Animal Writes
7 April 1999 Issue

Yellowstone Bison Update

WEST YELLOWSTONE: Horse Butte Capture Facility Operation Begins.
Before 7:00 a.m. this morning [March 31], the Department of Livestock agents on
nine snowmobiles chased 20 buffalo from the hillside of Horse Butte and trapped
them in their new capture facility. By 8:00 a.m. DOL had chased 9 more buffalo
from the mouth of the Madison River into the trap. Buffalo were loaded into horse
trailers and transported to the Duck Creek capture facility for testing.

One volunteer locked her neck to the cattle guard with a bike lock in order to stop
transportation of the captive buffalo to the Duck Creek capture facility for testing.
She was cut free and arrested. Her name is unavailable for release. Another
volunteer was arrested at the Duck Creek capture facility in an attempt to lock
the gates to the facility shut to prevent buffalo from being loaded from the trailers
into the facility. His name was not available at the time of release.

Five buffalo released from Duck Creek Capture Facility by buffalo
Last night, March 30, volunteers released 5 buffalo from the Duck Creek capture
facility, which is located 50 feet from the boundary of Yellowstone Park. The
buffalo liberators were able to escort the freed buffalo to safety without any

Illegal Hazing Operations within Bald Eagle Nesting Protected Area.
Hazing buffalo off designated trails within 1/4 mile of an active bald eagle nest site
violates guidelines that protect the nest site. DOL snowmobiles were documented
as they drove up and down the hill off-trail hazing buffalo into the facility. The
Hebgen Lake Ranger District of the Forest Service was not informed of these
off-trail hazing activities according to Gene Hardin, the Forest Service official
available this morning. The DOL is required to ask the Forest Service for
permission to break their restrictions on off-trail hazing. Gallatin County Sheriff
Officer with badge #637 and other officers who were on site watched the DOL
haze buffalo within the eagle closure but did not enforce the closure.

Hazing on the Madison River before 10:00 a.m. violates the guidelines for hazing
set out by the permit. Activities associated with the removal of bison that occur
within 1/4 mile of open water on the Madison arm and upper Madison River will
only be permitted between 10:00 a.m. and 3 p.m. in order to protect the 1/2 mile
radius around a bald eagle nest.

Fish Wildlife and Parks biologists who are monitoring the bald eagle nest which is
located within 1/4 mile of the capture facility have documented that the nest is
active. Two other active bald eagle nest sites are on the Butte. Department of
Livestock operations in the area are required to follow a set of restrictions on
hazing near the three nest sites and eagle feeding areas on the Butte. Examples
of restrictions are that the DOL must receive the approval of the Forest Service
prior to any hazing activities within 1/4 mile of one of the nests.

"Obviously when the DOL decides they want to kill buffalo, all protections for other
wildlife fall to the wayside. The DOL has no incentive to care for wildlife, whether
bald eagles or buffalo, when cattle interests are at stake," stated Sue Nackoney,

Background: The Gallatin National Forest, particularly in the Horse Butte area,
provides critical winter habitat for Yellowstone wildlife, particularly buffalo. Currently
the warm south-facing slopes of Horse Butte provide the most plentiful available
forage for migrating buffalo. There have been over 30 buffalo grazing on the
exposed ground on the Butte within a half mile radius of the capture facility since
early winter.

Horse Butte is a peninsula on Hebgen Lake, NW of West Yellowstone, and is an
active bald eagle nesting site. Biologists with the Montana Department of Fish,
Wildlife and Parks have been daily documenting eagle nesting activity. The area
also provides habitat for additional threatened and endangered species such as
the grizzly bear and peregrine falcon.

The facility is located within 1/4 mile of a bald eagle nest, which is actively used
by a pair of bald eagles. The Fish and Wildlife Service issued a Biological Opinion
authorizing a "take" of the nest, which will allow the impact of operating the
facility to displace eagles from nest site and render the site inactive. However, the
permit to the nest was issued assuming that construction of the facility would be
complete during nesting season, which began February 1. Construction of the
facility involves heavy machinery, soil disturbance, a generator and floodlights
that illuminate the area at night.

The state of Montana has requested up to $500,000 per year from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the operation of the bison trap for the
purpose of protecting its brucellosis-free status (a status given by the USDA to
states which have no brucellosis in their cattle herds). However, the USDA does
not have the legal authority to revoke Montana's status based solely on the
presence of potentially exposed wildlife in the state.

The facility will capture and test buffalo who migrate to the peninsula. The
agencies claim that the operation of the capture facility will help with the "urgent
need" to reduce bison mortality. However, in the winter of 1996-1997, the use of
these facilities sent hundreds of buffalo to slaughter. All pregnant females,
regardless of whether they test positive for brucellosis, will be shipped to
slaughter. All other buffalo testing positive will be shipped to slaughter.

More than half of the buffalo captured in a similar trap at Duck Creek this year by
the DOL have been slaughtered while only 13% have actually carried brucellosis.

Only culture tests determine if an animal is actually infected with brucellosis.
Such tests are conducted at the slaughterhouse by the US Animal and Plant
Health Inspection Service (APHIS). According to APHIS, only 2 of the first 17
buffalo slaughtered this winter actually carried the disease. Video available upon
request. Scanned still photos available.

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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