Yellowstone proposes killing off 1,000 bison from its herd

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Field Campaign

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Field Campaign

Bison, otherwise known as buffalo, as iconic to America as the flag and apple pie. They invoke a sense of freedom and awe. The most famous herd of buffalo resides in Yellowstone National Park.

But freedom is a slippery slope, particularly this time of year for these iconic animals. In wintertime, the herd traverses distances outside the Park to find food and shelter. And that’s where the trouble lays.

Yellowstone National Park is proposing to reduce its celebrated bison herd by 1,000 animals this winter by rounding up those wandering into adjacent Montana and delivering them to Native American tribes for slaughter, officials said on Wednesday.

The longstanding but controversial annual culling is designed to lessen the risk of straying Yellowstone bison infecting cattle herds in Montana with brucellosis, a bacterial disease carried by many bison.

Here’s the rub.

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Field Campaign

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Field Campaign

According to scientists and those who keep track of these things, there is no known record  of buffalo having EVER spread brucellosis to cattle. Remarkably, buffalo were first infected with this disease from cattle!

The concern for brucellosis transmission is an instilled fear and excuse utilized by cattlemen and ranchers to protect their grazing rights. Simply said, it’s greed over animal rights-of-way.

The group Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) has been documenting the hazing and harassment of these magnificent animals – who once roamed most of North America and numbered some 30 to 60 million animals, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – by those charged with protecting them. The bison herd is anything but free, at least outside the Park and sometimes even within it.

To herd one hundred of these wonderful creatures and deliver them to be killed, even by Native Americans who revere and honor them, seems greatly excessive. Bear in mind that this round-up and delivery isn’t simply an annual event. It occurs several times throughout the winter. And it’s important to also note that, according to BFC, “the tribes haven’t been allowed at the table where the ranchers, land managers, and politicians decide the fate of the buffalo.”

Bison being hazed before they're rounded up for slaughter, photo by Darrell Geist, courtesy of Buffalo Field Campaign

Bison being hazed before they’re rounded up for slaughter, photo by Darrell Geist, courtesy of Buffalo Field Campaign

One has to wonder if the negative pr, harassment and indiscriminate slaughter will ever end.

“The last wild, migratory buffalo populations are currently estimated at fewer than 4,200 individual animals, living in and around Yellowstone National Park. Wild, migratory bison are ecologically extinct throughout their native range in North America.”

Will buffalo ever truly be free to roam as their nature dictates? Will we humans ever be able to honor Nature and its inhabitants? Or is lip service the best we can do. You have to wonder.

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