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Slaughter of escaped Yellowstone bison common practice

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Feb 12 2014 11:35:28 PM MST
GARDINER, Mont. -

Yellowstone National Park recently rounded up 20 bison that wandered out of the park into Gardiner, and gave them to local tribes for slaughter.

Yellowstone explained this is a common practice, but a Montana activist group said that's no way to treat our nation's wild buffaloes.

Just inside Yellowstone National Park's northern gate, a group of bison were grazing.

But if this group were to wander across park boundaries, "we will haze and capture some bison and subsequently transfer them to tribes," explained Park Spokesperson Al Nash.

Yellowstone park officials said right now the bison population inside the park is too high, and one of the ways to fix it is to round up any escaped bison and take them to a slaughterhouse.

"If the bison population gets significantly above the target size, there is an increasing likelihood they'll migrate outside the park boundaries sometime during the winter," Nash explained.

Nash said the target population size is 3,500, but current estimates show 4,600 bison in the park.

And it is not just about population control, explaining when Buffalo wander out of the park, there is the chance they will spread brucellosis, an infectious disease, to livestock.

But not everyone is buying that answer.

"Elk have brucellosis and unlike bison it's been shown that elk have transmitted brucellosis to livestock, but elk are not kept in the park," said Dan Brister, the Executive Director of the Buffalo Field Campaign, an organization trying to stop the capture and slaughter of Yellowstone bison.

He explained this treatment of the bison is unfair.

"Bison are discriminated against," he said. "No other species is expected to stay inside the boundaries of Yellowstone and cut off from accessing its winter and spring habitat."

But Nash said the practice of giving the buffalo to tribes has been going on for more than a decade and is likely to continue, because they have an agreement with the federal government and local tribes.