Advocates Object to Mass Bison Hunt

Prompted by disease outbreak, culling of Yellowstone herd has killed 1.5K animals
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2023 6:10 PM CDT
Advocates Object to Mass Bison Hunt
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announces that her agency will work to restore more large bison herds during a speech for World Wildlife Day at the National Geographic Society in Washington on March 3.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

A large-scale, sanctioned hunt of bison at Yellowstone National Park, prompted by an outbreak of disease among the herd, has culled a record number while meeting with more opposition than past efforts. More than 1,530 bison out of a herd of about 6,000 have been killed over four months, the New York Times reports, mostly by members of eight Indigenous tribes. The toll includes hundreds of pregnant females. Hundreds of other bison were moved out of Yellowstone, to slaughterhouses or a quarantine site where they will be checked for disease. Healthy bison will be sent to live on Native American lands elsewhere. About 800 bison were captured and held out of the hunt.

Snow and ice had led the bison to move to lower elevations and even out of Yellowstone before the hunt ended their migration. "It’s probably the single-most challenging wildlife issue in Yellowstone," said Cam Sholly, the park superintendent. "The bison is the only species we constrain to a boundary." Political realities, and historic treaties, are at play. The bison become the responsibility of Montana when they move out of the park and west on national forest land or north into the state. Members of eight tribes went to the region for the hunt, their right under the treaties. They took about 1,100 bison. "It's a very cultural and spiritual endeavor and brings our families together," said Jeremy Red Star Wolf of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

About 60% of the herd has brucellosis, which could infect livestock, causing cows to abort their calves. A federal agency says Yellowstone's ecosystem is the only known place in the US containing the disease. Criticism has involved the small hunt area, which puts people at risk of being shot and gives bison less of a chance to survive than other hunted animals, per the Times. "There is no hunt. It's a slaughter," a billboard put up by environmental groups says. "The killing field is across the street from my driveway entrance," said Bonnie Lynn, who works against the hunt. The numerous hunters have taken the bison meat and left the waste and hundreds of skeletons behind, she said, which attracts wolves, coyotes, and bears. "No other wildlife is treated this way," said another opponent. (More Yellowstone National Park stories.)

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