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INSIGHTS: Livestock Agents Slaughter America's Last Wild Buffalo

By Stephany Seay

{Editor's Note: Stephany Seay, who is with the Buffalo Field Campaign, wrote this piece on March 30, 2005.}

WEST YELLOWSTONE, Montana (ENS) - Early this morning, two horse trailers driven by the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) carried eight of America's last wild genetically pure buffalo to a slaughterhouse, while three yearlings were taken to a quarantine facility, and three others were released at Horse Butte, according to a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement agent.

Department of Livestock spokesperson Karen Cooper delayed releasing the information from her department.

Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) field volunteers documented agents who shot and killed an injured, pregnant lead buffalo that had been holding her own for nearly a month, during a hazing operation on Horse Butte today. Her body was dragged behind an agent riding a snowmobile to a flatbed truck where she was then dropped at the local dump to be incinerated like trash.

hazing

Montana Department of Livestock agents haze buffalo to the Horse Butte capture facility. (Photo courtesy BFC)
Late Easter Sunday, under the cover of darkness, Department of Livestock agents captured 14 wild buffalo that had been attempting to migrate towards the Horse Butte peninsula, national forest land surrounded by water and devoid of active grazing allotments.

The livestock agents made only a single effort to haze the buffalo back into Yellowstone National Park. Buffalo are migratory animals and after being chased back into the Park, they resumed their migration along the Duck Creek drainage.

For the past three weeks DOL agents have been disrupting the migration of wild buffalo by baiting them out of Yellowstone National Park with fresh hay into a buffalo trap they operate on private land only a few hundred yards from the park border.

Last week the DOL baited and captured six bull buffalo - that pose zero risk of transmitting brucellosis - and sent half to slaughter. The actions of the past two weeks portend a bleak future for the hundreds of buffalo that will attempt to reach their calving grounds at Horse Butte in the coming months.

Inhumane Treatment

BFC volunteers witnessed the livestock agents jabbing the buffalo in the trap with long sticks, poking them with electric cattle prods, and turning around to laugh at BFC volunteers documenting the treatment of the buffalo.

Livestock agents routinely use electric cattle prods and sticks, chase the buffalo with Bobcat tractors inside the trap, hoot, holler and taunt the frightened buffalo while walking above them; all typical behavior.

The Interagency Bison Management Plan explicitly lists various standards of humane treatment that the agents are recommended to follow, but they don't. The techniques of the Department of Livestock agents indicate a blatant disregard for the wellbeing of the buffalo.

The livestock agents are ruthless and inhumane. They harbor no compassion and have no place handling America's last wild buffalo. If they treated cattle this way, they'd be out of a job.

Inaccurate Testing

buffalo

Buffalo in a headlock inside a capture facility (Photo courtesy BFC)
The test the government uses to determine whether a buffalo may have brucellosis or not is inaccurate because it merely determines if the animal has been exposed to the disease. Buffalo have developed immunities to the European livestock disease brucellosis and retain long-term antibodies. Only two to 20 percent of Yellowstone buffalo actually carry any brucellosis bacteria.

There has never been a documented case of wild buffalo transmitting brucellosis to domestic cattle.

"The livestock agency purposefully misrepresents the wild buffalo in Yellowstone as diseased animals even in the face of overwhelming evidence that most of the buffalo are not infected with brucellosis and the risk of transmission is extremely low. This is nothing more than a policy of deception to mask a centuries-old range war," said Josh Osher of the Buffalo Field Campaign.

Dr. Paul Nicoletti, DVM from the University of Florida, and a leading expert on brucellosis stated, "Bison bulls, calves, yearlings, and non-pregnant cows pose no measurable risk of bacteria transmission. The risk is further reduced by spatial and temporal separation of cattle and bison; for example, cows are not present on the west side of the park between October and June."

Solutions

Dr. Nicoletti added, "Potential solutions that should be considered include the mandatory vaccination of domestic livestock, closure of specific cattle grazing allotments, removal of cattle from private land through acquisition or easement, spatial and temporal separation of cattle and bison, phasing out elk feed grounds, and the restoration of more natural winter conditions in Yellowstone National Park."

Buffalo Field Campaign is the only group working in the field, everyday, to stop the slaughter of the wild Yellowstone buffalo. Volunteers defend the buffalo on their native habitat and advocate for their protection.



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