Yellowstone’s Bison Deserve More Tolerance

Bison. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

It’s hard to miss the irony that Yellowstone bison are being trapped, shipped, slaughtered and shot on the park border even as the National Park Service takes public comments on a new bison management plan. All as Yellowstone, allegedly one of the world’s great wildlife preserves, turns 150.

The shameful, cruel and wasteful killing of Yellowstone’s bison should have stopped years ago but another 900 are targeted for death this winter. The National Park Service seeks to replace the outdated bison management plan and do away with the annual “cull” (kill) but intolerance for bison in Montana is a huge hurdle to this effort.

Bison are native to the Yellowstone area and to all of Montana. They should be allowed to roam on public lands such as the Custer Gallatin National Forest, where the new forest plan claims to support “a year-round, self-sustaining bison population…” Yet there are no resident bison on the Custer Gallatin, since they are hazed, killed and trapped at the park border.

Bison have never been proven to infect cattle with brucellosis in the field. So why are they not allowed to roam into Montana? Having bison inhabiting Montana public lands would enhance hunting opportunities and restore our largest native land animal to some of its historic range.

Montana’s killing 25% of Yellowstone’s wolves has given the state a huge black eye in the national view. Perhaps showing some tolerance for bison could start us on a better road.

Phil Knight is an environmental activist in Bozeman, Montana. He is a board member of the Gallatin-Yellowstone Wilderness Alliance.