The American bison is symbolic of a time when animals roamed free and Native American peoples hunted them for their own survival. In the mid 1800′s bison numbered 60 – 100 million, but by the end of that century, bison were nearly extinct.
The last remaining wild bison herd still existing in America today are the approximately 3,000 to 3,500 who descended from the 23 survivors of the mass bison slaughter during the second half of the nineteenth century. They hid in the Pelican Valley of what is now Yellowstone National Park.
TAKE ACTION: Stop the Yellowstone Bison Slaughter!
About 350,000 bison can be found throughout North America, but they are genetically interbred with cattle. When bison and cattle interbreed, the offspring look like bison so they are not easily differentiated. Bison, like cattle, are herbivores and follow grass lands to graze.
During the winter and spring, Yellowstone bison migrate out of the park in search of food to lower grounds in Montana and they give birth in the spring. Even though the Montana lands are public, some ranchers gain permits to graze their cattle on the lands favored by the bison.
Hazing of bison is done in an effort to prevent the disease brucellosis from spreading to cattle. Brucellosis is a bacterial infection that some bison carry. When a bison delivers a calf and the afterbirth is ingested by a pregnant cow, it can cause the cow to abort. This is the issue Montana ranchers have with wild bison roaming in overlapping areas with cattle.
Special interest in Montana’s livestock industry has been determining what happens to Yellowstone wild bison: they are hazed back to the park or sent to slaughter. Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund has started a Care2 petition asking U.S. Secretary of Interior, Ken Salazar, to stop the slaughter and protect wild bison.
There are simple ways to prevent what the ranchers fear — transmission of brucellosis to pregnant cows. One way is to simply not allow cattle to graze on the overlapping lands until mid to late June when cows are past their fertile period.
So why are wild bison being slaughtered if other solutions are available?
Please sign the Care2 petition and tell Ken Salazar to protect our wild bison at Yellowstone Park.
Photo of wild bison and calf in Yellowstone Park, Flickr: Schmeeve
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