POLL: Should bison be culled in Yellowstone National Park?

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’s annual culling of the last wild herd of , or buffalo, in the United States has been controversial since it began in 2000, and now it has prompted a First Amendment battle between National Park Service officials and reporters determined to document the grim spectacle.

The U.S. National Park Service originally proposed to kill as many as 1,000 bison this winter in an attempt to limit the herd’s annual migration up the Yellowstone River valley and into traditional winter range in Montana, where ranchers fear the bison could infect their cattle with brucellosis, a bacterial disease that can cause miscarriages.

Brucellosis is a livestock disease first introduced in the US by cattle brought over from Europe. Bison are not the only species that can carry the disease — and in fact, according to the Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC), recent studies of brucellosis transmission to cattle in the Yellowstone ecosystem found that elk were the more likely source.

, or American buffalo, in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Don Graham / Flickr.

There has never been a documented case of domestic livestock contracting the disease from bison in the wild, the BFC says.

After consulting with state and federal agencies as well as local Native American tribes, the Park Service plans to begin trapping and facilitating the of up to 900 bison starting February 15, EcoWatch reports. The parts of the park where the trapping operations take place will be off limits to the public, including media.

“It’s ironic that to benefit Montana ranchers grazing their cattle — an invasive species — Yellowstone Park has agreed to facilitate the capture and killing of 900 American bison, an iconic, native species,” said Justin Marceau, a law professor and attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Marceau is part of a group of lawyers and law professors who have filed a federal suit on behalf of journalist Christopher Ketcham and activist Stephany Seay, arguing that by denying access to Yellowstone National Park’s trapping operations, park officials are violating the First Amendment.

“I want full access to the operations so I can effectively report on the issue,” Ketcham said, according to EcoWatch. “I want to be able to see the suffering of these animals up close and thus bring readers up close.”

Calves and females are being targeted in order to limit the herd’s reproductive capabilities. “Hunters, including from tribes with treaty rights in the Yellowstone area, are anticipated to kill more than 300 of the animals. Others would be captured for or research purposes,” per the Associated Press.

There were 4,900 bison in Yellowstone National Park as of summer 2015. More than 6,300 have been slaughtered and almost 1,900 killed by hunters since the 1980s. Officials trapped 737 animals last year, falling short of their goal of up to 900.

“Through the legal agreement the National Park Service has to do this,” Yellowstone spokesperson Sandy Snell-Dobert said, according to the AP. “If there was more tolerance north of the park in Montana for wildlife, particularly bison as well as other wildlife, to travel outside the park boundaries, it wouldn’t be an issue.”

This article was first published by on 28 Jan 2016.


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Jack Carone

by "experts" do you mean "murderers"?

Laura B Aaron

The cattle industry is in and of itself, a cancer on this finite planet. Medicine and science already said we should NOT be eating meat. Science warns that methane from livestock agriculture is far more dangerous than C02. WHY in the name of logic are we using tax dollars to kill Bison to protect an industry using public lands, public welfare, only to produce products that cause public diseases and environmental disease. YES, I'm vegan and like the cows and bison, I get ALL the protein I need as they do, from plants! It's sickening to kill these animals when… Read more »

Tami Hottes

Welfare ranchers need to stop squatting on Public Lands! Our corrupt elected official need to stop taking money to do their bidding. If the free grazers have their way, there won't be any wildlife left at all. Morons!

Erika Becerra

Duh! No. Let nature be nature!

Cry Green

@Dovewoman1 does the world not remember they were hunted almost to extinction, they brought back from brink? NO MORE KILLING

Barbara Stiles

@r_sauers @Onegreystray Bison

Gazd007

@AgainstHunting no

Konstanze Klemisch

I'm always against artificial"culling", or wholesale slaughter of any animald

Boo Daniels

Bison (the only buffalo are water buffalos) have been a primary vector for brucellosis for time immenorable. I've frequently tested herds with no exposure to domestic cattle and found numerous positives. Bison must be culled and the healthy herd vaccinated even on private ranches with no potentiaL exposure factors.

Mary Alice Moonflower Pollard

Excuses to side with farmers – again !
I would strongly suggest that it is the DOMESTIC cattle that are spreading disease to the buffalo – buffalo are native, cows are NOT ! Sop bowing to the farmers who take up too much land as it is – over farming greed is the biggest problem. Leave the wild buffalo alone on their land !

Delbert Smith

For once I see agreement on let the knowledgeably people make the decision. Once thing missed is Bangs i.e. Brucellosis, is one of the Zoonotic Diseases. meaning these can transfer to human. The meat is safe if cooked to 165F. Bangs as we call it in the cattle industry cause the fetus to abort, and yes it has been recorded in humans around the world. Here is a simpler way to cull the herd. Lottery drawing for hunter. $1500.00 per tag. There would be a lot of people apply and the drawing by lottery. Also the article lied!! Yes there… Read more »

Anne Grice

Shared. Leave them to live in peace!

Boo Daniels

Two words: Herd Health. Let wildlife biologists and the experts make these determinations for the benefit of the greatest POSSIBLE number of animals.

Jill Matthews

The situation in southern Africa is similar wrt native herbivores and farmed cattle. The Americans should look at what happens in places like Namibia with their 'red line' – this may not be a solution for them but they may learn something. This situation is not unique.

Paul Seligman

The article is written to get a "No" answer to such questions. Which is OK, but I answered 'don't know' because there are probably different arguments as well. When captive herds or other animals in defined reserves grow beyond a certin size, culling may be necessary for the health of the herd or to prevent excess damage to the environment (e.g. elephant populations in some areas of Africa). Farming populations aropund national parks often have conflicts with conserved and 'iconic' species. A balance is required to ensure good will. In the real world, the space available for mega-fauna is now… Read more »