Jaedin Medicine Elk and I traveled to Chico Hot Springs, MT, for the fall Interagency Bison Management Plan meeting, which took place on Halloween. Not exactly how we wanted to spend this holiday, but the buffalo come first. This is our report back to you.
We learned that the Montana State Vet (Dept. of Livestock), Marty Zaluski, has retired. The new state vet is Dr. Tahnee Szymanski. She is a native Montanan and a graduate from Oregon State University, a big agriculture school. To our knowledge, she may be the first female state vet for Montana. We hope she will be more gentle than the men before her.
We also learned that one of Yellowstone’s bison biologists, P.J. White, has retired.
There was much hoopla from the Montana Dept. of Livestock in regards to language the Park and other agencies wanted to strike from the Operations Plan in regards to vaccinating wild bison. In 2014, Yellowstone squashed the idea of vaccinating buffalo, because it doesn’t make sense on so many levels. It is domestic, invasive cattle who should be vaccinated, not wild buffalo. To date, there is no safe and effective brucellosis vaccine because former President George W. Bush placed Brucella abortus on the Center for Disease Control’s bio-terror agent list – a foolish move that prevents scientists from working to find a vaccine that works. On cattle.
More urgently, Yellowstone released their summer bison population estimate. The Yellowstone buffalo population dropped by 2,000 in the last year. This is mainly due to excessive treaty hunting. The Park reported that 60-70% of the population migrated into the Gardiner Basin (on the north edge of Yellowstone) where there was a record “harvest”, as we have previously reported.
Chris Geremia, Yellowstone’s head buffalo biologist, reported that the imperiled Central herd continues to decline. As he has for over five years now, he again recommended that no buffalo be hunted in the Hebgen Basin, on the west side of the Park. But, the hunters will not listen. The Central herd are the only buffalo who migrate into the Hebgen Basin, but they also migrate into the Gardiner Basin, so they are doubly impacted by “management” actions (hunting, slaughter, quarantine).
Astoundingly, he also recommended that hunters kill MORE females than bulls! The females are the matriarchs, the ones who teach the youth where to find the best grass, the best water, the safest lands and routes to get there. They are also the ones who carry in their wombs the next generation. As we stated in our public comments, killing the females is what destroys a nation.
Once again, they set no quota, meaning if we have a heavy winter like last year, it could be another free-for-all killing frenzy. They did suggest that no more than 1,100 should be “taken”, but that’s only a suggestion that holds no weight. Buffalo advocates know that killing one is too many right now. These populations need federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. They must be allowed to recover and restore themselves on the lands that are their birthright, and ESA listing is the only thing that will give them the respite to do so. But, restraint and respect aren’t something that agencies or hunters really care about.
The MT Dept. of Livestock appealed to treaty hunting tribes to actually help them by hazing with bullets, should buffalo approach or breach the so-called tolerance zones, beyond which, buffalo are currently not allowed. Once again, they want to use tribes to do their buffalo-killing dirty work.
In an interesting twist, some members of the Interagency Bison Management Plan began questioning what they were doing, why do they exist, what is their purpose in moving forward? They currently have no purpose other than to maintain the status quo and make the lives of the last wild buffalo one of unnecessary challenges and misery.
The public comment period actually came before lunch, this time. There were some really great words said on behalf of the buffalo. One person really stands out – Wendy Whitehorn, someone we’ve been in touch with since last winter. She is a native Montanan, born and raised on a Montana farm. In her comments, she sang a version of “Home on the Range” that put the DOL to shame. It was brilliant. She had visual aids, some blown up photos of ours that really helped illustrate the travesty she was conveying. It was an honor and pleasure to meet her.
View Jaedin Medicine Elk’s comments above and check back soon for videos of the other public comments!
There were a couple of decent articles that came out about the meeting and population count:
From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Livestock Department, Yellowstone, Exchange Blows in Annual Bison Meeting
And from the Billings Gazette: Yellowstone bison population estimated at 4,800 following deadly 2022-23 winter
Winter is here now, and the deep snows are just around the corner. We need your support to be in the field, to stand in defense of our buffalo family. There is a lot of travel and lodging involved to keep us on the front lines, so please, do what you can to support our work in standing with the last wild buffalo. Thank you so much for loving wild buffalo!
Next week, November 9, we will travel to Bozeman to watch a public screening of Yellowstone Voice’s “A Path Forward for the American Bison” at the Museum of the Rockies. We will be part of a panel discussion after the documentary plays. We wish you all could be there with us. Trust that we will represent.
WILD IS THE WAY ~ ROAM FREE!
Co-founder, Roam Free Nation