Animal Writes
4 March 2001 Issue
DOL Hazes With Helicopter

from Buffalo Field Campaign - [email protected] 

The Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) fired cracker rounds from a helicopter today to haze fourteen bull bison along the Madison River. The helicopter proceeded to haze the bison inside of Yellowstone National Park and flew as low as 20 feet over the wildlife rich area. Later, the helicopter
hazed seven bulls in the Duck Creek area, six of which were already inside of the Park. The DOL helicopter was assisted by nine agents on snowmobiles and seven law enforcement agents from Gallatin County, Montana Highway Patrol, and the National Park Service.

BFC volunteer Megan Fishback said of today's operation, "There is absolutely no reason to haze bison in this area as it is never used for cattle grazing and is prime wildlife habitat. By flying a helicopter at low altitudes over the Park, they have severely threatened wildlife's chances of surviving the winter."

Buffalo Field Campaign is opposed to the repeated and unnecessary hazing of these animals, and remains adamant that bison be granted the same rights as other wildlife. BFC volunteers have observed that bison hazed back to the park during past DOL operations quickly return to the same area. Each
hazing action further depletes the bison's winter energy reserves.

DOL contends that cattle permitted to graze on public lands during summer months are at risk of contracting the disease brucellosis and thus causing the state to lose its brucellosis-free status. However, Montana's position is neither supported by science nor endorsed by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the federal body responsible for maintaining the state's brucellosis-free status. The summer grazing on Horse Butte amounts to 172 cow/calf pairs. This grazing allotment brings in less than $800 to the U.S. Treasury.

"This is a typical example of DOL wasting taxpayer dollars for no reason. These bison pose absolutely no threat to anyone, yet they are willing to spend thousands of dollars in a futile attempt to keep them inside of Yellowstone," said BFC spokesperson Peter Leusch

BFC, Cold Mountain, Cold Rivers, and the Ecology Center Inc. have filed a lawsuit claiming that DOL's Annual Operating Plan is illegal because it violates the requirements for pre-monitoring of bald eagles. The Annual Operating Plan must minimize harm to bald eagles nesting and foraging along the Madison, Hebgen Lake, and Horse Butte. Since pre-monitoring was not done, the agencies have no baseline data to determine the impacts of their actions on the bald eagle population.

According to Peter Leusch, "Operations like today's are highly stressful on eagles, and can cause reproductive failure. DOL and the other agencies involved obviously have no regard for an endangered national symbol."


The Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) press release of 2/7/01 contains factual errors that need to be addressed. DOL's claims on the number of bison that they have "successfully" hazed are highly inflated and their accusation that protesters have caused the failure of recent operations is unfounded.

Hazing bison back into Yellowstone during winter is a completely futile effort, and has been known to be so for years. While snow remains in the park, bison will immediately return to the area they were hazed from. In many cases, DOL repeatedly hazes a group of animals, seriously threatening their ability to survive the winter by depleting fat reserves. DOL claims that they have successfully hazed these animals, i.e. if they haze 10 bison for 5 days, they claim to have hazed 50 bison back to the Park. All of the bison that DOL has hazed this season are currently outside of Yellowstone.

The federal plan for bison management describes in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) the negative effects which hazing has on wild animals. "Repeated hazing in early winter may produce weight loss and poor body condition, which decreases the animal's ability to endure the remaining
winter" (FEIS, Volume I, page 762).

According to BFC spokesperson Peter Leusch, "Elk, deer, moose, and endangered bald eagles and gray wolves are all threatened when DOL agents conduct a bison hazing operation. By continually running snowmobiles over these areas, DOL makes it impossible for ungulates to get through the compacted snow to forage."

DOL's claims that their recent hazing operations have failed because of actions by protesters are not backed by any evidence. DOL's hazing operations along the Madison river this winter have failed because low snow levels have allowed the bison to outrun the snowmobiles and lose the DOL in the forest along the river. During the winter of 2000, DOL failed on five separate operations to haze one bull back to Yellowstone. There is absolutely no reason to haze bison in this area as it is never used for cattle grazing and is prime wildlife habitat.

DOL says that it is following a management plan that "includes actions to protect private property, reduce the risk of brucellosis from bison to cattle, and maintain a viable, free ranging population of Yellowstone Bison."

In reference to the management plan, Peter Leusch states, "The actions that they are taking will accomplish none of their objectives, and will cost the American taxpayer $45 million. This is a prime example of big government bureaucracy at its worst.

Buffalo Field Campaign
(formerly Buffalo Nations)
PO Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
406-646-0070 phone
406-646-0071 fax
[email protected]

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