The Force of the Horse

Don’t Slaughter Montana’s Bison

article by George Wuerthner

“As most of our seasoned readers are aware, the main thrust of SFTHH is to bring to the forefront the plight of our American equines be they domestic or wild.  But while being tuned into the misconduct of out of control government agencies we cannot help but be aware of the cruelty rained down upon other wild species such as the Bison, Wolves, Bears, Cougar and even Coyotes.  What is happening to yet another 4 legged treasure, the Bison, is unexcusable and a often witnessed example of government thinking with their pocketbook and not listening to the wishes of the citizens.  Today George Wuerthner shares more information and ammunition in the fight to save the bison.  We applaud his expertise and will move forward as suggested.  Keep the faith, my friends.” ~ R.T.

“Welfare Ranchers go after yet another native wild species…”

bison-slaughterThe Louvre Museum in France houses some of the most famous art works in the world, including paintings by such famous artists as Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

What would you think if you heard the famous Louvre Museum began to throw out and burn in the streets these priceless masterpieces saying they needed to make room for the remaining art work?

How do you think the art world would respond if they suggested that a way to save the art was for the museum to build another wing to house the paintings or even give the paintings to other museums who would gladly accept them?

But instead of following such sensible advice, the French government prohibited expansion of the museum or even the transport of the world’s heritage to other museums and argued the only solution they would considered was to burn paintings? I’m certain it would be an international scandal.

But this is exactly what the Montana government is doing by the senseless slaughter of our national mammal —Yellowstone’s genetically unique and wild bison. These bison are a global heritage that the state of Montana is treating as if they are expendable and valueless asset.

Even the paintings by art masters are not as priceless as the genetically pure Yellowstone bison that are a consequence of a long line of evolution, yet Montana is treating these magnificent beasts as if they were vermin.

Worse, the justification for this butchery is flawed. One excuse is that the livestock industry is threatened by brucellosis, a disease that can cause abortions in livestock. The other major reason given for rounding up bison and slaughtering them is some assert there are too many animals for the park.

Both are questionable assertions, but even if they were valid arguments, there are viable solutions that do not require the destruction of these animals.

Fact: there is no documented transmission of brucellosis from wild bison to livestock. The only examples of wildlife transmission to cattle is the result of elk, not bison.

Fact: Yellowstone’s bison are genetically unique. Most bison herds in the United States have cattle genes mixed into their genome, but Yellowstone’s bison are one of the few genetically pure populations.

Fact: There is an abundance of public land on the Custer-Gallatin National Forest and other state and federal lands outside of Yellowstone National Park where bison could winter or even live year-round.

Fact: There are other large blocks of public land within the historic range of bison that could support herds such as Montana’s Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, Wyoming’s Red Desert, and the Vermillion Basin of Colorado.

Fact: There are numerous Indian tribes that wish to start or augment their own bison herds if only Montana would allow them to be transported.

Fact: Montana’s livestock industry will not lose its brucellosis free status simply because one or two herds are infected.

Fact: There are brucellosis vaccines that are available free of charge to ranchers that can reduce the chances of infection.

Fact: The only way that cattle can become infected with brucellosis is if they consume or lick an aborted bison fetus. This must occur before the bacteria dies or the fetus is consumed by scavengers like ravens, coyotes, and magpies.

Fact: Even if in theory bison cows could abort and transmit the disease to livestock, bison bulls and calves cannot transmit the disease, yet they make up a high percentage of the animals being slaughtered.

Fact: There is simply no scientific or even legitimate rationale for the continued slaughter of this priceless wildlife legacy. The real reason our collective patrimony is being destroyed due to the intransigence of the livestock industry.

Please call or write Governor Bullock and Montana’s Congressional delegation and ask them to work for a solution that treats Yellowstone’s wild bison as the priceless and precious global inheritance they represent.

George Wuerthner is an ecologist who has published 38 books. He divides his time between Bend, Oregon, and Livingston, Montana.

11 replies »

  1. Bison Slaughter National Disgrace
    By George Wuerthner On December 12, 2016

    The continued butchery of Yellowstone’s genetically unique wild bison is a crime against the world’s global heritage. It reflects badly on the people of Montana that tolerate and allow this annual killing to go on. It also exhibits poor judgement on the part of hunters, tribal members, and others who participate and/or directly or indirectly sanction this crime against nature and our national patrimony.
    Furthermore, the annual removal of bison by hunters, tribes and/or state/federal personnel for transfer to slaughterhouses have real ecological consequences for other wildlife. Wolves, grizzlies, coyotes, ravens, magpies, and other animals kill or scavenge bison

    First, one needs to understand why killing a thousand bison is so harmful. The park’s bison have gone through several genetic bottlenecks. At one time, the population numbered 25 animals. And previous years of slaughter and capture/shipment by the livestock industry and others outside of the park means the park’s bison have gone through repeated genetic reductions.

    This is made worse by the fact that bison are a tournament species-whereby dominant bulls do the majority of all breeding. This means the “effective” breeding population is much lower than the actual population numbers and as a result so is the genetic diversity.

    The bison are being killed under the pretense of protecting Montana’s livestock industry from brucellosis.This is a sham because there is no documented instance of a wild bison transmitting brucellosis to livestock.


    • Really great article – as I’ve said before, Louie – I ALWAYS learn from your posts. This whole slaughter of buffalo, wolves, coyotes, mountain lions AND our wild horses & burros HAS to stop. I really dont understand how anyone could have their head so far in the sand (a MILD description) to not see or pay attention to the agenda our “representatives” are either going along with or pushing hard! I’ve commented on Popvox on every bill that I disagree with – sent an email to the Gov. of Montana about the buffalo slaughter – not to mention all the letters & emails I’ve sent concerning our wild horses & burros. Does ANYONE listen? Doesnt feel like it.


  2. Yet again another animal on the chopping block . Our Government should be ashamed for letting such an act of cruelty keep happening over and over again. Leave mother nature alone , the animals have suvived this way for centuries. You messing with the food chain you take out this animal and over populates that , you need land for ranchers and oil so you downsize our wildlife. Like the wild horse’s being rounded up be helecoptor and running them to extreme lengths some to exhaustion and even death. Just to be stuffed in holding pens without shelter. The bison are also a part of our history, let them be . Our Government needs to listen to the people and not the mighty $$$$.

    On Feb 16, 2017 8:26 AM, “Straight from the Horse’s Heart” wrote:

    > R.T. Fitch posted: “article by George Wuerthner “As most of our seasoned > readers are aware, the main thrust of SFTHH is to bring to the forefront > the plight of our American equines be they domestic or wild. But while > being tuned into the misconduct of out of control gove” >



    Wolf Point: Red Road Stories
    This visually stunning documentary, filmed on the remote plains of the Fort Peck Assiniboine & Sioux Indian Reservation in Northeastern Montana, features the intimate perspectives of Assiniboine tribal members, whose stories, memories and commentary convey their knowledge of cultural history and their passion and concern for their tribe and its future.

    A dream that became a mission inspired narrator True Archdale to return to Wolf Point after living in Los Angeles for three decades. Raised by her Assiniboine grandparents and influenced throughout her life by the teachings of her tribal community, she felt compelled to return to the reservation of her childhood to capture important personal stories of multiple generations. True believed that a record of these stories and memories could be useful in preserving the tribe’s cultural heritage.

    Powerful scenery and a uniquely composed soundtrack inspire viewers to take a deeper look at our collective connection to the earth. Wolf Point, Red Road Stories gives a glimpse into the complex nature and perseverance of the Assiniboine people, who after thousands of years hold close their cultural identity and continue to pass it on to future generations, while spiritually prospering in today’s world.

    This film was featured at the 41st American Indian Film Festival


  4. Yet again, the overreach of an out of control government, in bed with the welfare ranchers. I’m wondering who benefits from the sales of the bison meat?


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