Park Service Sentences Nearly 100 of America’s Last Wild Buffalo to Death, More Await Similar Fate
Published March 13, 2016
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, GARDINER BASIN, MONTANA – Ignoring their own mission and peer reviewed science, Yellowstone National Park has captured 150 of the world’s most important bison population. All have been permanently eliminated from America’s last continuously wild population. Since Wednesday, nearly 100 wild Yellowstone buffalo, were shipped to slaughter from the Park’s Stephens Creek bison capture facility. Fifty-seven bison–all calves or yearlings–remain in the trap as Yellowstone awaits approval for its 50-year quarantine project.
“Yellowstone’s actions are reprehensible,” said Buffalo Field Campaign’s Stephany Seay. “Slaughtering buffalo runs counter to the National Park Service’s mandate ‘to protect resources unimpaired for present and future generations,’” she said.
None of these bison had ever migrated into Montana before being captured inside Yellowstone National Park.
“Slaughtering hundreds of buffalo is a shameful way for the Park Service to celebrate its centennial year,” lamented BFC Executive Director Dan Brister. “Buffalo slaughter is not supported by the public and is completely lacking in scientific justification.”
During capture for slaughter operations, the Park Service closes parts of the park to the public. Past accounts of operations at the Stephens Creek trap have revealed brutal treatment. In response to a lawsuit filed in January by the Animal Legal Defense Fund on behalf of BFC’s media coordinator Stephany Seay and journalist Christopher Ketcham, Yellowstone organized two half-day tours of the trap this week as bison were being “processed” in the facility. While the media and public were provided very limited access to view the operations, they were able to document injuries resulting from the animals’ brutal treatment.
“The little we were allowed to see was shocking. Buffalo were terrified and some suffered bloody injuries as they were poked, prodded, and pushed through trap,” said Seay, “This public facility, funded with tax dollars, should be open so the public can see the true face of buffalo management.”
More information and photos from the Stephens Creek bison capture facility media tour can be viewed here.
Until recently, the Montana Department of Livestock and the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service–agencies serving the livestock industry–supervised and participated in Yellowstone’s capture operations. This year’s operations are being carried out exclusively by employees of Yellowstone National Park.
“When it comes to wild bison, Yellowstone National Park has become just another arm of the livestock industry,” said Brister. “They have become so deeply inculcated in livestock industry culture and propaganda that they have forgotten who they represent.”
This morning, Park Service wranglers on horseback attempted to haze a group of seventy-two wild buffalo into the capture facility. The buffalo outran the horsemen and escaped.
The Park Service justifies the slaughter on brucellosis, a bacterial disease that European cattle originally brought to North America. Wild bison have never transmitted brucellosis back to livestock. Elk also carry the disease and have transmitted it to cattle. Unlike bison, elk are free to migrate from Yellowstone at will and are allowed year-round access to habitat within Montana.
Managing wild bison like wild elk in Montana would put an end to the highly unpopular and ecologically devastating bison slaughter. More than 70% of Montana residents have expressed their desire to welcome wild, migratory bison back into the state.
“I am sick and tired of my hard-earned tax dollars being used to subsidize the lifestyle of cattle ranchers,” said BFC co-founder Mike Mease. “It breaks my heart to see Park rangers wearing the sacred buffalo on their badges as they abuse and destroy them to serve the livestock industry.”
Yellowstone and other agencies carrying out the Interagency Bison Management Plan have stated that they want to kill 900 wild bison this year. Nearly 600 have already been killed through hunting and capture-for-slaughter. The agencies aim to kill hundreds of wild bison every year until they drive the population — now estimated at 4,400 — down to just 3,000 animals. This population target is a result of livestock industry pressure to address unfounded brucellosis fears, and Yellowstone’s false premise that there are “surplus” wild bison.
“There are no ‘surplus’ wild bison,” said BFC executive director Dan Brister, “Yellowstone’s target population of 3,000 animals is an artificially low number that resulted from political pressure rather than sound science. It has nothing to do with carrying capacity.”
The wild bison, or buffalo, of Yellowstone comprise the world’s most important population and are America’s last continuously wild herds. Wild bison are ecologically extinct throughout their native North American range. They are red listed as “threatened with near extinction” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and are classified as “vulnerable to global extinction,” by the state of Montana. BFC and Western Watersheds Project filed a petition to list the Yellowstone bison under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). These bison have been recognized as a distinct population segment by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, yet federal protection under the ESA has yet to be granted.
Montana-based Buffalo Field Campaign is a non-profit public interest organization founded in 1997 to protect the natural habitat of wild migratory buffalo and native wildlife, stop the slaughter of America’s last wild buffalo and advocate for their lasting protection, and work with people of all nations to honor the sacredness of wild bison. www.buffalofieldcampaign.org