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Yellowstone plans to continue bison slaughter

Despite the Biden administration’s promises on climate action, unfulfilled as they may be, no commitments of any kind seem to be forthcoming for wildlife. This includes the Yellowstone Park bison herd, which will soon be greatly diminished under a plan to address a booming population.

In a continuation of the disgraced legacy of Trump’s Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, Yellowstone National Park is recommending the slaughter of 900 to 1,100 animals. This number represents over 20 percent of the Yellowstone bison population. 

Zinke once told managers that Yellowstone bison can be managed more actively like cattle on a ranch. They seem to be taking this advice to heart. 

Bison have already been slaughtered annually for fears from cattle interests and the state of Montana of Brucellosis, a disease first passed from cattle to bison. There has never been a confirmed case of brucellosis transferred from bison to cattle. 

To avoid the theoretical spread of Brucellosis, bison are lured every winter into traps baited with fresh hay. The animals that survive the capture are shipped to slaughter houses.

The Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC), a bison conservation organization, points out that although elk are also carriers of Brucellosis, the two species are treated very differently. 

In Montana, an estimated 140,000 elk freely roam over 38 million acres. Bison on the other hand, have a small population of only about 5,000 animals occupying less than 0.1% of the land base of Montana. 

”For 25 years BFC has witnessed the artificial suppression of wild bison populations and monitored the negative impacts in the field,” said BFC Executive Director James Holt Sr. 

“The Central Herd of Yellowstone bison is gravely imperiled, ecosystem health is diminished, and resilience to climate change is inhibited. Ongoing bison management fails a keystone species and violates the public trust. Yellowstone bison management must reflect the values of the American People.”

The organization warns that carrying out the planned cull could seriously threaten the genetics of Yellowstone’s Central Herd, a unique bison population directly descended from 23 bison that survived the slaughter of commercial hunting at the end of the 19th century. If this happened, the park service wouldn’t even know until the census next summer.   

By Zach Fitzner, Staff Writer

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