It's not rocket science to figure out that this is a scheme crafted by livestock interests to prevent the establishment of a resident herd of wild buffalo in Montana. If the buffalo are to survive and to thrive we must abolish the Interagency Bison Management Plan and the law that gives the Montana Department of Livestock authority over these ancient beings. Doing so rests in all of our hands.
Before this year's killing began, the wild buffalo population was estimated at 4,600. This is a very small number for an animal that once numbered in the tens of millions. Migratory bison are ecologically extinct, and current actions through capture, slaughter, hunting, and research have now literally decimated these last wild herds. The current death toll for this winter stands at 582 buffalo, which may be even higher by the time you receive this email. The agencies implementing the Interagency Bison Management Plan have nearly reached their politically-derived quota of 600 wild buffalo.
Yellowstone's Stephens Creek buffalo trap is now empty. At least 160 wild buffalo were captured a week ago Friday, bringing the total number captured this winter to at least 450. This is an estimate, as the seven-mile closure around the trap makes it impossible for BFC to get an accurate count. Yellowstone has not told the public how many buffalo they have captured. We continue to request media tours of the trap but are continually ignored. Yellowstone's public information officer told us on Tuesday that the Park "is choosing this year to focus on the stated [IBMP] goal of population reduction," which means we are only going to be told how many buffalo have been shipped to slaughter, and only if we call them repeatedly. Bison advocates aren't the only ones upset by this lack of transparency; reporters are taken aback by it as well. While we have been getting some information, Yellowstone still has not issued a single press release. Superintendent Dan Wenk is trying to set an unacceptable precedent by not publicly disclosing the Park's shameful actions.
Last Thursday and Friday, then again this Wednesday and Thursday, more buffalo were shipped to slaughter facilities by the InterTribal Buffalo Council (ITBC) and the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes (CSKT). Still others were shipped to APHIS research facilities. On Thursday, shipments were stalled due to the courageous action of Comfrey Jacobs (see above). The Nez Perce tribe has recently signed a slaughter agreement, though they have yet to take buffalo to slaughter. It is important to note that within the Nez Perce tribe--as within the CSKT and ITBC member tribes--many tribal members are upset about their governments and boards entering into these slaughter agreements with the National Park Service.
Yellowstone's chief scientist told us just today how many buffalo were shipped this week. And we now know that a total of 318 buffalo have been sent to slaughter and research: 157 went to slaughter by the ITBC, 101 went to slaughter by the CSKT, and 60 went to APHIS for use in research. The Stephens Creek buffalo trap is empty. With our estimate of 460 captured, and a total of 318 buffalo being killed or removed, we asked Yellowstone if they had released any, and they said that buffalo that did not meet certain age and sex requirements were released. Yellowstone says they currently do not have plans to capture more buffalo, but that could change. Patrols in Gardiner report that the hundreds of buffalo that were in the Gardiner Basin buffalo have turned south, now moving a little deeper into Yellowstone.
Perfectly formed and only six weeks away from being born, a buffalo calf, still attached to the womb, is discarded in his mother's gut pile, left by Treaty hunters. Adult female buffalo are taking the brunt of the killing through hunting and slaughter. BFC photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger view.
In addition to the hundreds of buffalo being slaughtered from within Yellowstone, dozens are being killed by tribal hunters when they attempt to migrate out. While the tribes are officially hunting under their treaty rights, they are being forced by the US and Montana governments to conduct their hunt at the most inhumane time possible.
With calving season just six weeks away, the hunt is in full swing. BFC patrols have found fully formed buffalo fetuses discarded in the gut piles of their mothers. This is the worst possible time of year to hunt any animal, and there is no justification for killing pregnant buffalo so close to parturition.
Currently, bison are only "tolerated" in Montana at the times of year they can be killed by hunters. Because hunting is prohibited within Yellowstone and because the heaviest migrations occur in late winter and early spring, tribal hunts tend to be focused on this time of year.
After learning about the buffalo fetuses being discarded on the landscape by hunters, Jimmy St. Goddard of the Blackfeet Confederacy brought his family to the Gardiner Basin in hopes of reaching an accord with the hunters. As a tribal hunting party was shooting into a group of buffalo Jimmy called out to them to stop. He asked them to stop killing the mothers who were carrying babies, and to stop allowing the U.S. government to lie to them. The hunters shouted that they have a treaty right to be there, and Jimmy agreed. He reminded them that the Blackfeet do as well, but that they chose not to exercise that right because of the dishonor to the buffalo and because they wanted no part in the government's plan. He offered the hunters buffalo from the Blackfeet herd to feed their families. Some of the hunters laughed at him before continuing to shoot buffalo. They ended up killing fifteen from that group, including adult females.
An adult cow buffalo in a blizzard. Like this photo, the future for wild buffalo is blurry.... Will we learn to live in a way that enables them to survive humans? BFC photo by Stephany
Adult cow buffalo, most of which are pregnant at this time of year, are taking the brunt of the killing from both slaughter and hunting. There have also been very few mature bulls observed in the Gardiner Basin lately, when three years ago there were hundreds. The IBMP's stated reasons for killing and controlling buffalo seem to have shifted away from brucellosis and onto population reduction. Brucellosis has always been a weak excuse, and it has steadily lost ground as the public has become more informed. Now the focus seems to be on "population control" and the false idea that there are "surplus" wild buffalo. There are not. This is an ecologically extinct native being that currently occupies less than 1% of its former habitat.
The IBMP aims to reduce the population --the most significant one in all the world--to 3,000-3,500 and keep it there, while Yellowstone National Park's carrying capacity study determined that the Park alone could sustain upwards of 6,200 wild buffalo. And Yellowstone is surrounded by public and private lands that could sustain thousands more.
It's not rocket science to figure out that this is a scheme crafted by
livestock interests to prevent the establishment of a resident herd of wild
buffalo in Montana. If the buffalo are to survive and to thrive we must
abolish the Interagency Bison Management Plan and the law that gives the
Montana Department of Livestock authority over these ancient beings. Doing
so rests in all of our hands.