Buffalo in yellowstone 101 december 6 2008 by jim macdonald buffalo allies of bozeman
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Buffalo in Yellowstone 101 December 6, 2008 by Jim Macdonald, Buffalo Allies of Bozeman. How did the largest wild herd of buffalo end up in Yellowstone?. 30 – 40 million buffalo (bison) in North America at the start of the 19th century.

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Buffalo in Yellowstone 101 December 6, 2008 by Jim Macdonald, Buffalo Allies of Bozeman

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Buffalo in yellowstone 101 december 6 2008 by jim macdonald buffalo allies of bozeman

Buffalo in Yellowstone 101December 6, 2008by Jim Macdonald, Buffalo Allies of Bozeman


How did the largest wild herd of buffalo end up in yellowstone

How did the largest wild herd of buffalo end up in Yellowstone?

  • 30 – 40 million buffalo (bison) in North America at the start of the 19th century.

  • By the early 1900s, a mass extermination of buffalo to force Native Americans onto reservations and subsequent years of poaching left only 23 wild buffalo left in the United States, all in Yellowstone’s Pelican Valley.

  • Other bison were brought into Yellowstone to supplement the herd. At first, those herds were kept fenced in (the Pelican Valley herd always remained wild); after many years, they were released into the wild.


Since the 20th century how many buffalo have roamed in yellowstone

Since the 20th century, how many buffalo have roamed in Yellowstone?

  • Yellowstone has had a peak of 4,900 bison in 2005 and 4,700 in 2007; however, for large chunks of the century, bison populations have been artificially reduced by the National Park Service, or other management agencies.

  • Currently, the National Park Service claims that there are 3,000 bison in Yellowstone.

  • There are approximately 15,000 genetically pure bison in the world. Most of the hundreds of thousands of bison that live on ranches have been mixed with cows.

  • Yellowstone still has the largest wild population in the world.


Where in yellowstone do buffalo herds roam

Where in Yellowstone do buffalo herds roam?


Do yellowstone buffalo stay in yellowstone all year round

Do Yellowstone buffalo stay in Yellowstone all year round?

  • Some Yellowstone stay in Yellowstone all year round. Those in the Pelican Valley stay all year round. Some bison stay in the park close to warm thermal areas.

  • Other bison in the north and the west of the park migrate out when the snow gets too hard to reach the grass or to calve in the Spring.


What happens to buffalo when they leave yellowstone for montana

What happens to buffalo when they leave Yellowstone for Montana?

  • There are a few small areas outside of Yellowstone (known as Zone 2 areas) where bison are tolerated in Montana for a part of the year (until April 15 in the North and May 15 in the West), after which they are forced (hazed) back into Yellowstone.

  • In the rest of Montana, bison are not tolerated and are subject to hazing and/or slaughter by the government.

  • Outside of Yellowstone National Park, there is absolutely no year-round habitat for bison.


Why are bison in montana not tolerated

Why are bison in Montana not tolerated?

  • The official reason that bison are not tolerated in Montana is because buffalo carry a disease called brucellosis (more in subsequent slides) that can theoretically be transmitted from buffalo to cattle. When cattle test positive for exposure to brucellosis, there is some cost to Montana ranchers under rules of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

  • It should be noted that elk and other ungulates carry brucellosis and yet are tolerated outside of Yellowstone National Park.


What is brucellosis

What is brucellosis?

  • Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that affects livestock and wildlife, sometimes causing cattle to abort their first calf post-infection. While abortions have been documented in wild buffalo, such incidents are rare, and the impact of the disease on Yellowstone buffalo and elk is insignificant. Brucellosis, which originated in European livestock, was first detected in Yellowstone's buffalo in 1917 after some buffalo were fed milk from infected cows.


So all bison that are killed in montana test positive for brucellosis right

So, all bison that are killed in Montana test positive for brucellosis, right?

  • No. Many bison are not tested at all. Under the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP), when there are more bison than the management plan calls for as the target number (arbitrarily set at 3,000), bison may be indiscriminately rounded up and shipped to slaughter.

  • A test for brucellosis only provides evidence for exposure to the bacteria, just as a human tuberculosis test only tells you if you have been exposed to the disease.


If this is not about brucellosis what is this about

If this is not about brucellosis, what is this about?

  • This is about grass and who controls the grass. Buffalo are seen as competitors for grass on public lands.

  • Buffalo were driven off the Plains because the grass was seen as better fit for agriculture; they are still being driven off of re-claiming their native habitat because some would like to preserve the preference of land for stockgrowing rather than for wild buffalo.


How many wild buffalo are being slaughtered

How many wild buffalo are being slaughtered?

  • Last season, 1,616 bison were killed, mostly from slaughter (some from hunts conducted by Montana, as well as the Nez Perce and Salish-Kootenai tribal hunts). This was the largest slaughter of wild buffalo at any time since the 19th century.

  • The 2007-2008 slaughter was over 1/3 of the entire buffalo population in Yellowstone and was 1/10 of all genetically pure buffalo in the world.

  • Since 1985, more than 6,600 buffalo have been removed from the herds.


Who manages buffalo

Who manages buffalo?

  • Buffalo have been managed under the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) since 2000. There are five partner agencies in the IBMP – the National Park Service (Yellowstone); the United States Forest Service (Gallatin National Forest); the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL); and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP). There is no native voice at the table; there is no direct public voice at the table.

  • It costs about $3 million per year for this plan; more than the cost of Montana losing its class free status on brucellosis (which it has anyhow managed to do this year without buffalo being the cause).


What about the hunting of bison in montana

What about the hunting of bison in Montana?

  • FWP gives out hunting licenses for 44 bison over the hunting season. They can give out up to 100 more depending upon the number of migrating bison out of the park.

  • The Nez Perce and Salish-Kootenai tribes in the past couple of years have asserted their treaty rights to hunt buffalo in Montana; each tribe sets its own rules, regulations, and law enforcement for the hunts.

  • It is important to reiterate that there is no year-round population of wild bison in Montana.


What about hazing buffalo back into yellowstone isn t that more humane

What about hazing buffalo back into Yellowstone? Isn’t that more humane?

  • During a typical hazing operation, the DOL and collaborating agencies ride noisy snowmobiles, fly helicopters, run horses, and ride ATVs throughout sensitive habitat important to numerous wildlife species. Hazing operations are incredibly disruptive to many bird species such as trumpeter swans, snow geese and bald eagles.

  • Because the hazing causes panic and fear in buffalo and other nearby wild animals, the flight separates calves from mothers, hurts wildlife as they try to flee, and tramples vegetation – especially sensitive riparian vegetation near water.


What about the deal to allow some bison into montana north of yellowstone

What about the deal to allow some bison into Montana north of Yellowstone?

  • This past year, Gov. Schweitzer and Yellowstone Supt. Suzanne Lewis announced a deal with Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT) to allow some buffalo grazing rights on their Royal Teton Ranch property in exchange for $3.3 million. The deal has been supported by some but not all environmental organizations.

  • The deal only allows 25 bison – which are all tested first – into the land, calls for the females to be fitted with vaginal transmitters, still forces all bison back into Yellowstone after April 15, and allows CUT to renege on the deal after 9 years without any penalty. The bottom line is that in some ways this is worse than the present reality and still does not provide any bison habitat in Montana.


What about the news that unlimited bison will be tolerated at horse butte west of the park

What about the news that unlimited bison will be tolerated at Horse Butte west of the park?

  • This fall, word has come that bison in the Horse Butte peninsula will be tolerated at unlimited numbers.

  • On the face of it, this should be an obvious move because there are never any cattle at Horse Butte; despite that, even this year, the DOL has hazed bison off of Horse Butte, even against the wishes of private property owners who want the bison there.

  • However, this is not a huge deal in practice because bison, which calve at Horse Butte late into the Spring, will still be forced back into Yellowstone after May 15.


Are buffalo in danger this winter

Are buffalo in danger this winter?

  • Unfortunately, yes, and that goes over and above the hunts. Because 3,000 bison are estimated to be in the park, and management allows for reducing that number to 2,300 and then again to 2,100, many hundreds of buffalo are at risk this winter potentially.

  • One should caution that these numbers do not necessarily mean that hundreds of buffalo will be killed; it simply means that they could be under the IBMP.

  • Hazing also is a danger to the bison, and bison face hazing when they leave the park unless they are in the designated zones at the right time of the year.

  • To date this season, only one buffalo has been killed in Montana’s hunt.


What are the solutions

What are the solutions?

  • Congress’s Government Accountability Office wrote a scathing report this year criticizing the IBMP by suggesting it was unworkable so long as conflicting agencies with conflicting missions are implementing a plan with no clear route for success. Any solution must begin with scrapping the IBMP.

  • The slaughter and hazing of buffalo must stop immediately.

  • Buffalo must be allowed to restore year-round habitat in Montana

  • Buffalo must be managed as wildlife and not as a disease-control issue, as they currently are under Montana law.

  • Native peoples and the general public at large must have a seat at the table in considering bison management policy.

  • Stockgrowers and wildlife advocates must work together to meet mutual concerns; among the ways those groups can work together is on working to change outdated APHIS penalties for finding brucellosis in a cattle herd, building buffalo proof fences, and maintaining dialogue.


How do we in the public work on those solutions

How do we in the public work on those solutions?

  • Join a group like Buffalo Allies of Bozeman and get involved with like-hearted people working on solutions and on educating the public at large, as well as policy makers specifically.

  • Support legislative initiatives, like those proposed by the Gallatin Wildlife Association, that aim to change Montana law so that bison are managed as wildlife instead of as livestock in need of disease control.

  • As we will share shortly, volunteer with a field organization like Buffalo Field Campaign, who has been in the field protecting and chronicling the plight of wild buffalo. Take other actions that can support their work – like providing wish list items, growing food to defray their costs, or passing out newsletters and other information.

  • Write letters to the editor, or letters directly to policy makers in Helena and Washington to pull out of the IBMP so that the concrete steps can be taken that can stop the buffalo slaughter and promote habitat in Montana.

  • This will no doubt sound corny, but observe buffalo. From them, many insights about what should be done and what can be done will be clearer. From buffalo, I’ve learned that we must work together and that we must not stick with merely one approach but work in many directions at once.


You mentioned buffalo allies of bozeman who exactly are you all

You mentioned Buffalo Allies of Bozeman. Who exactly are you all?

Buffalo Allies of Bozeman is a consensus-based grassroots organization in the Bozeman, Montana area focused on:

  • stopping the slaughter and hazing of Yellowstone’s wild buffalo herds;

  • promoting the expansion of free-roaming buffalo outside of Yellowstone National Park;

  • conserving the natural habitat of the buffalo herds;

  • allying with and giving solidarity to groups working on related missions; and,

  • supporting a diversity of strategies and tactics to achieve the previous tenets of our mission.

    We meet most every Wednesday evening at 7 PM at Montana State University's Strand Union Building (student union) in the 2nd floor cafeteria in the NW corner. Everyone friendly to our mission is welcome to attend and participate in the meetings.

    Because we work by consensus, we have no formal leadership. Instead, we all roam together as we take action for the buffalo. So, unlike some environmental groups, we depend upon the direct participation of the public – truly grassroots.

    We were founded in April 2008 during the greatest slaughter of buffalo since the 19th century. With your help and with the help of other groups friendly to the buffalo, we will work so that this never happens again. For more information, see http://www.buffaloallies.org.


Thank you

Thank You!

  • I want to acknowledge Buffalo Field Campaign for some of the information, including the migration of buffalo map.

  • Others sources of information are publicly available, including the GAO report, IBMP documents, newspaper accounts, and the history of bison numbers. The DOL and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have their own takes on the brucellosis issue, and people not trusting me should certainly take their views into account – they are publicly available via the Web.


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