The Force of the Horse

Update from the Field: Yellowstone’s Fast-Track Buffalo Slaughter

Source: Buffalo Field Campaign

In the last two years the Interagency Bison Management plan (IBMP) has killed almost 1,200 bison in 2018 and 1,300 in 2017

Your tax dollars at work. Young buffalo inside Yellowstone National Park’s Stephens Creek buffalo trap. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.

Yellowstone National Park continues to capture wild buffalo inside their Stephens Creek buffalo trap, located in the Gardiner Basin. As of this writing, approximately 160 of the country’s last wild buffalo have been trapped, and of those, approximately 150 have been shipped to slaughter so far, and others are being held to serve as quarantine (domestication) subjects. When we inquired about how long Yellowstone intended to keep their trap open, they stated that they would continue to capture and ship to slaughter through the end of March. Right now, buffalo calving season is just a few weeks away. Please continue to put pressure on Yellowstone by calling and emailing Superintendent Cam Sholly (phone) (307) 344-2002 / (email) and express your objection to this malicious treatment of the country’s National Mammal, the sacred buffalo. Hunters have been taking every opportunity with this late-starting migration as well. At least 65 buffalo have been killed by hunters, most of them at the infamous Beattie Gulch, a bottleneck migration corridor right at Yellowstone’s north boundary, where buffalo hardly stand a chance of getting away. Most of the hunting should have ended by now, but some hunting seasons have been extended in order to take advantage now that buffalo have finally started to migrate. Here in the Hebgen Basin, west of Yellowstone’s boundary, there are still no buffalo migrating into Montana.

In the last two years the Interagency Bison Management plan (IBMP) has killed almost 1,200 bison in 2018 and 1,300 in 2017. That is about a quarter of the entire Yellowstone herd each year. All agencies involved in the slaughter know full well how unique and genetically important these bison are to the world. Of the two herds in Yellowstone, the Central herd now numbers fewer than 1,000 (down from 3,500 in 2005), which is a direct result of this management plan. What would Montanans do if elk were treated this way? All the focus of “disease management” is on the bison, who have never transmitted brucellosis, yet elk who have been blamed for giving brucellosis back to cows roam free. This disease was brought here and transmitted to our wildlife by cattle. It is time to do what is right for the bison and treat them like we treat all other wildlife in Montana. Millions of acres of habitat have been opened up for elk in what the IBMP call’s the brucellosis Designated Surveillance Area, where cattle must be more thoroughly tested. This land is open to elk, but why not buffalo? It is time Montana wakes up and stops this insane practice towards bison. The world is watching and is fed up with Montana’s use of tax dollars to kill our National Mammal, a sacred, keystone species and an American icon.

17 replies »

  1. Thank you for this article. It seems all these folks care about is money. They dont care if there is a future for wildlife, Extinction is A-OK. Ecology, science and/or the environment are not important to them. They cant see past their wallets, because this is all about making a monetary profit. Next in line are the indiscriminate, immoral type hunter. Taking opportunistic advantage of a state sponsored slaughter to feed their need for gore. This is an exaggeration? No. I dont think so.
    Wildlife have not only a God-given right to exist and we have a need to preserve wildlife and to preserve our ecosystems.


  2. Those poor youngsters in that pen – huddled together – they look so scared & one of them must have scraped his forehead or had it scraped. The picture of the animals that are doing what they naturally would do – migrate – only to be slaughtered. Dont know how anyone could call themselves hunters in that kind of shooting gallery!


    • Looks to me like a spot on the camera lens, not a scrape. It does seem to be lightly raining or snowing.

      It isn’t clear from the article but seems to be true that even these young calves are being sent to slaughter? What a colossal waste all around for our society.


      • Yeah – I think youre right – enlarged the picture – looks like a spot on the lens. But as for being terrified? No different from our wild horse’s foals after separation from their folks.


  3. Seems that it would be the responsibility of a good rancher to vaccinate his cattle:

    From BEEF

    Is your herd health protocol as good as everyone elses?
    Disease prevention via a thorough vaccination program is the foundation of good health.
    Aug 15, 2017

    Vaccination Description

    Brucellosis and Vibriosis/Leptospirosis for heifers
    Bang’s – Brucellosis or Bang’s disease (abortion)

    Clostridial – Multivalent Clostridium (blackleg, enterotoxemia, malignant edema, black disease, sordellii, tetanus)
    M. haemolytica – Mannheimia haemolytica (bacterial pneumonia)
    Pasteurella – Pasteurella multocida (bacterial pneumonia)
    Sommus – Histophilus somni (pneumonia, arthritis, TEME)
    IBR – Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis, Bovine Herpesvirus 1 (abortion, respiratory disease, conjunctivitis)
    BRSV – Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (respiratory disease)
    PI-3 – Parainfluenza-3 Virus (respiratory disease)
    BVD Type 1 & 2 – Bovine Viral Diarrhea (abortion, respiratory disease, diarrhea)
    Vibrio/Lepto – Vibriosis/Leptospirosis (abortion)
    Branding (2 to 4 months of age)
    Clostridial – Viral Respiratory (IBR, BVD Types 1 & 2, BRSV, PI-3), Bacterial Respiratory (pasteurella, m. haemolytica, h. somni))
    Preconditioning (3 to 4 weeks before weaning)
    Clostridial – Viral Respiratory (IBR, BVD Types 1 & 2, BRSV, PI-3), Bacterial Respiratory (pasteurella, m. haemolytica, h. somni))
    Weaning (6 to 8 months of age)
    Clostridial – Viral Respiratory (IBR, BVD Types 1 & 2, BRSV, PI-3), Bacterial Respiratory (pasteurella, m. haemolytica, h. somni))
    Brucellosis and Vibriosis/Leptospirosis for heifers


    • The vaccine isn’t 100% effective, and the GYA is a significant reservoir for the bacteria in wild populations. The tragedy is it was introduced into wildlife species by introduced cattle long ago and they reinfect domestic animals. Our management of elk by concentrating and feeding large numbers in winter is a recipe for more trouble (read the work of Bruce Smith).

      Here’s the official gov’t. info:

      Click to access bruc-facts.pdf

      Management is complicated, but it’s worth noting that brucellosis is a “one health” concern, since humans and other species (including horses — and by definition wild horses), raising the stakes. It looks once again like a human-origin problem for which all other species are put at risk, and some demonized. Feral hogs are also carriers, and expanding exponentially across our continent, which isn’t getting public opinion backlash of equivalent scale, but should.

      Click to access brucellosis_and_hoghunters.pdf

      MAPS AND HOW WE GOT HERE (hogs will be likely be spreading into wild horse HMAs, especially as climate changes shift temperatures and shorten winters).
      “I’d bet you dollars to doughnuts that most of those hog populations are descended from hogs intentionally released by hunting outfitters.

      Hunting feral hogs — “Russian” or “wild” boar as they are often marketed — holds quite an allure for many hunters who have never really pursued any big game other than deer. On the surface, they also seem like a great moneymaker for a hunting outfitter: It doesn’t cost that much to buy a few hogs, and their rapid breeding rate ensures the hog population quickly grows. … example of the law of unintended consequences.”

      The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection
      Service (APHIS) has been working cooperatively with the livestock industries and State
      animal health authorities to eradicate brucellosis from the United States. As of March 1,
      2002, 48 States have achieved brucellosis-free status with no known infection.
      The only known focus of Brucella abortus infection left in the nation is in bison and elk
      in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA). With respect to this area, APHIS is cooperating
      with State and Federal agencies to implement a bison management plan, in order to
      provide for a free ranging bison herd and to prevent exposure of cattle to potentially
      infected wildlife.

      There has been concern about the presence of brucellosis in the Yellowstone National
      Park (YNP) bison herd since the inception of the Cooperative State-Federal Brucellosis
      Eradication Program in 1934. Until the last few years, the number of infected cattle and
      bison herds in the Nation was so large that efforts were focused in other private and
      public park herds. In addition, YNP officials felt they could effectively manage the
      disease risks with a border control program. Until 1988, the number of bison leaving
      YNP was limited. The few bison that did migrate were either hazed back into the park or
      shot at the border by Park Service, State of Montana personnel, or licensed hunters.
      The long-term objective was to develop a long-range plan for management of the
      Yellowstone bison herd to prevent the transmission of brucellosis from bison to cattle and
      maintain a viable bison herd.

      While USDA is charged with eradicating brucellosis from the United States, it also
      remains committed to maintaining a viable and free-roaming bison herd in YNP. The
      goals of the eventual elimination of brucellosis from the GYA and maintaining a freeroaming
      bison herd have been jointly agreed to in a Memorandum of Understanding
      between the U.S. Department of Interior, the States of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming,
      and USDA. Eliminating brucellosis and managing a free-roaming bison herd at YNP are
      not incompatible goals, and achieving them will require a cooperative effort by all
      involved agencies. The Record of Decision for Final Environmental Impact Statement
      and Bison Management Plan for the State of Montana and Yellowstone National Park
      was signed December 20, 2000. The goal of the bison management plan is to maintain a
      wild, free ranging bison population while minimizing the risk of transmitting brucellosis
      from bison to domestic cattle on public and private lands in Montana adjacent to
      YNP. This plan is a bison management plan, not a brucellosis elimination plan.

      Infected elk were the most probable source of brucellosis infection (fistulous
      withers) in horses in Wyoming.

      Click to access cattle-bison.pdf



    Yellowstone Bison and Brucellosis: Persistent Mythology

    Essentially, the buffalo in Yellowstone are vaccinating themselves for brucellosis, developing an immune response, and clearing the bacteria. There isn’t a single a documented case of brucellosis transmission between buffalo and domestic cattle under natural conditions; ever!
    In Grand Teton National Park, where vaccinated cattle and brucellosis exposed buffalo have been commingling for decades, no transmission has ever occurred. The chances of transmission between wild buffalo and vaccinated domestic cattle have been characterized as “very low.”


    • Maybe true — but look at all the links I provided, all are gov’t. sources which means that is the “official party line” regardless of science or field evidence provided by others. Not saying I agree or disagree, but wanted to post that info after researching the efficacy of the vaccines.

      Like so many other wildlife management matters, what our government is doing often seems at odds with reality, morality, or practicality. Feral hogs seem to be a much larger (and increasing) problem (including capacity to spread brucellosis) but it seems elk and bison are easier targets.


  5. IcySpots, it seems that government agencies would still have to provide documented proof. That’s where the public has to make noise and they have to keep on it. They always hope we will just give up and go away.
    It’s been interesting watching the senate hearings on C-Span…a lot of VERY tired legislators who are definitely hearing from their constituents.


    • It “seems” they would have to do the same for wild horses and burros, right? This quote you posted says it all, for bison and wild horses and burros:

      “That is a value-based question that society needs to answer,” he says. “All wildlife in the United States are public resources. The public needs to weigh in and make sure the leaders in the state of Montana can protect that public resource for the greatest good, for the greatest number of public values. If we want wild bison in modern society, we just need to figure out who and what and how and where. We have the agency expertise at the both the state and federal levels to make all of that happen.”


  6. This is a fairly long in-depth article that covers it from all sides

    From The New Food Economy

    Yellowstone’s last wild buffalo are being slaughtered in a range war pitting ranchers against conservationists (a few excerpts)

    Furthermore, the study’s authors write that buffalo and elk aren’t “sympatric,” or don’t mingle, in the wild. Transmission may happen inside Yellowstone, but probably only because the species are kept in artificially close quarters. As the study’s authors put it: “Any possible role for bison as a reservoir [of brucellosis] may only be relevant at small geographic scales.” Confining bison inside the park lowers the risk that they’ll spread brucellosis to cows directly—but, ironically, that very policy may increase the risk that they’ll infect elk, who spread the disease outside the park.

    I first heard the accusation that brucellosis is a cover for concerns about grazing and land use from Stephany Seay, a volunteer with the Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC), whose volunteers embed with Yellowstone’s roving buffalo the way journalists will with platoons in a combat zone.
    “We run daily field patrols with the buffalo every day, all day long, sometimes into the night. Standing with them on the ground they choose to stand on,” she says. “And when the governments or hunters come to harm them, we are there to document and share our footage and stories and experiences with the media, with the public, with decision makers. And we fight for the buffalo on the ground, in the courts, in the policy arena.”
    From Seay’s perspective, the quota of buffalo is far less than what the park can sustain, and the aggressive push to cull the herd suits the cattle industry.
    “Ultimately, this is a range war, this is a centuries old range war,” she says. “Bison are the native bovine of this country, of this continent, and the cattle industry views them as competitors for grass. They’re worried about the buffalo migrating into Montana, which is their nature—they’re a migratory species. But the industry doesn’t want them eating Montana grass. The more you look at this issue the less it becomes about this smoke screen brucellosis.”
    Ultimately, Wallen says, if the buffalo are going to thrive, they’ll have to be allowed to migrate outside the park. And that’s another way people can make a difference, if they want more buffalo: by letting officials know they’re willing to tolerate the risks.
    “That is a value-based question that society needs to answer,” he says. “All wildlife in the United States are public resources. The public needs to weigh in and make sure the leaders in the state of Montana can protect that public resource for the greatest good, for the greatest number of public values. If we want wild bison in modern society, we just need to figure out who and what and how and where. We have the agency expertise at the both the state and federal levels to make all of that happen.”


  7. Something interesting…notice how many “acting” administrative positions are on this list.
    Hasn’t it been established that an acting director, etc. has no legal/administrative authority?
    Notice something else…this position is vacant,,,Vacant, Deputy Director, Congressional and External Relations

    National Park Service

    Contact Information: Mailing Addresses & Phone Numbers


    Dan Smith, Deputy Director, exercising the authority of the Director of the National Park Service
    Ray Sauvajot, Acting Deputy Director, Operations
    Lena McDowall, Deputy Director, Management and Administration
    Vacant, Deputy Director, Congressional and External Relations
    Chris Powell, Acting Chief of Staff
    Shane Compton, Associate Chief Information Officer
    Jeremy Barnum, Acting Assistant Director, Communications
    Joy Beasley, Acting Associate Director, Cultural Resources, Partnerships and Science
    Tom Medema, Acting Associate Director, Interpretation, Education, and Volunteers
    Melissa Kuckro, Acting Assistant Director, Legislative and Congressional Affairs
    Jennifer Wyse, Acting Associate Director, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science
    Shawn Benge, Associate Director, Park Planning, Facilities, and Lands
    Reggie Chapple, Acting Assistant Director, Partnerships and Civic Engagement
    Tony Nguyen, Associate Director, Workforce and Inclusion
    Vacant, Associate Director, Business Services
    Louis Rowe, Acting Associate Director, Visitor and Resource Protection


Care to make a comment?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.