Yellowstone to cull (kill) 900 buffalo this year

Just saw this news item and wanted to pass it along, with some educated corrections.

Yellowstone BisonIn order to  reduce its bison population this winter, authorities in Yellowstone National Park plan to cull (read slaughter) as many as 900 buffalo, or a fifth of the herd. They’d do this by killing off those animals that stray from the park. This would be the largest such culling in seven years, the park’s wildlife chief said on Tuesday.

Conservationists had just filed a legal petition on Monday demanding the Obama administration end annual culling which has resulted in thousands of Yellowstone bison being shipped off to American Indian tribes for slaughter during the past decade. The latest quota would cut the size of the country’s last pure-bred band of free-ranging bison, also known as buffalo, to 4,000 animals from an estimated 4,900.

The new push to cull the herd is tied to a long-standing management plan hammered out among federal and state wildlife and agricultural agencies that sets the target population at between 3,000 and 3,500 bison.

Buffalo that migrate each winter from Yellowstone to historic grazing grounds in Montana raise fears among ranchers about the spread of the bacterial disease brucellosis.

Here’s where the story goes south. Brucellosis is a serious and fatal disease. It causes miscarriages in cows. And for over 100 years, federal agencies have been culling Yellowstone’s buffalo herd to “prevent” the spread of this dread disease.

Buffalo hazing outside of Yellowstone

Buffalo hazing outside of Yellowstone

But there has never been a case of brucellosis documented as spreading from buffalo to cows. The “threat” is a ruse to keep the buffalo herd as low as possible so that ranchers can gain more prime grazing land. Greed pure and simple.

David Hallac, chief of Yellowstone’s science and research branch, said the removal of 900 bison would help meet a population target determined by wildlife ecology as well as cultural, social and economic factors.

The number of bison culled from Yellowstone has varied widely from year to year. In the winter of 2011-2012, fewer than 40 wandered from the park because of relatively mild conditions. The winter of 2007-2008 saw more than 1,600 bison killed.

So should the Yellowstone herd be culled or should the Park Service / U.S. Forest Service, who are in charge of this annual slaughter, be brought to account and this practice be stopped? Greed versus animal rights? And should Yellowstone’s herd be granted additional grazing land, particularly during the winter without fear of reprisals such as hazing and death? These are the real issues that need to be addressed.

What do you think?

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