WEST YELLOWSTONE, MONTANA. The Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) conducted a massive hazing operation today of approximately 250 wild Yellowstone bison along public lands just outside the western boundary of Yellowstone National Park. The Yellowstone bison herd is the last continuously wild herd in the United States. Genetically and behaviorally unique, the Yellowstone herd currently numbers fewer than 3,600 individuals.
The hazing operation runs counter to adaptations made to the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) in November 2006, which were supposed to adjust bison management operations. According to the Adjustments to 2006-2007 IBMP Operating Procedures memorandum, the agencies agreed that "based upon collective evaluation of prevailing management activities and consideration of the IBMP objectives, the partner agencies have agreed to incorporate the following into the 2006-2007 IBMP Operating Procedures:
1. Strategic Hazing - Bison outside the park between November 1 and May 15 that are subject to hazing under the IBMP could be hazed away from higher risk areas towards area(s) of lower risk outside the park. The Montana State Veterinarian will retain jurisdiction and discretion to implement strategic hazing outside the park."
2. Tolerance of Bull Bison - In recognition of guidelines to implement the Montana bison hunt, bull bison (single to small groups) outside the park between November 1 to May 15 that are otherwise subject to hazing or removal under the IBMP, could be tolerated if deemed of low risk to disease transmission and public property safety. The Montana State Veterinarian will retain jurisdiction and discretion to implement such tolerance of bull bison outside the park."
The adaptations were agreed upon, signed, and publicized by the following agencies: Becki Heath, Forest Supervisor, USFS, Gallatin National Forest; Jerry Diemer, Associate Regional Director, USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; Pat Flowers, Regional Supervisor, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks; Tom Linfield, [former] State Veterinarian, Montana Department of Livestock; Suzanne Lewis, Superintendent, Yellowstone National Park.
"According to the adaptive changes, these buffalo should have been left alone," said Stephany Seay, spokesperson for Buffalo Field Campaign. "The vast majority of the buffalo harassed today were on Gallatin National Forest land, there are no cattle within 40 miles of here, and bulls were purposefully sought out and hazed by DOL agents."
The Department of Livestock's agent in charge of field operations, Rob Tierney, made it clear that he was not familiar with the specifics of the agreement or its timelines. When asked why DOL was not implementing the changes he said that the agreement only applied to bull bison. Today's hazing operation took place a full month and five days earlier than specified in the IBMP agreement, which allows for the adaptive changes until May 15.
"They're hazing bison off of and across National Forest land where cattle never graze. What could be more 'low risk' than that?" asked BFC Project Director Dan Brister. "What is the point of having an agreement if Montana's State Veterinarian refuses to apply that agreement and is given full discretion to do so?"
There has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting the European livestock disease brucellosis to livestock, even prior to implementation of Interagency Bison Management Plan.
The hazing operation interrupts the bison's annual spring migration, when bison must cross Highway 191 to reach their calving grounds on the Horse Butte Peninsula. Buffalo Field Campaign facilitates safe highway crossings for bison and warns motorists of their presence on the road.
"The bison know where they need to be, and as soon as the agents leave they will turn around and cross highway 191 on their way back to Horse Butte," said BFC Campaign Coordinator Mike Mease. "By repeatedly hazing the buffalo before they are ready to return to the Park on their own, the DOL is putting both motorists and bison in unnecessary danger."
American Bison once spanned the continent, numbering between 30 and 50 million. The Yellowstone bison are genetically unique and are America's only continuously wild herd, numbering fewer than 3,600 animals, .01 percent of the bison's former population.
1,912 bison have been killed since 2000 under the Interagency Bison Management Plan. Last winter Federal and State agencies killed or authorized the killing of more than 1,010 bison. So far this winter two bison were captured and sent to slaughter by Montana Department of Livestock agents and hunters have killed 58.
Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) is the only group working in the field, every day, to stop the slaughter of the wild Yellowstone buffalo. Volunteers defend the buffalo and their native habitat and advocate for their lasting protection. BFC has proposed real alternatives to the current mismanagement of Yellowstone bison that can be viewed at http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/solutions05.html .
For more information, video clips and photos visit: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org .
Media & Outreach
Buffalo Field Campaign
P.O. Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT 59758