Agencies Deceive Public, Go Back on their Word Not to Slaughter

For Immediate Release:
June 8, 2007

Exclusive Video Footage and Photos Available Upon Request

BFC, Stephany Seay 406-646-0070  

West Yellowstone, Montana - Going back on their word not to slaughter wild bison, state and federal agencies to do just that. Today they have hazed about 50 wild bison off of cattle-free National Forest land and captured them in a bison trap constructed near the West Yellowstone Airport.

According to livestock officials, bulls will be transported to slaughter facilities on Monday. Yearlings may be transported to a state-federal quarantine facility as part of a scientific experiment. Calves and mothers will be transported over 150 miles to the Stephens Creek bison trap located within Yellowstone's northern boundary and released after a few days.

"None of these buffalo are a brucellosis-transmission risk," said BFC campaign coordinator Mike Mease. "There are no cattle in this region right now, and there never are any on the public lands where the buffalo are migrating."

Last week, public pressure forced Montana and Yellowstone to call off the slaughter of 300 wild buffalo that remained in Montana. Following the no-slaughter decision, agencies stated they would capture and transport to Yellowstone's northern boundary any buffalo found in Montana this week.

However, a DOL press release and confirmation by a Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks official today stated the agencies intend to slaughter bull buffalo caught in today's operations.

DOL officials falsely claim the Stephens Creek bison trap "can't handle bull bison." As recently as last year scores of bull bison have been captured, processed and sent to slaughter from this very facility. In addition, both the Duck Creek and West Yellowstone Airport bison traps are able to handle bull bison as well. On May 23 the DOL captured two bull bison in the Duck Creek trap, located on private property. The bulls were sent to slaughter without being tested for exposure to brucellosis. Bull bison pose no risk of transmitted brucellosis to cattle. Brucellosis is the alleged reason for the government's harsh treatment of wild bison.

"Montana said they would not slaughter any buffalo, and here they intend slaughter bulls," said Mease. "The DOL is acting out of spite and this management plan is just a scheme to control public lands for livestock interests."

Despite hazing attempts wild buffalo continue to follow their instincts, migrating into Montana where they find suitable habitat. American buffalo are native to all of Montana yet remain ecologically extinct.

"Wild buffalo are not 'park' animals and they continue to demonstrate this perfectly," said BFC spokeswoman Stephany Seay. "They are a migratory species and cannot be expected to stay on one side of some meaningless, man-made border like an obedient dog. The real solution to this management scheme is year-round habitat for wild bison in Montana."

The purported reason for the heavy-handed management of wild buffalo is the cattle industry's fear of a brucellosis transmission from wild bison to cattle. No such transmission has ever occurred even where wild bison and cattle coexist. Pregnant buffalo pose only a theoretical risk of transmitting brucellosis to cattle, yet calving season has ended so there is no risk at this point. Bulls, yearlings, and non-pregnant females pose no risk of transmitting the livestock-disease. There are currently no cattle in the West Yellowstone area.

Ironically, state and federal officials intend to remove the wild buffalo from public lands where there are never any cattle and transport them to Yellowstone's northern boundary, where Church Universal & Triumphant cattle graze just a few miles away.

"Transporting low-risk bison from a cattle-free area to a place where cattle are close by makes absolutely no sense if this is really about brucellosis," said BFC's Policy Director Dan Brister. "This move, the slaughter of bulls and other low-risk bison proves time and again that the real issue here is control of public lands; it's about the grass and who gets to eat it."

Recently, a cattle herd in Bridger, Montana - far to the north and east of any wild buffalo - was found to be infected with brucellosis. Wild bison were not responsible and it is likely that cattle were the source of infection.

"The livestock industry is demonstrating hysteria," said Mease. "They cry 'wolf' about brucellosis being such a huge threat, kill the buffalo that have never transmitted the disease, and refuse to begin any cattle-based risk management efforts, such as supporting Governor Schweitzer's idea of a buffer zone around Yellowstone. And they are spending federal tax dollars to do this dirty work."

Brucellosis is a European livestock disease that came to North America with the introduction of domestic cattle. Wildlife was originally infected with brucellosis and other livestock diseases by cattle. There has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting brucellosis back to cattle.

"Wild bison need access to year-round habitat in Montana, and the cattle industry needs to ensure that their livestock are not infecting native wildlife with cattle-borne diseases," said Stephany Seay of Buffalo Field Campaign. "It's time for the cattle industry to take some responsibility for the harm it's caused."

American Bison once spanned the continent, numbering between 30 and 50 million. The Yellowstone bison are genetically unique and are America's only continuously wild herd, numbering fewer than 3,600 animals, .01 percent of the bison's former population.

1,914 bison have been killed since 2000 under the Interagency Bison Management Plan. Last winter Federal and State agencies killed or authorized the killing of more than 1,010 bison. So far this year four bison were captured and sent to slaughter by Montana Department of Livestock agents and hunters have killed 58.