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Slaughter of Hundreds of Wild Bison Started This Week Just Outside Yellowstone: Over 45,000 Concerned Citizens Urge Governor Bullock to Stop These Senseless Deaths

Slaughter of Hundreds of Wild Bison Started This Week Just Outside Yellowstone:

Over 45,000 Concerned Citizens Urge Governor Bullock to Stop These Senseless Deaths


February 14, 2014

Jonathan Proctor, jproctor@defenders.org; (406) 214-5327

Gardiner, Mont. --Yellowstone National Park has begun to round up and ship wild bison to slaughterhouses as they cross the park’s boundaries in search of lower snow depths outside the Park. On Wednesday, the first shipment of what will ultimately be many truckloads of bison left the Yellowstone National Park’s Stephens Creek facility for transport to a northwest Montana slaughterhouse. Another 26 were shipped to the slaughterhouse on Thursday. This capture and slaughter program, implemented by the National Park Service, is meant to keep the Yellowstone bison population below an arbitrary cap of 3,000.

The tragedy that unfolds almost annually is the result of pressure from the Montana Department of Livestock to stop bison from moving into habitat outside of Yellowstone National Park. Defenders is calling on Governor Steve Bullock to use his authority to both move forward a process to expand the “tolerance zone” outside the Park and to halt this slaughter until this process is completed.  As of today, over 45,000 Defenders members contacted the Governor requesting that he put an end to this program.

Jonathan Proctor, Defenders of Wildlife’s Program Director for the Rockies and Plains issued the following statement:

“Bison are an iconic symbol of the American West, but Montana agency officials continue to block common-sense plans for bison restoration. They continue to manage bison based on the exaggerated fear that bison will threaten livestock in the state. This outdated strategy is based on flawed data, perpetuates conflict and ignores solutions.   

“Today’s slaughter is the latest example of Montana’s failure to manage this wildlife species responsibly. Slaughtering these bison, many of which are free of brucellosis, will have no effect on transmission of this disease to livestock. The truth is, Montana agency officials are using disease as a scapegoat to keep wild bison out of Montana.

“There are much better ways to manage Montana’s wild bison population. Defenders is implementing practical coexistence solutions with landowners around Yellowstone National Park that have proven effective in increasing social tolerance for the species. Montana needs to implement an expanded tolerance zone to increase year round habitat outside the park, a proposal that was rejected by the Montana Board of Livestock but supported by most others. There is no rational need for this slaughter; it is long past time to implement solutions that would provide a new vision for bison in and around Yellowstone National Park.”

Background: In 2000, an agreement between state and federal wildlife management officials arbitrarily capped the number of wild bison in the Yellowstone herd at 3,000 – even though wildlife experts say the area could support as many as 6,000 bison. When Yellowstone’s bison population exceeds this arbitrary number, agency officials ship bison to slaughter as they leave the Park to reduce bison numbers. Solutions to this annual dilemma, including expanding bison tolerance zones outside the park to provide critical winter habitat, or implementing a program to relocate disease-free bison to tribal lands and public lands for bison restoration, continue to be blocked by Montana agency officials.

For years, Montana’s state agencies have insisted upon this “strategy” to exterminate wild bison, erroneously claiming that reducing bison numbers will reduce the spread of “brucellosis,” a bacterial disease, to livestock. However, every single case of brucellosis transmission from wildlife to cattle in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho over the past several years has been traced to elk, not bison. Moreover, under the latest version of this extermination plan, brucellosis-free bison will be sent to slaughter too.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.