Great news for Yellowstone Bison! Last Friday, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission voted to allow 68 bison, some of the last genetically pure bison in America, currently being held in quarantine, to be moved to Fort Belknap and Fort Peck reservations.
Earlier this year, Care2′s Beth Buczynski wrote here about the ritual hazing and slaughter of Yellowstone bison if they strayed beyond the park boundaries.
Bison Being Moved To Tribal Lands
As Defenders of Wildlife wrote:
“Because of an unsubstantiated fear that bison will transmit a disease called brucellosis to domestic cattle, bison face a grim fate: Harassed back into the park where food is scarce; shot on sight; or shipped off to slaughter.”
But now Defenders is reporting that the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission have voted to approve a land-mark plan to move these bison from quarantine to these tribal reservations, and thus away from the threat of potential slaughter.
A Care2 petition to save the Yellowstone bison garnered over 80,000 signatures, and Care2 activists, along with thousands of other animal lovers, have worked hard with Defenders of Wildlife to protect these American icons. And finally, the work is paying off.
From Defenders of Wildlife:
This is a significant milestone for the restoration of genetically pure bison and a critical step forward for returning these animals, which migrated out of Yellowstone Park, to parts of their historic range across the Great Plains.
The tribes of Fort Peck and Fort Belknap Reservations have repeatedly offered to welcome the bison back. For this we owe these tribes and the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission our sincere gratitude.
Returning these animals to tribal lands will allow at least some of Yellowstone’s bison to escape the government-led slaughter that has occurred in the past decade when bison have migrated out of the Park in winter in search of forage.
More innovative strategies need to be developed as an alternative to slaughter and as a way to restore genetically pure bison to the wild beyond the confines of the park. These are the most genetically important bison in the United States and should not be killed needlessly, especially when there is plenty of suitable habitat available.
Governor Brian Schweitzer Deserves Some Credit Too
Even Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, who is not always known for his conservation practices, deserves some credit here. Earlier this year, Governor Schweitzer issued a surprise executive order overruling the decision of a federal judge just one day earlier that had cleared the way for the National Park Service to execute hundreds of bison, half of which are believed to be carrying the disease brucellosis.
Brucellosis is harmless to bison but can spread to cattle and cause pregnant cows to spontaneously abort. And even though there has never been a documented case of a wild bison infecting a cow, the risk is too great for Montana’s cattlemen, arguably the state’s most powerful political lobby.
Now that this plan has been approved, there will be continuing work to support more free, wild bison. Stay tuned for more ways that you can help in the weeks ahead!
Photo Credit: gr8dnes