COMMENTS DUE IMMEDIATELY — BY JAN. 21

This alert written by Stephany Seay

TAKE ACTION! Comments Needed on Montana’s 2022-2023 Bison Hunt Regulations! This is a great opportunity to raise our voices for Yellowstone’s imperiled Central herd, the last truly wild, migratory buffalo left in the country. It is also an opportunity to challenge the slaughter disguised as a "hunt" in the Gardiner Basin, especially at Beattie Gulch. Public comments are being accepted for a very short time, now through January 21, 2022. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, is proposing no changes. Comment and share widely!

1. Urge Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to close bison hunting in the Hebgen Basin, west of Yellowstone National Park to offer some protection to the imperiled Central herd.
2. Tell Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to work with tribal bison hunt managers and end the firing line at Beattie Gulch.

Submit your comments here:
https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/public-comment-opportunities/reg-proposals/bison

BACKGROUND:
The Central Buffalo Herd — the direct descendants of the 23 survivors of the 19th century government slaughter — remain in danger. Central herd buffalo migrate both west into Montana’s Hebgen Basin, and also north into Montana’s Gardiner Basin, making them doubly impacted by “management” schemes, including excessive “hunting”, capture for slaughter, and capture for quarantine (domestication).

Yellowstone Park’s Central Buffalo Herd
These bison are the only ones who migrate west into the Hebgen Basin, and they are in so much trouble that for the past few years Yellowstone NP and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials have called for NO KILLING of buffalo in the Hebgen Basin. So far, these have only been recommendations and they have fallen completely on deaf ears. State and treaty hunters don’t seem to care that the buffalo they are hunting are in such dire straits.

The Gardiner Basin / Beattie Gulch – here, the buffalo rarely ever make it further than Beattie Gulch, Forest Service land adjacent to Yellowstone’s north boundary. What passes for a “hunt” make the buffalo unable to access another eleven miles of habitat to the north. Because of the hunting the buffalo can barely access one square mile (640 acres) out of the 75,000 acres of habitat they’ve been granted in the Gardiner Basin. That situation is created by hunters. Also in the Gardiner Basin, the Travertine/Jardine/Eagle Creek area used to be teeming with buffalo. Since the hunt began, very few buffalo are found there now. Family groups from 20-30 buffalo at a time are often gunned down at Beattie Gulch in the span of 5 minutes; often buffalo are hit but not killed – jaws blown off, gut shot, fleeing back into the Park, for park officials to “dispatch.” Pregnant female buffalo continue to be gunned down just weeks prior to when they begin to calf, leaving the baby buffalo as offal in the gut piles of their mothers across the landscape of Beattie Gulch. There will never be the ability for wild buffalo to restore themselves when every single one who leaves Yellowstone through Beattie Gulch is gunned down. At the very least, the hunting of adult females must end.  It is the adult females who are the matriarchs of the family groups, the ones who hold the wisdom and teach the others.

PLEASE SUBMIT COMMENTS! Yellowstone’s buffalo herds are this country’s last wild, migratory herds. For ecological purposes these buffalo are now ecologically extinct and fundamentally endangered. They are, nonetheless, afforded zero protection. In either Basin, hunters are teaching the buffalo not to migrate in the direction of restoration. They are also killing off migratory memory and changing the herd dynamics by taking so many of the matriarchs who lead the family groups. Urge MT FWP to place a moratorium on hunting in the Hebgen Basin and end the firing-line slaughter in the Gardiner Basin and allow wild buffalo to recover and restore themselves on the lands that are their birthright. How do we measure recovery? Montana alone could sustain at least a million
buffalo. That’s a good place to start. WILD IS THE WAY! ROAM FREE!


Question for readers of The Wildlife News (TWN). In the past we have not posted alerts on wildlife issues. There are many of them out there, however, and some are much importance. This alert is the first we have done. Our question is, would you like to see some wildlife issue alerts? With about 600 viewers every day, TWN could have a significant effect on the outcome of many alerts.

If you have an opinion, please post it as a comment to this post, i.e. Immediate action comments needed. Montana Bison Hunt

Ralph Maughan, administrator

 
About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is past President of the Western Watersheds Project and the creator of The Wildlife News.

47 Responses to Immediate action comments needed. Montana Bison Hunt

  1. Oakley Taylor says:

    These hunts are cruel and unnecessary. How could this even be allowed? I am a taxpayer and a voter. Please cease to kill these beautiful animals!

    • Ralph Maughan says:

      Oakley,

      To help please write immediately to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks at the address in the alert.

      • Mark L says:

        I commented also. Ralph, do you know if people are allowed to film the hunt, both hunters and those witnessing it? Also what tribes participate?

        • Mark, yes, people can document the hunts. The tribes currently participating are the Nez Perce, Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, Umatilla Confederacy, Yakima Nation, Blackfeet, Arapaho, and Shoshone-Bannock.

  2. rastadoggie says:

    Montana is screwed up and does a grave disservice to wildlife and the public interest. You ‘al need to vote better.

  3. Susan Barmeyer says:

    Ever since I was a little girl in Montana – some 65 years-I have been awed by the Great Bison. What a magnificent animal. But we must put a moratorium on hunting in the big basins: Hebgen and Gardner. I want my grandchildren to see free range bison! I

  4. laurie says:

    Killing bison, wolves, bears—ALL for hunters’ enjoyment and enormous egos is wicked. They come up with their ridiculous, unscientific reasons to kill these great animals–but it boils down to their corrupt hearts.

  5. Tyler Houston says:

    The landscape can only support a certain number of animals. This is basic science. If they are not hunted, then they are culled back to a certain number. The herd is definitely not in peril contrary to this article by Ralph. At least people can utilize this renewable resource by eating the meat and utilize the animal. The belief that stopping the hunt will save more of them is contradictory to the science of a healthy eco-system. It would be better to work with local landowners to support more Bison populations outside the park or we reduce the human population (not possible) and impacts we have outside the park by allowing more
    bison to roam freely than to stop hunting of them.

    • Rich says:

      Tyler,

      Obviously you are not aware of the hundreds of thousands of square miles of public lands surrounding Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and elsewhere that are available for bison to roam. Note that these are public lands that belong to all Americans and we shouldn’t have to ask permission for America’s National Mammal to access them. Isolating American bison within the Park boundaries and lying about the threat of the diseases that cattlemen brought to America is hateful and ludicrous behavior. Elk, deer, moose, caribou, bear, cougars, coyotes and all of America’s other native animals are allowed to roam free and bison should have the same opportunity. What is the “basic science” about keeping them locked up in the Park?

      Actually the current management by Montana is putting bison at peril by killing them without respect to their genetics or the areas where the various herds migrate to and from every year. Any knowledgeable biologist would tell you that you just cannot kill off herds or flocks of native wild animals without regard to their genetics and migratory traits. That is why we have the Migratory Bird Act and why the passenger pigeons went extinct. Paying attention to these details really is basic science.

      • Tyler Houston says:

        You obviously didn’t read my comment. I am fully aware of the all the public lands around the park. Unfortunately bison are not allowed to roam free in these areas due to landowners restrictions in adjacent private lands and cattle grazing leases they hold. Rather than stopping a hunt or CULL that will happen regardless of how many complain about the hunt, we should be working with landowners to get bison back to more of those original corridors and have the ability to further grow the population. It isn’t MT FWP that is killing all the bison. If hunters and tribal members don’t harvest some of them outside the park, they will be culled by the national park service either way due to concerns over disease and over grazing, basic science, old chap.

        • Rich says:

          Tyler,

          Grazing on our public lands is a privilege and adjacent landowners do not have the right to do whatever they want on those lands. They only have a permit to use them for a period of time. The public that owns those lands does have a voice in how they are managed. If they are being managed in a way that will eventually wipe out one of the herds of bison in Yellowstone NP then our voice should be heard loud and clear. This is a political issue not basic science. The science is clear; if you continue to wantonly kill members of a small herd or flock of animals without regard to genetics or migration needs there will eventually be a problem with inbreeding. And make no mistake the Yellowstone herd is very small with regard to genetic viability and particularly when the herd is composed of animals favoring particular areas in the park and the critical migration paths. Once that collective knowledge is lost due to mismanagement it is unlikely the herd will ever be restored to that part of the Park. Consider the whooping cranes that once migrated through the western states. Attempts to restore them after they were all shot and killed by market hunters have been unsuccessful. Your use of euphemisms like “cull” or “harvest” doesn’t quite capture the situation as the cranes were completely extirpated. The science is clear on that. We shot too damn many of them. Since there is no accounting for the bison that are being killed this could easily happen to particular herds in Yellowstone National Park.

          You suggest working with the landowners. The taxpaying public is the landowner of public lands. The permittees paying a pittance for using our public lands are highly subsidized by taxpayers and aren’t about to voluntarily move off the government dole without some pressure from the public. Taxpayers also pay for the costs to manage the grazing program and the associated costs to repair damaged lands as well as for building infrastructure on our public lands such as fencing and pipelines to modify natural springs and waterways. They also pay for the very costly activities of APHIS in the USDA to control predators and other native animals competing for rangeland resources including in some cases elk at Point Reyes NS as well as bison in Yellowstone NP.

          In addition all of us will eventually pay for the long term environmental damage that is occurring throughout our public rangelands by sheep and cattle grazing. It is easy for some people to be hoodwinked into believing the damage to our rangelands and the wildlife that depend on them by subsidized poorly managed grazing is acceptable. But science doesn’t support that any more than the contention that our climate is not changing or if it is that humans are innocent bystanders. Anyone who cares about the long term health of our Parks and the animals that grace them should be encouraged to speak out and not be duped into thinking they can’t make a difference.

          • Tyler Houston says:

            I agree with your comments for the most part Rich. Again, this original post and question posed is to stop the Bison hunt in Montana which I completely disagree with. The National Park Service will cull several hundred animals regardless of the hunt or not. They want the population of Bison in the park kept around 5,000 animals. The population grows every year and is culled every year if they are not harvested by hunters in Wyoming or Montana. Again stopping this hunt does nothing to bolster the population. We need more areas for the bison to roam and until we get more private landowners (cattle ranchers) and the national forest service outside the park to accept them, we will never bolster this population. You are absolutely right that grazing is a privilege. Again, you are not reading my comment and what this post is about. Stopping the hunt is not the answer but allowing the Bison to areas outside the park and allowing them to move more freely in adjacent public and private lands is the key. Yes, this does still mean bison will be killed every year but again this number will be managed. This is where our energy as bison advocates should be spent. I would love to see the iconic symbol of the west increase in population throughout our country. By the way, there is plenty of “accounting” for the bison being killed. MT FWP has a tag allocation system where only 85 tags are awarded. The remainder of the tags are allocated based on management numbers meticulously managed with biologists from the National Park Service. It is not uncontrolled killing as you think. I am guessing you are not from Montana or Wyoming otherwise you would be educated on how it works. By the way, this herd is growing beyond Yellowstone if you do your research. Some bison are moved and relocated each year to reservations and other acceptable places around the continent further expanding the genetic biodiversity of this particular herd.

            • Rich says:

              Tyler,

              Here is a paragraph from the Western Watersheds announcement. You can read the complete court decision by the using the link posted in my comment further below.

              “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues to ignore scientific evidence that there are two separate and genetically distinct herds of bison—the Central Interior herd and Northern Herd—in Yellowstone National Park. The current Interagency plan treats bison as a single herd, failing to provide safeguards to maintain both herds as distinct and isolated units. The Central Interior herd may already be too small to maintain its viability from a genetic standpoint. The Fish and Wildlife Service needs to act now to reverse decades of aggressive government killing and harassment.”

        • Ed Loosli says:

          Tyler:: Please educate yourself before projecting your ignorance about Yellowston’s bison and how endangered they really are. The bison are not allowed to roam free outside Yellowstone, NOT by private landowners as you write, but instead there are over 7 MILLION ACRES of Public Lands surrounding Yellowstone National Park and it is the State of Montana itself that is doing the bidding of the livestock industry and saying the it is ok to shoot bison when they step foot outside the protective boundary of Yellowstone NP. In fact, there are private ranch owners who would welcome wild Yellowstone bison to their lands, but the State will not allow it. Instead the State of Montana sells permits so the bison can be killed before they even have a chance to get to any safe private or public land. And the federal government is no better in keeping bison numbers artificially low.

    • Makuye says:

      Noticce here: https://fwp.mt.gov/gis/maps/huntPlanner/?species=bison&showPortions=true&showDistribution=true&showRef=true&showOwn=true
      that the bison being hunted in Montana are ENTIRELY composed of winter YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK Bison seasonal migrants off the higher, colder, deeper-snow plateau.
      Your comment is filled with DIRECT LIES, as not only everyone ever visiting YNP and surrounding National Forest Land recognize that NO overgrazing by bison occurs, no “overpopulation” exists – ONLY the weak regulations unenforced due to failure of ESA to accommodate more recent genetic evidence of population bottlenecking done by hunting of small remnant populations,have allowed Montana to prosecute its vile killing of bison, wolves, and consistently proposed other species like griz.
      Cease trolling here and anywhere on the internet with your lies.

      • Tyler Houston says:

        It is not trolling if you are trying to see both sides. You are obviously a vegetarian against hunting all together. There is a balance in the wild that can no longer exist without human involvement. Our open lands are shrinking and the human population growing. Hunting is one way to manage wildlife along with a plethora of others including restricted harvest numbers, purchasing conservation easements that protect lands forever, etc, etc. When was the last time you put a dollar towards conservation other than frivolous lawsuits? I put my boots on the ground removing fences, cleaning up garbage and trash on public lands and spend a lot of my own money supporting, yes, hunting organizations that contribute to public lands and many others that protect wildlife. Is FWP perfect, absolutely not but they don’t needlessly slaughter fish and wildlife just to appease a few.

        • Ralph Maughan says:

          MFWP operates differently to some degree after each Montana election. Pressure is applied even though the state wildlife and parks agency is supposed to be independent.
          In my opinion the last election left the legislature and the state offices that are most like to put pressure on FWP wide open for pernicious influence.

          • Tyler Houston says:

            I certainly don’t disagree there Ralph. This new FWP commission isn’t making any friends on either side whether you support hunting or not. However, I don’t think stopping the Montana Bison hunt does anything to the population of bison since the National Park Service will cull them either way back to a number they believe is sustainable. At least hunters have an opportunity to harvest a bison which in most cases is a lifelong dream for most and enjoy an abundance of meals the animal provides.

            • Mark L says:

              You do understand that it would be a ‘lifelong dream’ that’s more attainable if there were more bison allowed to roam, regardless of what a person’s stance on hunting is right? More bison=more opportunities to hunt in more areas.
              I support hunting, but not hunting based on ‘technicalities’ where bison are shot for crossing an imaginary line we happened to make

              • Mark L says:

                The question then becomes one of which animal you prefer to see on your horizon, bison or cattle. You can see cattle anywhere, pick a state….all 50. Bison? Few places…even less than historically. We can easily fix that if we try. But some don’t want that because they’ve literally cornered the market. Why let that happen?

              • Agreed. When bison numbers have recovered, hunting will be a reasonable part of management. But, what’s happening on the edge of Yellowstone is an extension of slaughter being disguised as a hunt. Agree with you 100%.

          • Ida Lupine says:

            So sad. It’s like the pernicious influence can’t or won’t be acknowledged and it is ignored.

        • Ida Lupine says:

          But there’s hunting, and then there’s destroying. Nobody wants to admit that, or do anything about it.

    • Tyler, you are incorrect. I am the author of this piece and I have stood with the buffalo of Yellowstone for nearly 20 years. There is no overpopulation of Yellowstone buffalo. They are hovering around 5,000 right now, and Yellowstone has noted many times that the park alone could sustain a few thousand more. And that’s just within the boundaries. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of public land (Gallatin National Forest) and lots of buffalo-friendly private land that could sustain thousands more. But, with the hunt in place the way it is, the buffalo can’t restore themselves on lands outside of the Park because every one of them that migrate out get shot down by hunters. And, yes, Yellowstone still runs the Stephens Creek trap, often at the same time. The hunt is just an extension of Yellowstone’s and Montana’s buffalo extermination program. The Central herd buffalo number around 1,000 and they are doubly impacted by “management” because they migrate both into the Hebgen and Gardiner Basins. Yellowstone NP and MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks have both called for no lethal actions against buffalo in the Hebgen Basin to provide just a bit of protection for the imperiled Central herd. But, it’s only a recommendation and it’s falling on deaf ears. Further, if Yellowstone is so concerned, they should take responsibility and cease capture-for-slaughter operations — both the Northern and Central herds migrate into the Gardiner Basin, and aside from a handful of collared females they have no clue which buffalo are from which herd. Anyway, to say the buffalo population is too high is to become a victim of declining baselines. Yellowstone would disagree with you, too. The Interagency Bison (mis)Management Plan calls for a population target of 3,000 buffalo, but that number is based on convenience and was driven by Montana livestock interests. It has zero to do with ecology, biology, or any logic.

  6. Maggie Frazier says:

    Again, for how many years in a row, I wrote my comment regarding this “hunt”. Which quite frankly, sounds like the “hunt from hell”. How anyone, state or tribal, could think this kind of slaughter resembles hunting is beyond me. Having known hunters most of my life – none of them ever was involved in this kind of killing. Its not hunting by any light! Seems to me these humans would get the same satisfaction working in a slaughter plant.
    If that sounds harsh – so be it.

  7. Jane Marsh says:

    Dear Wildlife News,

    YES! Please post wildlife issue alerts.

    I have to think that alerts that help concerned citizens/orgs to comment directly to the agencies in question are more effective than signing petitions that are preferred by some organizations. Much like what Western Watersheds Project does, I appreciate suggested talking points to address when commenting. The talking points help me wrap my mind around the key issues. Thank you very much.

  8. Maggie Frazier says:

    This is yet another wildlife “issue” in the same vein as the slaughter of these buffalo. The video of the BLM helicopter harassing a young colt with a broken leg – trying to push him/her in to the catch pens – should be on the front page news, showing exactly what is going on during these roundups. This one is Pancake HMA – one of many. It should open some eyes – if enough people care to watch it. “Only” a mare and a colt died on this day!

    https://wildhorseeducation.org/2022/01/12/pancake-roundup-begins/

  9. Rich says:

    Thank you Ralph for the heads up and for providing a link to the website and some compelling background information. I have submitted my comments and urge others to send in comments. Montana’s role in the obnoxious treatment of America’s National Mammal must be exposed and stopped.

  10. Beeline says:

    Please post alerts. The agencies do not solicit for comments other than what it minimally takes to satisfy a bureaucratic requirement.

    We should also remind agency heads that the American Bison be returned to the Charles M Russell National Wildlife Refuge. If it worries ranchers to have bison on a NWR tell them to get used to it. Ranchers that use public lands for grazing are already getting a super discount. They should not have veto power over what goes on in national wildlife refuges.

    • Maggie Frazier says:

      Or – if their excuse is transfer of disease from buffalo to cows – how about getting their cows vaccinated for brucellosis(isnt that the disease they usually use as an excuse to KILL buffalo?)

      • Beeline says:

        I think that the state mandates vaccination for Brucellosis for livestock and captive/farmed bison. Experiments have been conducted since the 1960’s on vaccinating bison and elk as well, but the vaccines have not been all that effective. Some vaccines have even caused abortion in bison.

        There is also concern that wolves may spread it by chewing on infected carcasses and discharging the bacteria into the environment so that other animals can be exposed. How realistic this concern is, I am not sure. Ranchers and agencies seem terrified of this disease.

        Elk are probably more able to spread Brucella than bison. Especially since the elk feeding grounds were established where they are more confined.

        Brucella itself is a tough nut to crack. It can reduce the immune response in the host and can actually reproduce inside macrophage defense cells.. Since it has been considered a possible biological weapon for years, it is ironic that the U.S. government has not come up with a better cure/good vaccine.

  11. Makuye says:

    The three relevant bison hunting districts are:
    385-20 Gardiner area. 385-21 Absaroka-Beartooth, and 390-20 West Yellowstone [which is the Hebgen Lake & Basin area]
    As I pointed out in a reply above, ALL target YNP bison. Nowhere else in Montana is a hunt opened. This is, just as the Montana Wolf eradication/ extirpation (the word MEANS active human local extinction) agenda.

    BY THE WAY, in your comment you are free to comment on all FWP hunting regulations: “Public comment will be accepted for all regulations whether a change is proposed or not.”

    Because you cannot directly access the public comment page through Ralph’s link, HERE is the full link:
    https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/public-comment-opportunities/reg-proposals/bison

    The districts where Yellowstone wolves have been intentionally persecuted by FWP Commission through National Forest Public Land killing include 310, 313, 316, 361, and 362. some other adjacent districts prevent safe genetic connectivity for YNP wolves whose populations WILL begin to show descent into increased homozygosity during your coming lifetime.

  12. Ida Lupine says:

    Sickening. I’ll send my comment too – but I don’t know what’s going on with Montana lately. Is it Gianforte? The bison are such a part of this country’s iconic wildlife it is heartbreaking to seem them slaughtered like this.

  13. Debra K Ellers says:

    Yes, please publish notices of opportunities to comment. Submitting comments is one of the few ways for the public to participate in managing public lands and wildlife.

  14. Nuri Benet Pierce says:

    I sent my comments. Yes please keep posting wildlife issues alerts, although I wonder how much weight they really carry. Thank you for your brave and so well informed postings. We need voices like yours.

  15. Rich says:

    January 12, 2022
    Breaking News: Court Orders Reconsideration On Petition To Protect Yellowstone Bison Under Endangered Species Act

    https://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/breaking-news-court-orders-reconsideration-on-petition-to-protect-yellowstone-bison-under-endangered-species-act?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=d7dbf63e-35f3-467a-b19a-55def11b064f

    Thank you Buffalo Field Campaign, Western Watersheds Project, and the advocacy group’s attorneys, Friends of Animals

  16. Maggie Frazier says:

    By the way – are cattle ever tested for brucellosis? Just read about the quarantine procedure for buffalo – in order for them to be transferred rather than killed. Its a 3 phase procedure over many months.
    So are cattle automatically tested or vaccinated for this disease, because if not, WHY not?

  17. Ida Lupine says:

    “Veterinarians consider canids to be largely immune from contracting or spreading the bacteria.” (source below)

    I hadn’t heard anything about wolves and brucellosis, so I did little online research (a couple of the sources weren’t the most reliable 😉 ) but I did find this.

    Wolves don’t need any more undeserved bad press!:

    https://www.jhnewsandguide.com/news/top_stories/wolves-brucellosis-free/article_21a5aae7-4348-5308-90b3-195af455d0f1.html

  18. Beeline says:

    Another older study that is worth reading regarding bison and brucellosis. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090112201017.htm

  19. Ida Lupine says:

    Another article about the bison court decision:

    “It is concerning, to be sure, that over seven years have now passed since the 2014 petition was filed,” Moss wrote. “But it remains unclear whether sufficient basis exists to proceed to the next stage of the ESA process, and in light of the substantial amount of work done to date, the Service should be able to answer that question promptly.”

    https://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/judge-orders-usfws-to-re-examine-bison-ruling/article_7b73d0ba-bf2a-5b60-b801-87333b7f6726.html

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