Central Yellowstone Bison Herd in Peril

Current Management Practices Diminish Herd Viability to the Point of Hunt Closure Recommendations

     by Buffalo Field Campaign

WEST YELLOWSTONE, MONTANA:  Montana and Yellowstone’s severe mismanagement of wild, migratory bison has caused a serious decline in Yellowstone’s Central bison herd.  The current management practices have diminished herd viability to the point that bison biologists are recommending hunt closures in Montana’s Hebgen Basin, west of Yellowstone National Park, lands where only buffalo from the Central Herd migrate to.

So far, this recommendation is not being heeded.  Bison from the imperiled Central herd are already being killed by hunters.

The burden should not be on hunters alone. Yellowstone National Park must also take responsibility for their actions and refuse to kill for Montana cattle interests.  Yellowstone’s unnecessary capture-for-slaughter operations far exceed the number of buffalo killed by hunters.

The Montana-based wild bison advocacy group, Buffalo Field Campaign, will hand deliver a letter to the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) decision-makers at an IBMP meeting held today in Chico Hot Springs, Montana.  The letter urges hunt managers and Yellowstone to both take the necessary steps that will allow the Central bison herd to recover.  The letter will also be sent to Montana Governor Steve Bullock as well as the Tribal Councils and Tribal Fish & Wildlife Commissions of the five Tribes hunting under treaty right.

“If Yellowstone moves forward with capture-for-slaughter operations, they will be neglecting their responsibility to the buffalo, ignoring the tragic shift that they recognize and have directly caused, and will be placing the bulk of the conservation burden on the five Tribes hunting under treaty right,” said James Holt, Buffalo Field Campaign Board Member from the Nez Perce (Nimiipuu) Tribe.

Bison managers know Central herd buffalo migrate west into the Hebgen Basin and also north into the Gardiner Basin. These distinct migrations doubly expose and impact the Central herd to capture and slaughter, hazing, and hunting firing lines on Yellowstone’s border..  The Central herd is in dire straits, hovering now at around 830 individuals, one-fourth the size it was in 2005. Barring a few radio-collared females, slaughter managers can’t differentiate Central from Northern herd buffalo.

“The Central herd is in this predicament because of Montana’s and Yellowstone’s gross negligence, and now Yellowstone biologists are calling for a hunt closure to offer a respite to Central herd buffalo, yet still want to kill up to 1,250 buffalo this winter – from both the Central and Northern herds – as they migrate north into the Gardiner Basin,” said Buffalo Field Campaign Board President Mike Mease.  “While a hunt closure on the west side is badly needed, Yellowstone needs to do their part and stand up to Montana and refuse to capture. It is irresponsible and negligent for them to recommend hunting cease while they carry on with indiscriminate slaughter.”

The Central herd needs to recover before they disappear completely.

“The reality is Montana’s and Yellowstone’s “management” is causing a fundamentally tragic shift in buffalo behavior, migrations, and population structure,” said Buffalo Field Campaign media coordinator Stephany Seay. “Without additional habitat and protections, the Central herd will soon be gone, and the entirety of this last wild population is at risk of extinction.”

For more information about what is happening to America’s last wild buffalo, our National Mammal, visit www.BuffaloFieldCampaign.org.

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