Bison Mis-Management Plan

by jhwygirl

With this winter being a record year for bison slaughter as part of a so-called Bison Management Plan, Yellowstone Park managers have placed a priority on saving pregnant bison due to the record number of bison sent off to slaughter this year – 1,217 shipped to slaughter from the Stephen’s Creek capture facility alone.

The number of bison killed last winter was 67. The second highest year was 1996/97, when 1087 bison were slaughtered.

Few things can get me into a rant more than this so-called Bison Management Plan. There is NO KNOWN CASE OF BRUCELLOSIS TRANSMISSION TO DOMESTICATED CATTLE THAT HAS OCCURRED FROM INTERACTION WITH YELLOWSTONE BISON.

The only known cases of transmission of brucellosis to domesticated animals have been from elk.

That is, in fact, what was confirmed of the last herd that had to be destroyed – the Morgan Ranch herd out of Bridger.

Yet the Montana Stockgrowers Association continues to say that bison pose a “real threat.” Vice President Errol Rice “applauds” the record slaughter operations this winter and says:

‘‘We’re still not discounting (the possible) transmission from bison to cattle.”

I bet Rice still believes there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, too.

So, Mr. Rice, please tell me, when are we going to start rounding up elk and slaughtering them?

Slaughtering an animal that is meant to roam, that will cross out of an artificial ecological border is inane. It won’t work. It isn’t working. We can slaughter all the bison we want, and we will still have brucellosis because its transmission to domesticated cattle (and horses, in the past) has been from elk.

From ELK.

Brucellosis is transmitted by the afterbirth. Bison birth on USFS lands surrounding the park that are leased for grazing. Bison give birth in March and April. The afterbirth is long gone, having been picked over by coyotes and raptors and ravens and other scavengers long before grazing begins on those lands in mid-June.

Here’s the thing – as long as winter elk mingle with cattle on grazing lands, we will have brucellosis.

So either slaughter the elk – which everyone knows isn’t going to happen – or start vaccinating cattle at a cost of $2/head.

It’s a disgrace. It doesn’t work. And it isn’t management.

Few local news agencies covered this story. (KPAX out of Missoula, KULR out of Billings, and the Helena Independent Republic) Could it be because of all the bullying that the Montana Stockgrowers Association is doing? At what point does common sense overtake strong arm tactics? Science overtake the hysterics of the Montana Stockgrowers Association?

Montana is playing politics with an issue that should be ruled by science and logic.

How much of Montana taxpayer money will continue to be wasted while these bullies quash fact and common sense and champion propaganda?

Look – when the GAO is telling you it is a waste of time and money? Well, someone needs to listen.


  1. Rimrock

    Actually, it’s inconclusive that elk caused the Bridger “outbreak” (discovery is a more accurate term). APHIS and DOL refuse to pass along the epidemiological report and expect us to trust their assertions that it was a “non-bovine” source.
    But I guess that’s what FOIA is for.
    All illusions are eventually revealed.

  2. W. Mealer

    This is a good article. More research needs to be done on the transmission vectors of brucellosis into cattle populations. Brucellosis is endemic in Mexican cattle and many types of wild animals. Closed herd status makes sense. Serotyping of positive cultures in elk, bison and cattle needs to be done now. It is time that many organizations start sharing information so remedies can be obtained using real science. This data needs to be published and peer reviewed.
    High risk cattle herds should be vaccinated. High risk herds are non-closed herds and those in contact with wild ungulates and their afterbirth.
    Wyoming Game & Fish Dept. is now killing small numbers of brucellosis positive wild elk. Montana FW & P kills positive bison.
    Montana cattle are set for brucellosis exposure problems in areas where elk drop their offspringduring June. Currently, there are thousands of elk in the Madison River Valley cattle ranches. Elk numbers keep increasing with low cow elk harvest. Local cattle are around these elk most of the year including June……………Go figure.

  3. qbert

    I wonder how much it costs to capture and slaughter the bison as opposed to vaccinating the precious bovine herds. Anybody have an idea?

  4. JC

    W. Mealer,

    Much misinformation in your post. I’d suggest that you read the Bison Management Plan, and then come back and we can debate your points. Most of them have either been answered, repudiated, or debunked there.

    The State of Montana slaughters bison regardless of them testing positive to brucellosis or not.

    qbert, it cost the State of Wyoming less money to vaccinate all their cattle last year, after losing their brucellosis-free status, than APHIS had appropriated for it. So it didn’t cost cattle ranchers anything. The cost was around 1.4 million dollars.

    I could go on and on. I worked on the BMP and other bison issues for years for a nonprofit. The final outcome was a political decision that was in stark contrast to the biological findings of the EIS.

    Thanks, jhwygirl for posting this. The Yellowstone herds have been decimated by a full 1/3rd this year. It is all about turf and not having free roaming bison in Montana threatening the cattle industry’s status quo. Brucellosis is just the red herring that allows them control herd size.

    Solve the brucellosis problem, and there still wouldn’t be a free roaming bison herd in Montana, fringing Yellowstone–which was the purported goal of the BMP.

  5. steve kelly

    It’s always been about control of the land. Since stolen at gunpoint from Native Americans, it’s been in the hands of livestock interests. Republicans and Democrats both have blood on their hands trying to hand onto the 19th Century Hollywood version of the Cowboy West. Time to dump ’em both.

  6. If you’re interested, please read my thoughts – my blog posts from last year, as someone who had a dog in this fight:

    http://www.karbonkountymoos.com/2007/07/15/tarred-with-the-same-brush/

    http://www.karbonkountymoos.com/2007/10/22/talk-talk-talk/

    The “hot” cow was vaccinated. The “hot” cow spent most of her life with the Emigrant herd, not the Bridger herd.

    There were six other cows in Bridger that were considered positive. We were told that their titer numbers would never have been considered positive – except for the fact that they were in an exposed herd. All of those six had healthy calves on them. Three were raised and bangs vaccinated, the other three were purchased as cows and had not been vaccinated.

    We were told by APHIS that the source was not a bovine source. There is no simple answer, but we need to find an answer.

    I really am not –
    A green from NYC
    A radical rancher
    Someone trying to kill all the bison
    Someone trying to destroy the cattle industry
    A politician wannabe
    Not even a Montana native, I should go back east

    But those are some of the relatively polite things that I have been called. Is it any wonder I gave up reading the online versions of the newspaper articles?

    Rimrock, we were told that “the source” was not a bovine source. Meaning the source of the original “hot cow’s” infection. The source of the other six’s less than borderline titer numbers? Who the heck knows?

    W. Mealer, just how is Wyoming determining positive elk?

    qbert – Those of us who consider our cattle precious do vaccinate. It’s part of the cost of doing business.

    JC, I would love to see the brucellosis problem solved. That is the only thing I asked of the Governor. Assurances that “better vaccines” are being tested is not enough.

    In your reply to qbert you said “it cost the State of Wyoming less money to vaccinate all their cattle last year, after losing their brucellosis-free status, than APHIS had appropriated for it. So it didn’t cost cattle ranchers anything. The cost was around 1.4 million dollars.”

    It is state law in WY. It is not in MT. I think that anyone with a brain in their head would vaccinate – law or not. But obviously all brains are not the same. Everyone that I know in Wyoming pays their vet to vaccinate their heifers. Who did the 1.4 million pay for?

  7. JC

    Moos, I mangled it. Sorry. APHIS paid for the brucellosis testing, not vaccination. Here’s a pdf from the WY Dept. Ag on the program.

  1. 1 Meet Mike Mease, Buffalo Field Campaign « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] wrote of this slaughter, “Bison Mis-Management Plan”, when the number of bison massacred hit 1,200 and wildlife managers put a halt to the slaughter of […]

  2. 2 2nd Cow Tests Positive for Brucellosis - Montana Loses Brucellosis-Free Status « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] had interest in the hysterics of the pseudo-brucellosis/bison threat for years – more than a decade, actually. It’s interesting that bison have been hazed back […]

  3. 3 Governor Speaks Strong on Brucellosis; Brucellosis Update « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] give the Governor a big kudos for keeping this issue moving along since the massive slaughter and the discovery of the state’s 2nd case of brucellosis, which resulted in the loss of our […]




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