More than 500,000 years of evolution has created a true survivor in the American Bison. A generous layer of fat and a heavy winter coat allows North America’s largest mammal to endure sub-zero temperatures. With its excellent sense of smell, bison can detect vegetation buried under as much as 3 feet of snow. And, talk about using ones head, bison can plow through heavy mounds of snow using its massive head and shoulders, uncovering deeply hidden forage beneath drifts and piles.
But the winter remains perilous to Bison in the world’s first national park. A migratory species, the Bison have for centuries migrated to wintering areas where they can more easily find and uncover forage. But, in recent times, those excursions have often taken them outside the protected confines of Yellowstone National Park, where they have either been brutally hazed—and forced back into the park—or simply killed.
Bison, who have come back from the brink of extinction deserve better. And now hope exists that an end to such persecution will occur. Recently, Montana’s governor, Steve Bullock, offered a reprieve to Yellowstone bison, announcing a plan that will allow wild bison to leave the park without the threat of lethal consequences. This is an important victory for individuals and groups who have lobbied for years to end the slaughter—to date, more than 8400 bison simply migrating out of the park to find food and shelter have been killed. (You can read more about the announced plan and those who have worked to provide protection to migrating bison in the links below.)
But Montana’s now-hopefully defunct program does not eliminate all threats to the Yellowstone bison herd. Even after the Governor announced his plan to end the hazing and slaughter of migrating bison, the national park itself has not ended its own plans to kill hundreds of bison. “Park officials,” reads an Associated Press article by Matthew Brown, “released their plans on Tuesday to cull the bison herd by 600 to 900 animals by either hunting or capturing the large creatures. It could potentially be the largest hunt in one winter since 2008, and could remove nearly 20 percent of the current population of about 4,900 bison that currently roam the park.”
The carnage all stems from the unsubstantiated belief that bison spread brucellosis to cattle. Believed, mind you, despite the fact that no scientific evidence supports the notion and no documented case of a bison infecting cattle with brucellosis. Yet to placate those who insist that this occurs, the butchery of this magnificent creature continues.
For more on this issue, see:
• History Made for Wild Bison in Montana; Kudos to Governor Bullock
• Montana might allow wild buffalo to roam
• Governor issues decision on year-round bison habitat
• Yellowstone Bison Granted More Freedom to Roam by Montana’s Governor
• Gov. Bullock’s bison plan deserves support
• U.S. Government to Cull Hundreds of Yellowstone Bison This Winter