Montana DOL is back at it.

Montana Shows Intolerance for Bison in First Capture Operation of the Season

For Immediate Release: September 20, 2006

Press Contact: Darrell Geist, 406-646-0070

West Yellowstone, MT: Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) agents captured two bull bison this afternoon in the Duck Creek buffalo trap located on private land less than 200 yards from the western border of Yellowstone National Park. The buffalo were chased more than 8 miles from the Horse Butte Peninsula by agents shooting explosive cracker rounds from trucks, ATVs, and horses.

The bulls had been grazing peacefully in the Yellowstone Village subdivision, which the agents entered against the wishes of local residents who recently passed protective covenants against such bison hazing and capture operations. During the operation the bulls were chased into barbed-wire fences.

“Today’s capture demonstrates the DOL’s stubborn refusal to accept sound science and sharply contradicts recent statements made by Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer about the need to increase tolerance for bison in the state,” said Dan Brister of the Buffalo Field Campaign.

When he ran for office, Schweitzer said that management of buffalo and the protection of Montana’s brucellosis-free status should be determined by “science, not hyperbole,” and that the MDOL is “ill equipped” to manage wild buffalo in the State of Montana.

“If the Department of Livestock is concerned about disease, then Governor Schweitzer should send them out to watch cattle fences,” said Darrell Geist, a member of the Buffalo Field Campaign. “When local ranchers import cattle to graze on the bison’s native habitat, it should be the ranchers job to mind their cattle. If they want help from the state to protect their cattle, it shouldn’t be at the expense of native bison or their habitat.”

“We are asking Governor Schweitzer to set these buffalo free,” said Dan Brister. “We hold him personally responsible for their welfare.”

Last winter the DOL and National Park Service killed 1,010 Yellowstone bison. The Yellowstone herd is both behaviorally and genetically unique and is America’s only herd to continuously occupy its native habitat.

The Buffalo Field Campaign is the only group working in the field, every day, to stop the slaughter of the wild Yellowstone buffalo. Volunteers defend the buffalo and their native habitat and advocate for their lasting protection. For more information visit:

Video footage of today’s capute is available on requestLink to Buffalo Field Campaign



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  1. Jon Way Avatar
    Jon Way

    I get angered every time I read about the story on Bison. At least wolves kill things for a living. Bison eat grass. What is DOL’s excuse? How can these politicians (starting with Bush) sleep at night knowing how ass-backward their policies are. When I move out to Montana (which I visit every year) I am going to put in a name change request to DORWTM – The Dept. of Rednecks Wasting Taxpayers Money.
    These idiots should go to jail. What a backwards state to have them in charge of things.
    I’m a disgusted American reading what they do.

  2. Buffaloed Avatar

    Apparently another bull was caught that was unknown to the BFC so there were 3 bulls caught and all were sent to slaughter this morning.

    This is typical of DoL. It seems that every fall they decide to kill some of the lone bulls that leave the park. Bulls can not transmit brucellosis only pregnant cows can. The time when pregnant cows are most likely to even possibily transmit brucellosis is during the late winter when they are under the most stress and during the birthing season in April and May. There are no cattle in the West Yellowstone area between mid-October and mid June thus making the brucellosis rational a moot point in this area.

    We have also found out that the management activities of the MDoL and Park Service, which kill the animals that test positive for exposure to brucellosis, may be actually taking out the animals that are capable of dealing with the disease thus reducing their immunity and raising the incidence of brucellosis overall. Another thing that has been learned recently is that the antibody test used also can result in positive results if the animal has been exposed to another disease, yersinia, that does not have the same impact on wildlife or livestock. It has more flu-like symptoms and causes gastrointestinal distress for a short period of time.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    The same is true in Wyoming, where unlike Montana, there is a serious brucellosis problem.

    Last winter Wyoming on an experimental basis began a wildlife killing program similar to Montana. Only in Wyoming it was elk.

    They set up barrier to guide migrating elk into a corral at the Muddy Creek elk winter feedlot. Those that tested “positive” for brucellosis were shot. Those that were “negative” wintered on the feedlot.

    However, critics argued that because “positive” does not necessary mean infected or infectuous, they may well have been killing many of the more resistant animals, serving to slowly increase the amount of brucellosis in the elk.

    Here is the story from the Jackson Hole News and Guide. Sept. 6, 2006. “Study a blow to elk feeding. Authors say practice of test-and-slaughter may lead to more, not less, brucellosis in elk.

  4. Kalanu Avatar

    …And that’s also the case with the brucellosis testing done on the bison. The tests only indicate whether an animal has exposure to the disease. A culture test needs to be performed after the animal is killed. In the bison’s case, after the culture test, it revealed that the actual infection rate may be as low as 2% and only as high as 20%.
    So they have been killing animals who have built up a resistance.
    This is just one of many actions taken against the bison that if anything have increased the disease prevelance.
    This spring 300 bison were held at the Stephen’s Creek Capture facility on the north side of the park just as the calving season was getting under way. The still-births that occurred in there and the crowded conditions undoubtedly increased disease prevelance.
    So I can’t be convinced these agencies are all that concerned about brucellosis. It’s the bogey-man of this issue, and the more the agencies bait us into this debate, the less time we spend debating the real issues here; public lands grazing and the unsustainability, corruption, waste and destructiveness of the cattle industry.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Of all the things that happen, for some reason the Montana DOL lies about the buffalo have made me more angry than any other wildife controversy.

    None of their public explanations make sense. Control killing the wolves, I might strongly disagree, but the arguments made are straightforward.

    On the bison, I finally concluded it was a way of expressing the Montana livestock industry’s cultural hegemony, or less academically, they have their boot at the back of our necks and like rub our face in the dirt. It’s not about bison or disease at all.

  6. Elizabeth Parker Avatar
    Elizabeth Parker

    I often wonder why one of the many famous celebrities who own property in the Yellowstone area don’t get involved to raise awareness about this. I heard Peter Jennings, I believe, speak about his property up there and how he admires the plentiful native wildlife in the area, including the bison on his very property.

  7. Howard Avatar

    I find it very curious that we tolerate the continued slaughter of America’s largest land mammal and national emblem. Of course, the issue is gaining prominence, and there are indeed many groups and individuals working valiantly to stop this travesty, but I’m amazed at how complacent the public at large seems to be, especially compared to the response to killing wolves and bears. Of course, I’m delighted and very relieved that proposed anti-wolf and anti-grizzly actions garner such a public response, but why not the bison?
    I think the reason is two-fold.
    First, the bison slaughter/hazing is established policy, not something new, so it’s already an established course of action.

    Second, I think many people do not understand the conservation ramifications. Since the No Bison Outside Yellowstone policy isn’t causing the bison to go extinct, it may seem like reasonable management. I do think there would be great public outrage at a Yellowstone bison extermination project, but “just” keeping them in the Park and controlling “sick” individuals probably sounds fair to many people. What people may fail to understand is that the Park is only a part of a much larger ecosystem. The artificial Park boundaries mean nothing to wildlife. Yellowstone, at 3,000 + square miles, is pretty big, but space alone is not enough. I think many people don’t realize this: just because YNP has lots of “room” doesn’t mean it can accommodate the same numbers of animals year round. Most of Yellowstone is useless to bison in the dead of winter. Bison cannot find food at high altitudes in winter, and need to forage in valleys at lower elevations (one of the biggest challenges to conservation all over North America is getting people to understand that preserving every ice-capped peak and mountain range on the continent isn’t going to help most wildlife if the valleys, river bottoms, and lowlands are all off-limits). Back in 1872, Yellowstone’s boundaries were not drawn up with natural migration routes of large mammals in mind; mainly, the Park was originally preserved for its geologic features with boundaries drawn accordingly. Although the winter range of large mammals does, thankfully, include the Lamar Valley, it extends well beyond the Park’s borders. It is therefore not a “fair compromise” that the bison get the Park, and anti-bison factions get everything immediately outside. Additionally, I think many people may think of this more as an animal welfare/animal rights issue than a conservation issue. Part of the complaint is that the hazing/slaughtering is inhumane and inflicts needless suffering on bison. This is absolutely true… but a possible consequence may be that some people, given only a cursory glance at the issue, view the controversy as one between animal rights activists and wildlife management. I think that in some people’s minds then, there is the mistaken belief that the forces against the hazing/slaughter are factions that oppose killing animals for any reason, fighting against reasonable wildlife management policies.

    * NOTE: It is not my purpose to bash people who oppose killing animals, merely to state the fact that animal RIGHTS garner MUCH less public support than conservation/ecology concerns. The inhumane issue, in this case, IS valid though, and I will state that although I am in favor of hunting, fishing, eating meat, and OCCASIONAL, NECESSARY wildlife control, I am very against inflicting needless and excessive pain/fear on animals, and in cases where policy is tantamount to excessive cruelty, I do advocate that hunters, fishers, biologists, etc. DO speak up.[ Biologists and ecologists risk having their scientific objectivity questioned if they dare bring this up, but they too have every right to object, not as scientists, but as human beings… as far as objectivity, biologists may know first-hand the extent of cruelty involved in some practices]. Especially if, as in the case of the bison, the policy is completely uncalled for anyway! *

    This is a tremendous conservation issue! The ecosystem extends well beyond the Park, and the bison need to venture outside the Park. Preventing them from doing so is not only depriving the greater ecosystem of a native element, but turns the Park into a giant zoo. We frequently hear about Yellowstone’s bison as “the largest free roaming wild herd”, but it’s a lie… Yellowstone’s bison are prisoners in the Park, and they are managed like livestock, not wildlife. This is not only bad for bison, but potentially harms other species as well by reinforcing the notion of Yellowstone as a maximum security prison for any large mammal that somebody, somewhere may find inconvenient. Finally, it greatly threatens the genetic diversity and natural wild behavior of bison… remember, we’re currently managing bison as livestock, and we are in real danger of turning them into livestock!… continued slaughter and hazing of animals that exhibit resistance to disease and wild behavior such as migrating, jumping obstacles, and even aggression, will eventually turn the great American bison into a semi-domestic, exotic-looking cow.

    The truth is, the Park’s bison, as truly “free roaming” and “wild”, are indeed in danger of extermination, and the public must demand that the last meager remnants of this continent’s bison be treated as valued wildlife.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan