Hazing Is Cruel And Unnecessary
The collective guilt of mindless cruelty on our wild Yellowstone buffalo by Yellowstone National Park (YNP), Montana Department of Livestock (DOL), and Montana Department of Fish Wildlife & Parks (FWP) is beyond all human reasoning.
A recent newspaper photograph clearly shows state and federal mounted agents hazing buffalo mothers with their newborn calves closely following. They were being driven off National Forest, snow-free Horse Butte Area in the West Yellowstone basin, back into the deep snows of YNP. The emaciated mother in the lead, followed bravely by her newborn, bowlegged, underdeveloped wet calf is an unacceptable result of hazing buffalo during birthing season.
A later newspaper photograph, June 1, 2011, shows three horsemen—one from FWP and two YNP rangers--hazing over 100 buffalo being hazed down a snow-plowed road with deep snow on either side inside YNP. How can our thin winter survivors expect to forage through deep snows with little springtime grass in YNP when they have just been driven off public land grass on Horse Butte, with no cattle in the area?
This tragedy is perpetuated by the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) committee, stockgrowers and YNP-haters, using brucellosis as a heavy-handed excuse to drive buffalo off snow-free public land back into the deep snows of YNP and starvation. All wildlife are suffering from severe springtime snow this year, forcing them to hold on to fragile life in Montana. We should not be hazing buffalo off natural calving areas where they can complete their pregnancy on public land without cost to any agency.
Allowing buffalo to migrate out of the West Yellowstone Basin north to public lands, through the Cabin Creek Wildlife Corridor, would provide year-round foraging outside YNP. These lands can accommodate thousands of buffalo.
On January 1, 2011, YNP began capturing buffalo to keep them from migrating into close by National Forest grazing ranges in the Gardiner basin. There were 800 buffalo being held in the crowded Stevens Creek trap inside YNP--a trap that was originally designed to hold 400. The stress of confining 800 wild buffalo has caused open horn wounds and infected cuts. Pregnant females birthing calves in the urine-soaked mud in the overcrowded capture pens. White colored sticky tags, pasted on buffalo flanks, indicate they tested positive for brucellosis. But immunity tests were not done, so white tags may mean slaughter.
Captured buffalo selected for research are being held at the Brogan old elk farm with fences rebuilt to hold buffalo. The research program is now (6-8-11) being mixed into a buffalo sterilization program costing the federal government millions of additional expenses. For what purpose? Nothing is being revealed by the U.S. Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on their objectives. Brucellosis is endemic in buffalo, elk, deer, etc. throughout the vast reaches of public wildlands in the Larger Yellowstone Ecosystem (LYE).
Elimination of brucellosis is not possible due to the draconian measures that would be required to capture, test and then slaughter positive-testing buffalo, elk and deer, etc. Elimination is not possible without a huge takeover by the federal government, which most Montanan's will not tolerate. And the money is not available.
Buffalo can move on their own four hooves to public-owned grazing ranges north across Deckard Flat, Eagle Creek Bench, Maiden, Basset, and Cedar Creek basins, and north to the Daily Lake Wildlife Management Area. The area can accommodate 3,000 buffalo year-round on public-owned wildlife habitat. We can accommodate buffalo moving into these areas by adjusting YNP boundary-line-shooting by FWP-licensed shooters and tribal shooters to allow the buffalo to migrate north. Populations on areas outside YNP can be controlled through normal fair-chase state hunting regulations.
The winter of 1988-1989 began the first big slaughter when 587 YNP buffalo were shot by FWP-licensed shooters, mostly falling in the barrow pit along US 89 north of Gardiner, Montana, in full view of an enraged nation. Subsequently, Montana became a pariah and lost 50% of our tourist trade in 1990. Certainly ranchers, as a group, do not want to loose our tourist trade again and be nationally tainted. In this heartbreaking conflict we all know that Montana is big enough for wild buffalo to walk to public-owned ranges, on their own power, without hazing, at no cost, except for wildlife management by FWP--in the same way elk, dear, moose, bighorn and antelope are managed.
I have been involved with YNP buffalo since 1985 when the northeastern Montana Big Open Project was formed. Eastern Montana family ranchers were losing their land in bankruptcies at an alarming rate due to the drought of the 1980's. Witness the population drain in northeastern Montana in the 1980's. The Big Open Project was a remedy for ranchers to hold onto their land by changing from livestock to a wildlife, recreation and land reclamation economy. In our ignorance, we were not aware that the surviving ranchers were not interested in change and we were discouraged (put mildly) by the reaction of stockgrowers.
Stockgrowers' political power has resulted in unending pressure on federal and state agencies, forcing them to make public trust mistakes, poor planning decisions and a colossal waste of millions of taxpayer dollars. This has led to the slaughter of more than 6,600 buffalo since 1985.
Wildlife advocates and sportsmen are the sleeping giant awakening to the knowledge that the stockgrowers' next target is brucellosis in elk.
Joe Gutkoski, president
Yellowstone Buffalo Foundation