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.

Hundreds of Bison Sent to Slaughter Over Tribes’ Objections

Source: Multiple

Tribal Chairman Floyd Azure said state and federal officials “slapped the Fort Peck tribes in the face” by not using the facility.

Yellowstone National Park on Wednesday started shipping hundreds of wild bison to slaughter for disease control, as a quarantine facility on a Montana Indian reservation that could help spare many of the animals sat empty due to a political dispute.

Fifteen female bison initially slated for quarantine on the Fort Peck Reservation were instead loaded onto trailers near the town of a Gardiner, Montana and sent to slaughter. Hundreds more will be shipped in coming days and weeks, park officials said.

More than 400 bison, also known as buffalo, have been captured this winter attempting to migrate out of the snow-covered park to lower elevations in Montana in search of food. More animals are expected to be captured and shipped to slaughter through March.

Fort Peck’s Assiniboine and Sioux tribes built their quarantine facility to house up to 300 animals in hopes of using it to establish new herds across the U.S with Yellowstone’s genetically pure bison.

Tribal Chairman Floyd Azure said state and federal officials “slapped the Fort Peck tribes in the face” by not using the facility.

“They knew we were building a quarantine facility. A lot of money and time and effort were involved in this and all of a sudden they throw a monkey wrench in it,” Azure said.

Montana livestock officials and federal animal health agents oppose transferring bison to the quarantine site because the animals have not been certified to be free of brucellosis, a disease that can cause animals to abort their young. Ranchers in the state fear bison could transmit the disease to cattle and would pose competition for grazing space on public lands.

No transmissions of the disease from wild bison to cattle have been documented.

The park and state severely limit bison migrations into Montana under a 2000 agreement intended to guard against such transmissions.

The agreement set a population goal of 3,000 bison inside the park.

There were an estimated 5,500 animals at last count. To reduce that number, park officials want to kill up to 1,300 bison this winter through a combination of slaughter and public hunting.

A Democratic lawmaker from Missoula introduced a bill Wednesday to the Montana Legislature to change a law that calls for the state veterinarian to certify bison as brucellosis free before the animals can be transferred to tribes. Rep. Willis Curdy, whose family runs a cattle operation in western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, said he understands the ranching industry’s worries about brucellosis but thinks the tribes’ wishes deserve fair consideration.

“The state of Montana is continually getting very bad press for its policy in terms of the slaughters,” Curdy said. “We need to make a move in a positive direction, not only for the tribes but also for the bison.”

Hunters in Montana have shot more than 300 bison so far this winter. Meat from slaughtered animals is distributed to American Indian tribes. Many tribes historically relied on bison for food, clothing and other needs until the species was driven to near-extinction during the settlement of the U.S. West in the late 1800s.

Gov. Steve Bullock temporarily halted the park’s slaughter plans last month after Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk said 40 animals once slated for the quarantine would be killed to make room in corrals used to hold migrating bison.

Bullock lifted the ban after the park, state and U.S. Department of Agriculture reached a deal that would spare 25 bull bison for future shipment to Fort Peck, once they undergo a lengthy quarantine at a U.S. Department of Agriculture facility just north of the park in Corwin Springs, Montana. That’s now down to 24 animals after one of the bulls was shot Tuesday when he broke his leg inside the park’s corrals.

To make room for the animals, federal officials will send to slaughter 20 Yellowstone bison that took part in a government research program at Corwin Springs, said Lyndsay Cole, a spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Bullock spokeswoman Ronja Abel said state officials continue to work toward a long-term solution to the issue. She declined to say if that could include future use of Fort Peck’s quarantine.

Yellowstone spokeswoman Morgan Warthin said the park still wants to transfer bison to the tribes’ quarantine and plans future negotiations to make that happen.

“The ultimate goal is to reduce the amount of slaughter as a first step toward conservation,” Warthin said.

Yellowstone Sends 100 Wild Buffalo to Slaughter

Source: Story by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign as published on  EcoWatch.com

“Granted, this report is not about wild horses and burros but it is a cookie-cutter observation from our own experiences with the cruelty and mismanagement of rouge federal agencies that should be protecting our natural wildlife versus managing it/them into extinction.  Caution: this report will stir emotion and illicit the need for not only tissues but the revitalized desire to change the game during elections this upcoming November.  We WILL instill true change!!!” ~ R.T.


“Buffalo were slamming against the walls, ramming into each other and bellowing in fear or to find family members…”

Addressing our relationship with the buffalo, Buffalo Field Campaign co-founder Lakota Elder Rosalie Littler Thunder once said, “human beings have forgotten their purpose.” Indeed, those who work for Yellowstone National Park have certainly forgotten theirs: to preserve [wild buffalo], unimpaired, for present and future generations.”

Inside Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek bison trap. Photo credit: Stephany Seay / Buffalo Field Campaign

One hundred and fifty of America’s last wild buffalo were certainly “impaired” this week, having endured the hells of Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek capture facility. For some, this nightmare journey is still underway.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, in response to a public access lawsuit, Yellowstone National Park granted a media tour of their Stephens Creek trap. Mike Mease and I attended on behalf of the Buffalo Field Campaign. What we saw will give us nightmares, but it is critical for us to be here to get a brief glimpse of what goes on in this area Yellowstone hides from the public.

Captive buffalo were run through the gauntlet of a fortified livestock corral, “worked” in a squeeze chute called the “Silencer,” where their blood was drawn, their teeth were checked for age and where they were weighed, tagged and “released” to flee down a long, dusty corridor where they were separated by age and sex and forever torn from their families. As you read this they are in the process of being shipped to slaughter.

Tuesday morning, beginning at the break of dawn, 75 frightened and confused wild buffalo were run through this house of horrors; early Wednesday morning 30 female buffalo from this group were crammed onto two livestock trailers hired by the InterTribal Buffalo Council and shipped to the slaughterhouse. Later that same morning, the remaining 75 buffalo endured the same mistreatment. On Thursday morning, 63 more buffalo went to slaughter, with another 75 calves and yearlings are being held “just in case” Yellowstone’s 50 bison quarantine plan is approved.

The noise in the trap was deafening. Buffalo were slamming against the walls, ramming into each other and bellowing in fear or to find family members. The sounds they made with their voices and their bodies took over everything. They were crammed into the trap’s “bull pen,” where park wranglers on catwalks—silent for the media tour, but normally “yipping” and hollering—jabbed and prodded them from above, forcing them to move to desired locations and where pushed into “the Silencer.”

This squeeze chute is Yellowstone’s new machine which they claim to be more humane, but tell that to the wee calf we saw who had both of her horns broken off in that “kinder, gentler” apparatus. Every buffalo put up the fight of their lives, like the warriors they are. The little calves gave extra effort to escape with tenacious determination. They would jump, buck, thrust, kick and rear up, trying everything they could to break free. But they can’t. Sometimes they would jump too far, too fast and the squeeze chute would close on their mid section or their horns. They were so scared and tried so hard to get out. Their tails were curled into “nines”—the most unmistakable sign that a buffalo is in serious distress.

From the squeeze chute, they were funneled down a corridor and into a sorting pen where they joined others of the same age and/or sex. During the media tour, we were only allowed up on the catwalks one at a time, briefly. We were only allowed to see into two of the sorting pens, though there were many more. Of the two we saw, the buffalo were looking up at us, as if asking why? What did I do wrong? Where’s my mom? Where’s my baby?

Through tears and promises, Mike and I talked to them. We told them we loved them, that not all humans are so mindless and cruel, that we and many others are fighting and praying for them. It was awful. They were banging around, running in circles, standing there looking forlorn. All we could do for them was document, promise their story would be told in our never-ending effort to cease this slaughter once and for all.

Our hearts are bruised and broken and what little we were allowed to see showed how important it is for us to get full access. This media tour was a token gesture, a mockery of real access.

To make a false impression on the media and members of the public, the park service trap wanglers tapered their vulgar behavior, which we know from years of viewing and hearing activities at the trap from over a mile away is thick with cowboy culture. The park rangers, biologists and other employees hid their humanity. The buffalo were just objects moving through a process. They showed neither emotion, relationship with the buffalo, nor remorse for the atrocities they were committing.

And how could they? If they let themselves feel, they would not be able to do what they do to these sacred beings. It was a well-oiled government buffalo slaughtering machine. What we were shown was not the truth of how these capture operations take place when out of public view. They had their behavior in check as they put on a show for the media. But the buffalo are honest. They were the only ones telling the truth as the park service shelved compassion and spun their lies to serve industry and intolerance. The audio coming from the buffalo, imprisoned and violated in the trap, was the stuff of nightmares. No matter how well park employees talk themselves into thinking what they are doing is beneficial, the buffalo tell a different truth. Their lives are as important to them as yours or mine is to us.

We will be haunted forever by this experience, but our pain is nothing compared to what the buffalo are going through. There is no such thing as “humanely” trapping, tormenting, tearing families apart and shipping buffalo to slaughter. Science does not supports this. Public opinion doesn’t support this. The park’s own mission and mandate runs contrary to these cruel and unnecessary actions.

But this will not last. The trap walls will come down.

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