In The Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA)
The American Buffalo Foundation (ABF), formed in 1990,
is a tax exempt public interest organization that has been
quietly working to restore Yellowstone National Park (YNP)
buffalo into the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA). The goal
of ABF is that buffalo be managed as wildlife, patterned
after the North American wildlife model, that wildlife
biologists have accepted throughout the nation, and has
successfully restored many species in the past 100 years.
will continue to work with people who own cattle and
other interested parties to protect Montana’s “Status
3” brucellosis-free level through practical risk
management; by regionalizing the disease delineating brucellosis
management areas, while managing Montana’s buffalo
Our first objective is to allow wild buffalo to move from
Yellowstone National Park into historic grazing ranges
on public lands in the Greater Yellowstone Area. They are
a valuable wildlife resource that has been preserved as
a wild species through management by the National Park
Service. They are restricted in the use of valuable and
necessary low altitude winter habitat by a misguided brucellosis
zero-risk policy of no tolerance for buffalo by the State
of Montana. Brucellabortis was brought into the GYA through
imported cattle who then infected native wildlife such
as buffalo, elk and bear.
January 22, 1999 the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection
Service (APHIS) requested that the Montana State Board
of Livestock (BOL) soften the actions of hazing, capture,
test, and slaughter against buffalo that step into Montana.
The BOL refused to consider the request. This request by
USDA was before all of the dollars began flowing due to
the federal Department of Homeland Security designating
brucellosis as a select agent that may be developed as
a Bio-Weapon of Mass Destruction. Senator Gary Perry sponsored
a bill in the 2003 Montana Legislature that handed over
jurisdiction of buffalo from the Montana Department of
Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) to Montana Department
of Livestock (DOL). The Department of Livestock has historically
had zero tolerance for buffalo. The DOL’s current
solutions are so draconian that they threaten to undo 100
years of important wildlife recovery achievements. This
national wildlife resource is downgraded by their actions
of killing all the pioneering herd leaders trying to explore
the GYA for more habitat and food during the severe winters.
Tax dollars spent on Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone
the 1930’s the U.S. Department of Agriculture
has spent $3 billion trying to eliminate brucellosis. In
2002 the federal Department of Homeland Security designated
brucellosis as a select agent that may be developed as
a Bio-Weapon of Mass Destruction, under the Homeland Security
(Bio Terror) Act, This triggered large sums of federal
dollars into the Greater Yellowstone Area. Last year (2005-2006)
over $10 million was spent on hazing, capturing, testing,
quarantining and slaughtering.
for Phase I, II, III. This costs $26,220 per cow/calf
pair passing out of Phase III as a 4 year old buffalo
free of brucellosis.
• $441,000 to Montana State University for brucellosis
• $895,000 to the Greater Yellowstone Interagency
• $660,000 to Montana State Department of Livestock
• $69,000 to Montana State Department of Fish,
Wildlife & Parks.
• $6,900 to Federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection
• $1,200,000 to Yellowstone National Park for pneumatic
bio bullets inoculating buffalo at a range of 20 yards,
(a foolish exercise in futility).
• $750,000 for hazing and capturing.
• $200,000 for trucking buffalo to slaughter houses,
sometimes 500 miles into Idaho.
• Unknown amount for the cost of 7 homeland security
agents to guarantee safety of trucking.
zero-risk, no tolerance for buffalo policy is very expensive
and has evolved into an employment career for the above
named agencies. The above listed costs are only estimates
that were gleaned from local newspapers because a true
accounting is difficult to get from the government. With
this large amount of dollars flowing into Montana, it
is literally impossible to talk seriously with the federal,
state and research agencies about a practical method
to regionalize brucellosis and delineate brucellosis
management areas for control of the disease.
believe it is time to request a review and full accounting
of the state and federal expenditures targeting all brucellosis
related management, research, hazing, capture, testing,
confinement, feeding, shipping, slaughter, quarantine,
and eradication work related to the GYA and its wildlife
since 1990. We know that millions of dollars of taxpayer
money is being funneled into this on an annual basis and
we want a full, complete, transparent accounting of these
expenditures as soon as possible. There are more economical
and more humane ways to protect Montana’s cattle
in brucellosis-free status, while respecting and managing
our buffalo as a valued, native asset worth millions of
dollars annually if they are allowed to be managed as wildlife.
Under the guise of research, FWP is now constructing Quarantine
structures Phases I, II, and III, 8 foot high, double fenced
quarantine enclosures to hold captured buffalo yearlings.
The objective is producing brucellosis-free, cow-calf pairs
over a 3 or 4 year quarantine period at a cost of $29,500
a pair. Buffalo females are sexually mature at 2 ? years
old, while their prime breeding age is 4 to 10 years. Males
under 6 years old are not socially mature, while at ages
8 to 10 year old bulls are in prime breeding age.
Phase I is located in an old elk farm near Gardiner, MT
and the Cinnabar Basin Bridge, rented at $80,000 a year
plus fence upgrading, maintenance and feeding. There are
now 87 yearling buffalo held there.
Phase II is at the Slip and Slide Ranch property near
Gardiner, MT rented at $50,000 a year with the costs of
fencing at $400,000 plus maintenance and feeding.
Phase III is planned on the Dome Mountain Winter Range
on 400 acres of the best bottom-land grass, just south
of Daily Lake. Dome Mountain wildlife range was purchased
some years ago with sportsman license fees.
All three fences will be barriers to wildlife movement.
is no need for this redundant research. It has already
been accomplished with buffalo at Custer State Park, Wind
Cave National Park and Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge
where brucellosis free cow calf pairs were produced over
a period of time. Disease-free buffalo cow-calf pairs are
available for the cost of rounding them up and trucking
them to the desired location. We have no idea what the
ultimate cost of fencing, maintenance, feeding and salaries
of researchers will be. It is difficult to get a true accounting
of money spent on this probably worthless research. Brucellosis
is so endemic in GYA wildlife that it can never be eliminated
without hazing, capture, and testing all buffalo and elk.
It is an impossible task when dealing with roaming wildlife
in the vast wild lands of the GYA. With the DOL having
jurisdiction of buffalo they are attempting to eradicate
a cattle disease by slaughtering wildlife; a futile effort.
Today’s zero-risk policy is very expensive with over
$10 million spent in 2005-06.
The Quarantine System
The quarantine system treats buffalo like domesticated
and diseased cattle and not wildlife. Capturing buffalo
in concentrated enclosures opens the danger of chronic
wasting disease. Over 1,000 buffalo were slaughtered and
4 brucellosis-proof bulls were shot migrating west down
the Madison River into wildlife easements purchased by
the taxpaying public.
second objective of quarantine by FWP is to reintroduce
buffalo into Montana’s Big Open in eastern Montana.
FWP does not have the courage to say where the buffalo
will go because the Montana Stockgrowers Association has
no tolerance for buffalo.
FWP now seem to be cooperating with the Yellowstone Buffalo Foundation in specifying the Taylor Fork in the Upper Gallatin
River as a possible site for reintroduction of the disease
free buffalo from the quarantined pens.
It has been shown many times that brucellosis can be expunged
from herds in fenced areas. There are numerous genetically
pure, brucellosis-free, public owned buffalo herds in the
west, if one is truly serious about reintroducing buffalo
on public unfenced lands. We propose that MSU research
facilities be used. We do not need further confinement
of buffalo and redundant research. Quarantining of buffalo,
places legitimacy on continuing hazing, capture, testing
History of the Slaughter of Buffalo
slaughter of buffalo started in the winter of 1988-89
when the YNP fires so depleted the range and the snowfall
piled up to record depths that buffalo moved into the Gardiner
basis in large numbers. Pressure on FWP from the Stockgrower’s
Association caused a special hunt which took place along
US Highway 89 outside YNP boundaries. The hunt was highly
visible to anti-hunting activists with their national news
video camcorders. Capitulating to the demands of Stockgrowers,
FWP used no discretion in managing the hunt and when the
shooting was over, 569 buffalo were killed; many in the
highway burrow pit and all in plain sight of a concerned
coverage of the fate of the great beasts caused a national
uproar against Montana. People across the country could
not understand why the buffalo were not allowed to migrate
to winter forage areas. Hunters took all of the blame.
In fact, the reason so many buffalo were shot was the
caving in of FWP to pressure from cattlemen. The previous,
discrete, financially viable efficient public hunts were
turned into an unacceptable slaughter of a wildlife resource
in full view of an enraged public. Montana’s Governor
Stan Stephens was embarrassed and could not stand the heat
from the nation.
In 1997, 1,079 buffalo were slaughtered. Of those that
were hazed back into YNP, 1,300 starved to death, exhausted
and fetuses aborted due to continuous hazing by DOL and
hazers on snowmobiles. Buffalo are true wildlife and cannot
be treated like cattle.
The public hunting of buffalo ceased until the administration
of Governor Brian Schweitzer promised to facilitate a solution
to the impasse.
In the winter 2005-06, 942 buffalo were slaughtered in
meat processing plants and an additional 12 died from injuries
inflicted by harassment and capture. YNP trapped and sent
to slaughter 1,249 of them; FWP sent 40 to slaughter; and
DOL sent 49 to slaughter. Slaughter numbers are very difficult
to ferret out of the agencies. We are convinced that many
more buffalo were killed than shown above.
On January 12, 2006, DOL hazers on snowmobiles forced
bands of buffalo back on Hebgen Lake ice pack and 12 of
them broke through the ice into the frigid water as they
were forced in a bunch instead of walking in single file
as they do naturally. Two drowned and the remaining 10
were hazed back miles into the national park boundary only
to die of cold and exhaustion. This type of cruelty by
DOL in their never changing, no solution policy, treats
buffalo with contempt and indifference; this, in the name
of making the GYA safe for cows.
Elk Slaughter for Brucellosis
February 17, 2006 in Idaho’s Muddy Creek Trap
(locally called the “Mother of Traps”), 131
elk were hazed, captured, tested and 14 were sent to slaughter.
Later 240 additional elk were trapped and 42 were slaughtered
at a cost of $5,800 per slaughtered elk with a total cost
of $336,000 for the operation in 2006.
Fish & Wildlife agencies must now take back wildlife
management from cattle agencies or else the present brucellosis
elk slaughter will migrate north to Montana. We must modify
the 5 agency Interagency Bison Management Plan, so that
it protects Montana’s brucellosis-free status but
also conserves our rich elk resource on public lands.
DOL and APHIS threaten to unravel 100 years of an important
North American wildlife recovery achievement. It makes
a major shift in wildlife management involving a national
resource authority by FWP giving over control of wildlife
to DOL and APHIS.
less than 1,000 cattle in Montana’s GYA
is not economic compared to wildlife related tourism, recreation
and hunting based businesses.
Public Land Buffalo Ranges
We must increase the area that buffalo can wander in the
GYA. In the Gardiner, Montana area at Bear Creek, Eagle,
Phelps, Little Trail, Bassett, Cedar, Slip and Slide, Joe
Brown and Sheep Creeks, Dome Mountain, Daily Lake to Six
Mile Creek areas. In the West Yellowstone area at Horse
Butte, North Side Hebgen Lake, Red Canyon then up through
the Cabin Creek Wildlife Management corridor to Taylor
Fork, Buffalo Horn and Porcupine Wildlife Management Areas.
These public wildlife ranges were set aside or purchased
with sportsmen license fees and are available for buffalo
to graze. The Gardiner and West Yellowstone areas have
more public land and least amount of cattle than anywhere
else in Montana. We can share a place for wild buffalo
in this unique corner of the GYA, instead of slaughtering
them when they step across the politically drawn park boundary
into Montana. It is only right that we make a permanent
place for buffalo, managed as wildlife by FWP with public
hunting to balance their numbers with available forage.
Buffalo will spread out and in time develop a natural immunity
to brucellosis. Immune animals test positive but are now
being sent to slaughter with all of the other buffalo who
Wild buffalo and elk graze the steeper slopes and wind
blown uplands where they digest plants not generally preferred
by domestic cattle who like softer green grass. Cow calf
buffalo herds group into 10 or 20 animals and spread out
over the ranges to maximize access into un-grazed areas.
The present zero risk brucellosis policy of DOL and APHIS
is very expensive to the taxpayer with $10 million spent
in 2005 slaughtering 1,000 buffalo and thus far in 2006
over 900 buffalo were trucked to slaughter.
With access to public land, buffalo will spread out as
they eventually develop a natural immunity to brucellosis.
Conflict free public lands amount to hundreds of thousands
of acres of habitat that can be grazed by buffalo that
migrate out of YNP, yet is currently not available to buffalo.
Placing these lands available to buffalo would improve
Brucellosis is a disease brought into the Greater Yellowstone
Area (GYA) by cattle that then infected native wildlife
like buffalo, elk and bear.
It can cause ungulates to abort their first pregnancy.
It is a seasonally contagious disease with the window of
infection in April or May, when aborted fetuses lying on
the ground are being licked (an instinctive reaction) by
other cows. Domestic cows of reproductive age are the class
of ungulates that are susceptible to contracting the disease.
As APHIS has controlled brucellosis in the broader USA,
it has shifted its attention to buffalo in the GYA and
zero tolerance and eradication. This causes the treating
of wildlife the same as diseased livestock. It is not economically
or politically feasible to justify such an impossible policy
of hazing, capture, quarantine and slaughter. Montana may
lose its brucellosis-free status due to contradictory policies
of USDA and USDI.
is a manageable disease through regionalizing and delineating
brucellosis management areas. It is so endemic in GYA
wildlife that it can never be eliminated in free roaming
wildlife within GYA’s great expanses
of wild land.
Brucellosis proof cattle can be grazed on buffalo ranges
such as steers, yearlings, horses and mules. Brucellosis
is endemic in elk, buffalo and bear in the GYA. Nationally
brucellosis infects fewer than 10 herds of cattle.
When brucellosis is first discovered in a herd, APHIS
recommends destroying the herd and herds in the surrounding
area must be tested to ensure the disease does not spread.
When a second herd is infected in a state, as in the case
of Wyoming, destroying the herd is mandatory and the state
loses its brucellosis free status. Ranchers would then
have to test their cattle before shipping out of state.
Brucellabortis is the brucellosis bacteria transmitted
through licking by cows of aborted fetuses. Pregnant ungulates
abort their first fetuses or go into premature labor. Calves
may be weak and unhealthy. In humans that have contracted
the disease it is called Bangs or Undulant Fever with typical
flu-like symptoms and is listed as a Category B threat
to both humans and cattle.
A positive test for brucellosis indicates exposure but
not necessarily infection because unconfined wildlife eventually
develops immunity. Immune buffalo test positive and all
buffalo that test positive are sent to slaughter.
zero risk policy for brucellosis is extremely expensive
and not proportionate to the threat. State veterinarians
in 19 western states agree that reducing buffalo-cattle
contact through space and time separation and establishment
of special brucellosis management areas that only graze
brucellosis-proof livestock such as steers, horses and
mules on buffalo public-owned ranges.
Wyoming ranchers are now questioning the practicality
of eliminating brucellosis through hazing, capture, testing,
quarantine and slaughter. They say it is time to reassess
how much of a problem brucellosis really is. Is the risk
proportionate to the threat? Does it cause that much harm
considering that is so endemic in the GYA? Can brucellosis
be managed in the GYA? Wyoming ranchers want to reassess
Since 1930 APHIS has spent $3 billion trying to eliminate
brucellosis. Is it possible to regionalize the disease
and delineate brucellosis management areas where special
measures would be used to contain the disease and keep
it from spreading?
We keep hearing that YNP is the last reservoir of brucellosis
in the nation. It is also the last great reservoir of public
owned wildlife such as buffalo, elk, deer, moose, grizzly
and black bear, big horn, wolverine, fisher, lynx and martin;
precious wildlife worth far more than less than 1,000 cows,
Hunting to Balance Buffalo Numbers
We have learned that buffalo will reproduce and occupy
their entire habitat and will move to occupy additional
habitat if allowed. Population control is necessary because
overgrazing will deplete the range. The discrete hunting
of buffalo on their winter ranges outside of the park is
an obvious and profitable solution to control buffalo numbers.
What is needed is to acquire migration corridors and grazing
habitat where licensed public hunters can participate in
a fair lottery open to all, participated by many and managed
by FWP. Surplus animals can be harvested by public hunters
after buffalo have been firmly established on public land
outside the Park would be correct and profitable.
provided food, clothing and shelter for Indians and explorers.
Without them the west would have been a land of starvation.
The destruction of the buffalo in the 1880’s was
a loss of wealth many times greater than what if would
have cost to conserve them. This outrageous waste was
committed against Indians with inexcusable extravagance
and carelessness. We can now begin to make right this old
The present hunts of 2005-06 and 2006-07 are nothing more
than park boundary hunts. We must expand Zone 2 to include
public land outside YNP where buffalo can live and graze
year round. There they can be pursued by licensed hunters,
discretely harvesting a game animal managed as wildlife
by FWP and not as diseased livestock by DOL. We must acquire
into public ownership migration corridors that buffalo
can use as a pathway to public owned winter ranges.
Discrete, efficient, money-making public hunts can be
reinstated that are a fair harvest, open to all and participated
in by many. 140 licenses will be issued in 06-07 season
by FWP between November 15 and February 15. Montana law
classifies all non-confined buffalo as wildlife, big game
animals held in trust by the state for the use and enjoyment
of the people.
population is estimated at 3,900 in August 2006, down
from 4,900 last year. Since June of 2005 more than 1,000
bison had been shipped to slaughter another 46 were killed
by hunters. 500 Calves were born as an average in the
past. This year’s hunt 2006-07 offers 140 tags
including 45 cow/calf permits and 95 either sex including
16 permits for Indian tribes. Hopefully the buffalo will
be allowed to move into new grazing ranges outside park
boundaries on public lands where discrete hunters participate
in a fair chase hunt instead of park line shoots that discourage
Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP)
IBMP plan was made by 5 government agencies from the
3 states within the GYA, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming:
the States Departments of Livestock; USDA Animal Plant
Health Inspection Service (APHIS); State Fish & Wildlife
agencies; the USDI, National Park Service; and USDA Forest
Service. The IBMP was made as a result of APHIS controlling
brucellosis elsewhere in the nation. It then shifted
its attention on buffalo and elk in the GYA and are treating
our wild buffalo the same as diseased livestock. Their
current policy and actions threaten to undo an important
North American wildlife recovery achievement involving
a national wildlife resource and making a major change
in wildlife management responsibility and authority.
Eradication of brucellosis through a zero tolerance policy
by depopulating buffalo and elk and replacing them with
quarantined brucellosis-free animals is not economically
practical and not possible politically in the vast mountains
and forests of the GYA. It is difficult to justify such
an impossible policy since cattle growers have made no
concessions in the brucellosis issue.
practical solution is that the IBMP must be revised so
that it conserves a rich buffalo wildlife resource while
at the same time protecting Montana’s brucellosis
The five government agencies responsible for administering
the IBMP are gridlocked on hazing, capture, quarantine
and slaughter addiction, which only perpetuates endless
conflict and falls short of practical habitat solutions
for buffalo outside the boundaries of YNP. The plan limits
the buffalo to small areas (Zone 2) near YNP boundaries.
Changes to the plan, to protect and connect habitat to
winter ranges for a long term, sustainable and economic
feasible solution for buffalo, is the solution. We must
regionalize the disease within the GYA and delineate brucellosis
management areas, where brucellosis-proof steers and horses
may be grazed on buffalo ranges. The GYA brucellosis issue
in buffalo and elk can be adequately controlled through
managing the risk rather than the costly, zero tolerance,
fruitless eradication program that has no sound scientific
basis. This would prevent DOL from taking over management
of wildlife from FWP. Zone 2 must be expanded to include
adjacent public grazing lands to accommodate buffalo and
to test new alternatives in management. Wildlife agencies
have an obligation to retain Montana’s brucellosis-free
status buy they also have to obligation to manage buffalo
as wildlife and to see them living year round on public
wildlife ranges in the GYA.
In severe winters, YNP is not a complete wildlife habitat
system Public land in the Gardiner basis, the West Yellowstone
Basin, the Upper Gallatin River Valleys, and the Centennial
Valley must be open to buffalo grazing. This resolution
of the problem is long overdue.
YNP is the last reservoir of public owned wildlife and
if allowed buffalo can re-establish itself on the above
named public lands without any cost to the state and at
a large economic benefit.
Private Land Protection
law MCA 81-2-121 protects private property owners from
adverse wild buffalo impacts. Zone 2 in the IBMC’s
plan accepts buffalo within Zone 2. Private land within
zone 2 where owners do not want buffalo should be re-zoned
to zone 3 where buffalo are prohibited. Landowners are
not required to give up any rights. Neither eminent domain,
nor condemnation is suggested. We must manage the brucellosis
risk and the IBMC’s plan does not.
3 in the IBMC’s plan, is a zone of no tolerance
for wild buffalo. This is a vast landscape of US Forest
Service and Mt state FWP public wild land that is wildlife-conflict
free and waiting for buffalo. We must take advantage of
this conflict-free land and waiting for buffalo. We must
take advantage of this conflict-free public land and place
it into Zone 2 to improve management of buffalo and to
improve fair chase hunting.
In order to move into brucellosis management on a regional
basis and to delineate brucellosis management areas, DOL
and APHIS should certify susceptible livestock, brucellosis-free,
without cost to owner to protect livestock producers from
damage or regulation.
Following are public owned lands qualifying for Zone 2:
of YNP, Gardiner Area
Acreage: Bear Creeks, Eagle, Phelps Little Trail, Bassett,
Cedar, Slip & Slide,
Joe Brown, Sheep Creeks, Dome Mountain, Daily Lake
to Six Mile Creek northern boundary.
- 1,600 Acres: Church Universal and Triumphant conservation
easement private land
- 5,352 Acres: Dome Mountain Ranch,
private land; work with USFS and FWP and private land
owners to modify livestock management
Grazing Allotments in Joe Brown and Slip & Slide
Creeks should be revised to accommodate brucellosis proof
livestock such as steers, horses and mules.
West of YNP in the West Yellowstone Areas at Horse Butte,
North Side Hebgen Lake, Red Canyon, Cabin Creek Wildlife
Management Corridor, Taylor Fork, Buffalo Horn and Porcupine
Wildlife Management areas.
than 1,000 cows occupy the North, Gardiner Area and the
West Yellowstone area, near YNP. Most graze for a couple
months each summer. It is not practical to allow these
few cows to jeopardize the brucellosis of Montana’s
2 million cattle.
The following lands listed are the private owned cattle
grazed lands in the north of YNP in the Gardiner Area:
- 640 acres Church Universal and Triumphant at Trestle
- 197 acres Raymond and Dorothy Stermitz property
- 52 acres
Wayne Hoppe property
- 40 acres Bill Hoppe property
- 67 acres Hank Rate property
- 996 acres on north side
West Yellowstone Area:
- 1,105 acres Red Canyon Ranch, Ezekial
- 325 acres Stinnett family Duck Creek properties
- 711 acres Munn’s property
- 2,141 acres on west
3,137 acres are grazed by less than 1,000 private owned
cattle. We must look for opportunities to work with
neighboring private land owners who are friendly to
buffalo and who own relatively large acres of important
further information please contact: Joe Gutkoski, Vice
President, Yellowstone Buffalo Foundation, 406-587-9181
October 21, 2006