23 of America’s Last Wild Bison Trapped at Stephens Creek for Royal Teton Ranch Land Lease Experiment

For Immediate Release:
January 5, 2011

Mike Mease, Buffalo Field Campaign, 406-646-0070
Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign, 406-644-2499

Gardiner, Montana - Yellowstone National Park and Montana Department of Livestock officials captured twenty-three of America’s last wild bison yesterday afternoon at the Stephens Creek bison trap, located inside Yellowstone National Park.

This capture marks the onset of the highly controversial Royal Teton Ranch (RTR) land lease experiment, an endeavor opposed by wild bison advocates and one that Interagency Bison Management Plan agencies incongruously tout as “increased tolerance” for wild bison in Montana.
“This RTR scheme increases harm and disrespect to buffalo, not tolerance,” said Stephany Seay, a spokesperson with Buffalo Field Campaign. “It’s a new phase in how Yellowstone and Montana aim to treat wild bison like livestock.”

The buffalo captured yesterday will be held for an unknown time period, until more than sixty buffalo are eventually captured. According to Yellowstone National Park bison biologist Rick Wallen, confining wild buffalo at the Stephens Creek trap exacerbates the threat of brucellosis transmission between wild bison. Such confinement can also cause injuries and death. Brucellosis is the purported reason used by Montana livestock interests for the unjust and harsh treatment inflicted upon wild bison when they migrate into their native Montana. There has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting the livestock disease to cattle. Other wildlife, such as elk, also carry brucellosis and are known to have transmitted it, yet they are free to migrate, and even commingle with cattle with little or no consequence.

“These buffalo will suffer the torments of hazing, capture, squeeze chutes and blood tests,” said Seay. “Of the approximately sixty to be captured, the chosen twenty-five buffalo will be forced to wear ear tags, radio collars, and – for pregnant females – vaginal telemetry devices. They will then be pushed into this ill-thought Corridor to Nowhere surrounded by electric fencing and cattle guards, while the rest are forced back into Yellowstone.”
The RTR land lease is a $3 million agreement between the Church Universal & Triumphant (CUT), Yellowstone National Park, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and the National Parks Conservation Association. CUT has been given private and taxpayer money in exchange for removing their cattle for 30 years and allowing twenty-five bison temporary access to small portions of public lands on Gallatin National Forest and CUT lands.

“This land scheme benefits CUT’s bank account, not wild buffalo, and will do nothing to stop the slaughter," said BFC habitat coordinator Darrell Geist. "CUT already received $13 million tax dollars in 1998 that was supposed to benefit wild bison, yet more than 3,000 bison have since died for merely attempting to access this portion of their habitat. Removing cattle from the bison’s range is the only sensible thing, but cows could return after thirty years, and then what?"

Year after year, Yellowstone and Montana officials executing the ill-conceived Interagency Bison Management Plan forcibly prevent wild bison’s natural migration with hazing, capture, slaughter, quarantine and hunting. Millions of U.S. tax dollars are wasted annually under activities carried out under the IBMP.

“Montana and Yellowstone both know that wild bison pose no economic nor disease threat to the state,” Seay said. “In fact, if protected, wild bison would enhance the ecological, economical and cultural health of the state, the nation, and Native American buffalo cultures.”

The wild bison of the Yellowstone region are America’s last continuously wild population. Like other migratory wildlife, bison cross Yellowstone’s ecologically insignificant boundaries in order to access the habitat they need for survival. During 2007-2008 more than 1,300 wild bison were captured in Yellowstone National Park and shipped to slaughter. This winter’s already heavy weather portends a large migration of wild buffalo and other native species. Nearly 3,800 wild bison have been eliminated from America’s last wild population since 2000. Bison once spanned the North American continent, but today, fewer than 3900 wild bison exist, confined to the man-made boundaries of Yellowstone National Park and consequently are ecologically extinct throughout their native range.

Buffalo Field Campaign is a non-profit public interest organization founded in 1997 to stop the slaughter of Yellowstone's wild bison, protect the natural habitat of wild free-roaming bison and other native wildlife, and to work with people of all Nations to honor the sacredness of wild bison. BFC has its headquarters in West Yellowstone, Montana, and is supported by volunteers and participants around the world who value America’s native wildlife and the ecosystems upon which they depend.