Park."

"It's ironic that we're celebrating the release of the new buffalo nickel at the same time we're harassing, capturing and killing the last wild and genetically pure buffalo left in the country as they begin their spring migration.  These animals have never spread brucellosis to cattle, and the fact that bulls are being captured and sent to slaughter as has repeatedly happened in the past, demonstrates that this continuing buffalo war isn't about brucellosis; it's about the grass and who gets to eat it," said Mike Mease of the Buffalo Field Campaign.