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Wildlife advocates outraged after lone bull bison shot in wildlife management area

By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, kmozzone@ktvm.com
Published On: Apr 19 2013 08:00:31 PM MDT

Photo courtesy Eric Wandishin

BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Wildlife advocates are outraged over a bison shot in a wildlife management area in the Paradise Valley, but Department of Livestock leaders say the bison was out of the tolerance area and had to be shot.

Folks with Fish Wildlife and Parks tell us the bison was taken just above the Dailey Basin in their Dome Mountain Wildlife Management Area, in the Paradise Valley.

The Department of Livestock say that's three to four miles beyond the new 75,000 acre tolerance area outside Yellowstone National Park.

Leaders with the Department of Livestock say this is the first time they've seen a bison wander outside of the buffer zone around the park and because it was so far outside the boundary, they say it couldn't be hazed back and they couldn't retrieve it, but wildlife advocates disagree.

Folks with the Department of Livestock say the Interagency Bison Management Plan dictates bison that move beyond the buffer zone can be shot.

"It's important to maintain...separation between bison and cattle and once they move out of that tolerance area, they are into the greater paradise valley where there are several livestock operations," says Department of Livestock Executive Officer Christian Mackay.

They say they want to protect those operations from property damage and the threat of brucellosis transmission. While this lone bull bison might not pose much of a threat, they tell me his herd does.

"These older bison often go off on their own and find new territory and then we've seen them oftentimes come back into the herd and leave with a few others and that's how their migration patterns get established," explains Mackay.

Yet, wildlife advocates say the Dome Mountain area is familiar land for bison.

"The idea that you have to shoot this one buffalo because he's going to go back and tell the rest of the buffalo is just absolutely ridiculous," says Alliance for the Wild Rockies' Steve Kelly.

We took a walk with Kelly and asked, "What's your greatest outrage in all of this?"

"That the first response was to drop the buffalo, let it lie and leave it to rot," says Kelly.

Kelly says this bison was in a wildlife management area, doing nothing wrong and, despite what Department of Livestock officials say, should have been hazed back to the boundary but Livestock officials say that's easy to say from an outsider's perspective.

"It has to be managed on a greater landscape. There has to be a plan and you have to stick to that plan...The more you start eroding the boundary, the more there are going to be bison livestock human conflicts," explains Mackay.

Kelly says that logic is why he'd like to see different management altogether.

"FWP should manage all wildlife in Montana. Department of Livestock should manage livestock. Buffalo are wildlife," Kelly shrugs.

We spoke to officials with Fish Wildlife and Parks, the organization that manages the Dome Mountain Wildlife Area.

They tell me there has to be a boundary and they support the Department of Livestock's decision to kill the bison.