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.

Stop Slaughter of Yellowstone Bison

by GEORGE WUERTHNER as published on the Billings Gazette

“Again, the Feds team up with Welfare Ranchers to destroy and slaughter yet another species of America’s wild four legged National Heritage” ~ R.T.

bison-slaughter-yellowstoneThe proposal to butcher another 900-1,000 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 they tolerate this annual slaughter to go on. It also exhibits poor judgement on the part of hunters, tribal members, and others who participate or sanction this crime against nature and our national patrimony.

Yellowstone’s bison herd is one of the few bison herds in the country free of cattle genes, and one of the only bison herds that have remained continuously wild. There is genuine aesthetic and ecological value in wildness. But by slaughtering Yellowstone’s bison (or to use the clinically sanitized term “culling”), we are destroying Yellowstone’s wild bison.

Furthermore, the annual removal of bison has real ecological consequences for other wildlife basically taking food out of the mouths of wolves, grizzlies, coyotes, ravens, magpies and other animals that kill or scavenge bison.

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. Last year, for instance, 600 bison were killed.

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 slaughtered 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.

For transmission to occur, a bison with active bacteria would have to abort her fetus. Then cattle would have to lick the aborted fetus or its fluid during the short time when the bacteria is still alive and before scavengers like coyotes, ravens and magpies find the dead fetus and consume it. Bison bulls and calves are regularly killed, demonstrating the fraudulent reasoning behind the bison slaughter.

Cattle can be vaccinated against the disease, and when combined with other strategies like preventing the overlap of bison and cattle use of pastures, the risk can be contained and is negligible.

What the livestock industry really fears is the spread of bison on public lands. Bison and cattle consume nearly the same foods. What the livestock industry wants to avoid is a debate over whether public bison or private cattle should get preferential access to public lands forage.

The other reason is that the livestock industry wants domination over our public wildlife. The control they exert over bison is part of a larger goal of controlling other wildlife species, including elk.

Killing Yellowstone’s bison is artificially skewing the bison herd to a younger age, and removing the natural processes of predation, starvation, and other factors that normally affect these animals.

The state of Montana is particularly culpable in the continued destruction of the park’s wild bison. The state has outlawed the shipping of live bison outside of a small zone except for transfer to slaughterhouses. This policy makes it impossible to relocate bison to other suitable public lands in Montana or to Indian reservations that want to start bison herds of their own.

Yellowstone’s wild bison must be recognized as a valued wildlife animal in Montana and throughout the West. Its unique genetic heritage is worthy of protection. We have a moral obligation to enhance and expand Yellowstone’s bison to the American West.

 George Wuerthner is an ecologist and author of 38 books, including three on Yellowstone National Park. He lives in Livingston and Oregon.


BLM Wild Horse Petting Zoo

While we can be thankful that Rich and Jana Wilson of the Deerwood Ranch seem to be kind, to genuinely like the horses on their private property, and to make an effort to give many tours to visitors – and don’t have $1,200 a night tipis on their property, like the “ranching family” in Wells, NV (AKA Madeleine Pickens), don’t forget that these “eco-sanctuaries” mean the BLM has placed wild horses on PRIVATE PROPERTY instead of leaving the wild horses on their federally protected public lands. –  Debbie


Rancher offers sanctuary to wild horses

(Leah Millis/Casper Star-Tribune)

Rich Wilson gives a wild horse a scratch while one of his dogs watches from the drivers seat of his UTV on July 10 at the Deerwood Ranch outside of Laramie. The ranch is the first wild horse ecosanctuary on private land and it was started by the BLM last October. Currently there are 228 horses living on the ranch of 4,700 acres. Aside from caring for the horses, the Wilsons also offer tours to people from the public five days a week.

By KYLE ROERINK Casper Star-Tribune

Rich Wilson loves to personify animal behavior.

He pointed to a band of wild horses chewing on grass at the Deerwood Ranch, his family-owned plot of bucolic pastures, streams and mountains that runs for 4,700 acres in Centennial.

“They’re having coffee,” he said. “They’re probably saying to each other, ‘We had the best grass lunch near the mountain yesterday. Let’s go again today.’”

Wilson drove around his ranch on a four-wheeler Wednesday with an immovable smile. He parked his off-road vehicle 30 yards away from where the horses were grazing. Within seconds they were paying him a visit.

He spotted Curly, a horse whose dreadlocked mane weaved around his neck.

Then he spotted Slingshot, a gelding whose brown hair draws the shape of the toy on his white face.

After that there were Mutt and Jeff.

“They haven’t been apart since they came here, and they probably won’t separate until they die,” he said.

The BLM warned Wilson and his wife, Jana, to not get too close to the animals. But human nature is a formidable opponent.

“We sit out there for hours and just watch them,” she said.

There were grunts, snorts and neighs echoing in the early morning.  The horses seemed just as excited as Wilson to bid each other a good day.

Wilson stuck out his hand and put his index finger in a horse’s mouth.

“Let me see your smile,” he said to the feral animal.  In “Mr. Ed” fashion, the brawny gelding showed off his choppers.

The Bureau of Land Management designated the Deerwood Ranch the nation’s first ecosanctuary for wild horses in October 2012. The BLM brought 228 horses from 16 holding pastures across the state in the agency’s continued effort to mend its wild-horse program. The agency is searching for private landowners to take on the task of caring for the animals at a time when space on federal land is tight and population control is imperative.

There are only male horses at Deerwood Ranch. A recent study of the nation’s wild horse population by the National Academy of Sciences highlighted the need to invest in widespread fertility control and called for letting nature cull the growing populations that are now housed in BLM holding pastures around the country.

Members of Congress have expressed concern for the population and recently wrote Interior Secretary Sally Jewell a letter asking her to help fix the nation’s wild-horse program.

The Wilson family may be the first to house a population of the wild geldings, but they know they won’t be the last.

The BLM is working with a ranching family in Wells, Nevada, to house its second wild-horse ecosanctuary in the nation and has a program, “Save America’s Mustangs,” to help control the problem.

The BLM asked the Wilsons to do two things as stewards of the horses: grow grass for the equines and offer tours to the public. The hospitality industry is nothing new for the family. They rent out a cabin on their land and own a gift shop, The Country Junction, near their ranch.

Travelers stop by every week to see the horses. People show up in the morning and at dinnertime to see the horses. There are scheduled tours on weekends. But Jana never turns people away. Twenty-five people showed up on July 5 to take a hayride. A family from Massachusetts traveling to Yellowstone National Park stopped at the ranch last week and a couple from Switzerland visited the ranch to see the horses.

“When we go to the pastures to see the horses, the travelers always ask, ‘Can we stay out a little longer?’” Rich said.

The land is a utopia for horses and humans alike. The untamed nature of the animals and the terrain provides a serene throwback to the days when homesteaders and American Indians had control of the land.

There are rocks for the animals to wear down their hooves, mountains to roam in and — at least this year — plenty of water.

The Wilsons aren’t required to do anything else to care for the animals.

The horses don’t want them to do anything else either, Jana said

“During a winter snowstorm we went out and fed them hay,” Jana said. “Only half of them ate it. The others were happy foraging for themselves.”

The agency pays the Wilsons a grazing fee per horse for using the land. More horses could come in the future, but the volatile and unpredictable rainfall in the West makes it tough to foresee if the land can withstand more wild horses.

“Every rancher wishes he had a crystal ball,” Rich said. “Two years ago we were flooding, last year we had no water and this year we are in between. You never can tell.”

Rich said there’s a misconception about what he does because he receives federal money.

“I can’t buy a yacht. I can’t buy alcohol,” he said. “The government makes sure I spend it on what it wants me to spend it on.”

The Wilsons were in the cattle business before getting the horses. They took out the cattle control panels, put in new fence and removed the cattle guards from their land.

They love the new job.

“Every day we learn something new,” Wilson said.

One horse came over to Wilson’s four-wheeler late in the morning. It licked the windshield. Another one went into the vehicle’s bed to sniff one of the family dogs.

The dog jerked and barked. The horse ran away.

“You feel at ease out here,” Wilson said. “But they are wild. You got to keep your guard up.”

Good News for Montana’s Bison

Update from Western Watersheds Project

A Victory that all Wild Animal Advocates can Cheer

An open letter from Summer Nelson, Montana Director;

Yellowstone Bison © Ken Cole

Yellowstone Bison © Ken Cole


Bison gained ground in Montana yesterday when a state district court judge ruled in favor of allowing them room to roam out of Yellowstone National Park during winter months.

Western Watersheds Project and Buffalo Field Campaign intervened in a lawsuit on behalf of the State of Montana to defend wild bison against a litany of claims raised by the Park County Stockgrowers’ Association, the Montana Farm Bureau Federation, and Park County. The livestock interests sued state agencies involved in bison management after the state allowed bison migration into the Gardiner Basin north of Yellowstone National Park in spring of 2011.  Western Watersheds Project and other bison advocates welcomed the change as an important step in bison recovery because the bison naturally attempt to access the habitat in the Gardiner Basin, and scientists have indicated it is critical to the population’s long-term survival.

I was fortunate enough to witness the bison re-inhabiting the Gardiner Basin when I visited that spring to attend a public meeting about the proposed expansion area. It was such a treat to revel in the presence of the native bison without having to also witness the animals being harassed by agents with horses, helicopters, ATVs or snowmobiles!

Shortly after the state announced it would agree to allow bison to regularly migrate to and inhabit the Gardiner Basin, the livestock interests filed lawsuits challenging Montana’s authority to allow bison to exist in the state. Their claims ran the gamut of legal imagination, and each and every one was struck down in yesterday’s ruling. The court declared the state had acted within its authority to allow bison to migrate to their native habitat, and that living with wildlife like bison is simply part of living in a state like Montana.

Western Watersheds Project and Buffalo Field Campaign were jointly represented by Western Watersheds Project attorneys, including myself, and private attorney (and long-time bison supporter) Ted Fellman. Together, we were able to present the testimony of two Gardiner Basin residents who value and support the presence of wild bison in the place they call home.  Their voices were an important antidote to the complaints of the vocal minority that was and is the Stockgrowers’ Association and Montana Farm Bureau. Conservation groups Bear Creek Council, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and Natural Resources Defense Council were also intervenors and were represented by Earthjustice, providing a strong show of support for the state’s position.

Thanks to everyone who helped America’s wild bison have more room to roam in winter!





Summer Nelson
Montana Director

Embattled Montana Gov sticks Bloodied Foot in Mouth Again

Schweitzer: “No governor in Montana history has sent more bison to slaughter than this governor.

Opinion by R.T. Fitch, author of “Straight from the Horse’s Heart

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer endorses both horse and bison slaughter

HOUSTON (SFHH) – Montana’s Governor Brian Schweitzer garnered international notoriety, earlier this year, by allowing a controversial bill to linger on his desk and become law while he partied at the Kentucky Derby.  Ironically; that bill, sponsored  by Montana Rep. “Red” Ed Butcher, would allow for the construction of horse slaughter plants in that state.  After an earlier veto over verbiage the state Legislators sent the bill straight back to the Governor without modifications.  Instead of defending his earlier stance Schweitzer elected the coward’s way out and turned inaction into action by letting it become law through ignoring it, while sipping on Mint Juleps.

It has come to light that America’s wild and domestic horses are not the only creatures that Schweitzer enjoys putting a bloody axe to; apparently native Bison are also on his chopping block.

In a recent address to the Montana Stockgrowers Association Schweitzer proudly proclaimed before God and country that “No governor in Montana history has sent more bison to slaughter than this governor”.  Schweitzer was, of course, referring to our native bison on public land i.e. Yellowstone National Park.

It appears that the Gov has a thirst for blood that just the horses alone cannot quench.  Maybe we should give Schweitzer a point or two for slaughter diversity as he may need all the help he can get because his wishy-washy stance has managed to anger both sides of the political aisle. The failing Governor now finds himself being squeezed from every direction.

One inflamed group’s membership extends beyond Montana’s state boarders and encompasses the international community.   This concerned body is seething over Schweitzer’s spineless manner of endorsing “Red” Butcher’s bogus bill to build slaughter plants in Montana by the Communist Chinese and, likewise, flies in the face of Federal law. Adding injury to insult, Schweitzer stood silent while the Bureau of Land Management decimated Montana’s Pryor Mountain Wild Horse herd this past Labor Day weekend.  Hundreds of calls and letters to stop the inhumane roundup went unanswered; which seems to be the standard operating procedure for this current administration.

Meanwhile, the other side of the coin wants Schweitzer’s hide over his total failure to support the livestock industry and his continuing campaign to bloody Montana’s other major industry, tourism.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer has failed the good people, the once plentiful wildlife and the global perception of Montana.  Formerly viewed as the last stronghold of the wild American frontier the beleaguered state is now on the vacationing blacklist of tourists from Spuds, Florida to Vic, Spain.  The loss of tourist dollars is the direct result of the actions, or lack of action, of a Governor and State Legislators who have lost their vision and no longer support the will of their constituents.

Perhaps plummeting polls, droves of negative feedback and the focus of international disdain may drive the lost officials to relocate their collective moral compasses; if not, they may find themselves riding the last horse out of town come election day, that is if there are any horses left to ride.

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