“Processed” means slaughtered. Despite massive public outcry, the relentless cull of America’s most important wild bison herd continues. “It is going to be extremely difficult for us to see what these buffalo suffer as they are run through this gauntlet of torture, but it is critical that the public know what Yellowstone is doing — on behalf of livestock interests — to the buffalo whom they are mandated to protect,” states a press release from Buffalo Field Campaign. For the first time in a decade, there will likely be public access through one of the two promised media tours to, very briefly, glimpse the ‘processing’ – a ‘privilege’ that has been only reluctantly granted.
Buffalo Field Campaign will be there. “It’s something Yellowstone really doesn’t want the public to see”, says Buffalo Field Campaign’s media coordinator, Stephany Seay of the pending ordeal. Seay, and acclaimed journalist Christopher Ketcham, (represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund), have filed a lawsuit against Yellowstone National Park to gain full access to the trap during the times when bison operations are being conducted. The big problem is, in truth, these culls are totally unnecessary. Despite rhetoric from Yellowstone officials about ‘protecting livestock against disease transmission from bison’, in reality, the dreaded brucellosis that the livestock industry keeps harping on, is not really a disease of the bison. After it was first brought to America via Eurasian cattle, it has mainly infected elk herds. While wild bison have also been exposed, there is not a documented case of transmission from wild bison to cattle. There have been cases of transmission from elk to cattle, though.
These hundred and fifty trapped bison will be killed in addition to the hundreds already shot by hunters, to meet an arbitrary quota of 900. That will reduce the already fragile population to only about 3000 – a far cry from the sizable herds wild bison have evolved to live in, and far below the carrying capacity of range available to them.
Interesting to note that no one is demanding culls of elk to protect livestock. Oh, wait, that’s right – Hunters pay fees to shoot elk for fun. Entire industries are based on making sure there are plenty of elk for ‘sportsmen’ to shoot. So what if they transmit brucellosis to cows? Let them run free and multiply. America’s native wild bison, however, ‘compete’ with domestic, privately-owned cattle, which are often turned loose for grazing on our public lands, coming in contact with both bison and elk. BFC habitat coordinator Darrell Geist says the state of Montana and Yellowstone National Park refuse to manage wild buffalo like wild elk, an alternative that would put the government out of the buffalo capture-for-slaughter business.
“Montana is blessed with an abundance of public lands but cursed by a statute that stands in the way of managing migratory buffalo as a wildlife species,” said Geist. “Few people know that MCA 81-2-120 is almost entirely funded by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to back Department of Livestock management of wild buffalo. Without American taxpayer funding, Montana and Yellowstone National Park would have to changes their ways.”
The harsh truth is, Yellowstone’s capture-for-slaughter operations adversely impact the wild population’s natural immunity to introduced diseases, including brucellosis, and increases the risk of more virulent and persistent strains arising in the wild population. This is the purest remaining gene pool of continually wild and free-roaming, migratory bison left in the world. The cumulative impacts of such massive lethal management actions could cripple the future viability of American bison by undermining crucial genetic diversity. A reduced gene pool could result in unthrifty, deformed or behaviorally altered animals, in which case the future of wild bison will be bleak. The livestock industry knows this, of course, and seems to be OK with it. “Yellowstone’s slaughter of wild bison is as lacking in scientific reason as it is in public support,” said Buffalo Field Campaign’s Stephany Seay.
“There is no such thing as ‘surplus’ wild bison,” adds BFC executive director Dan Brister. “Yellowstone’s target population cap of 3,000 animals is nothing more than a politically derived number that has nothing to do with carrying capacity.” In short, wild bison are being railroaded into extirpation and genetic extinction, all to placate a heavily subsidized and environmentally ruinous activity – large scale private and public-lands ranching. Under the voluntarily agreed to Interagency Bison Management Plan, Yellowstone National Park and the other IBMP agencies continue to operate under faulty assumptions and outdated information, in contravention of the agency’s mandate to use the best available science to inform decision makers and the public.
BFC concludes, “It always bears repeating that the livestock industry’s intolerance is directly responsible for the buffalo’s current brush with extinction. We must put an end to livestock industry control over wild buffalo, and to do so we must repeal or amend the law — MCA 81-2-120 — that places them in charge.
As evidenced by his decision to grant year-round habitat on Horse Butte, Governor Steve Bullock is listening, but the livestock industry is trying to undermine his citizen-supported decision. He must hear from each of us, often. Please contact Governor Bullock today, thank him for granting year-round habitat on Horse Butte, and urge him to help repeal or amend MCA 81-2-120. With endless pressure, endlessly applied, we can end livestock industry control and help regain wild buffalo their rightful, ancestral place on the landscape”
Remember, too, these are OUR unique, native American Bison, our National pride being ruthlessly rounded up for slaughter. Families broken up, friendships severed, these inspiring, awesome (in the way the word is meant to be used), emotional and highly social beings will be traumatized and killed for no good reason. It’s an insult to Yellowstone National Park, an insult to the Endangered Species Act (the USFWS capitulating to the livestock industry by denying them protection), and a slap in the face to the American people to whom our magnificent National Parks and diverse wildlife actually belong. Don’t let private interests steal them from us, our children, and future generations.
To help stop the imminent slaughter, contact Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or call 307-344-2002.
For more information please visit Buffalo Field Campaign.