As you read this, a group of formerly free-living bison are trapped and await their fate at the hands of ranchers' protectors in the U.S. government. Al Nash, spokesperson for Yellowstone National Park, has just told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that the park will announce what will be done with some of these bison by the end of this week. [ See article. ]
For years, the Forest Service and National Park Service in collaboration with the state of Montana have been (mis)managing bison at the behest of ranchers.
The American plains bison (also known as the American buffalo, though unrelated to the true buffalo) are the largest land mammals on the continent. Before 1850, tens of millions roamed the plains; more bison than humans lived in North America.
But with the movement of settlers into the west, the bison were nearly wiped out. In the 1900s a small group was placed under government protection in Yellowstone Park, where today fewer than 3,000 bison live. Everywhere else, ranchers remain a threat, and yet some animal-advocacy groups have imposed experimental contraceptives on bison in even further bids to ("humanely") control them.
The Current Emergency
A group of free-living bison in Yellowstone National Park were hazed into capture by the Park Service, according to the Buffalo Field Group, on the 4th of January 2011. The public was told that these animals would be tested for disease, collared, and tagged as part of a conservation plan to temporarily relocate 25 of the bison to Gallatin National Forest (one of them has since been shot). And the public was promised that the remaining 44 individuals now penned would be released back into Yellowstone.
The National Park Service is now considering slaughtering any of the bison who test positive for exposure to brucellosis. It's a disease that can cause spontaneous abortion, but wild bison are not threatened by it. They develop an immunity after exposure, and they don't transmit this disease either to cattle or to humans.
Ranchers who graze domestic animals in areas where free-living bison roam want the bison gone nevertheless, and are reluctant to pay the cost of immunizing their cattle. They see the roundups and the killing of free-living animals at taxpayers' expense as a benefit to them.
What You Can Do
We can all take action today to help free the 44 bison currently captive in Yellowstone's Stephens Creek buffalo trap. Also ask that the 24 who were brought to Gallatin National Forest be allowed to return to their habitat and their autonomy restored.
Press for the keeping of Yellowstone's promise to restore these animals to their lives and freedom. The government must resist industry pressure. Press them to put the autonomy of bison first.
Time is of the essence.
Â· Contact Yellowstone's Acting Superintendent Colin Campbell today at 307-344-2003 or via e-mail.
Â· Contact Al Nash, Chief of Public Affairs at Yellowstone National Park, at 307-344-2010 or via e-mail.
For background of the history of assaults on bison, please see "Bison at the Edge" by Denise Boggs: