Montana Cancels Schedule Bison Hunt

Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission on January 10 abruptly canceled a bison hunt that had been scheduled to begin on January 15. The hunt was canceled after concerns by Gov. Brian Schweitzer that the planned hunt might harm the image of his state.

The commission vote 4-1 to cancel the hunt, but reiterates plans to hold a bison hunt in November 2005 — at least until they decide whether or not holding that hunt will harm the state’s image.

Montana canceled its annual hunting of bison that wander out of Yellowstone National Park in 1991, but in 2003 the legislature authorized a return to hunting of the bison to control their numbers and out of fears that the bison might spread the disease brucellosis to cattle herds.


Montana Cancels Bison Hunt Set for Sat.. Associated Press, January 10, 2005.

Bill to Ban Bison Slaughter Introduced In U.S. House

In late 2003 Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) introduced a bill that would ban the slaughter of Yellowstone National Park bison on federal lands was again introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports that the bill has picked up 42 co-sponsors in the House, but even if it should squeak by there it would face steep opposition in the U.S. Senate.

Montana Department of Livestock spokeswoman Karen Cooper told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that the slaughter of bison was necessary to fight brucellosis — a disease carried by some Yellowstone bison that could potentially infect cattle herds in Montana,

The state remains brucellosis free, and we have close to a record [bison] population, so it seems to be successful in that realm.

Opponents of the bison slaughter, on the other hand, note that thereÂ’s not a single documented case of brucellosis spreading from bison to cattle in the wild.

The full text of the proposed bison slaughter ban can be read here.


Bill to ban slaughter of bison advances. Scott McMillion, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, January 17, 2004.

HR 3446 – Buffalo Preservation Act

To provide for the protection of the last remaining herd of wild and genetically pure American buffalo. (Introduced in House)

HR 3446 IH


1st Session

H. R. 3446

To provide for the protection of the last remaining herd of wild and genetically pure American buffalo.


November 5, 2003

Mr. HINCHEY (for himself and Mr. BASS) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Resources


To provide for the protection of the last remaining herd of wild and genetically pure American buffalo.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


(a) SHORT TITLE- This section may be cited as the `Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act’.

(b) FINDINGS- Congress finds the following:

(1) More than any other animal, the American buffalo (Bison bison) is a wildlife icon of the United States. The American buffalo is the symbol that represents the Department of the Interior. The American buffalo is profoundly significant to Native American cultures and, perhaps more than any other wildlife species, has influenced our history.

(2) The American buffalo is still under assault, as it was in the late 19th Century when it was nearly exterminated. At the end of the great slaughter, in which tens of millions of buffalo were killed, only a few hundred wild buffalo remained in the Nation and all were located in Yellowstone National Park. Due to poaching, their numbers were reduced to 25 by the year 1900.

(3) The offspring of the 25 survivors comprise the Yellowstone buffalo herd and are the only wild, free-roaming American buffalo to continuously occupy their native habitat in the United States.

(4) The Yellowstone buffalo herd is genetically unique. Unlike captive ranched buffalo, which are now relatively common, the Yellowstone buffalo herd has never interbred with cattle and has retained its wild character.

(5) Because the Park lacks extensive low-elevation winter habitat that provides bison and elk with access to winter forage, wildlife migrate from the high elevation plateau of Yellowstone National Park to lower elevation habitat adjacent to the Park in winter and spring.

(6) The Yellowstone buffalo herd was exposed to the bacterium Brucella abortus, which can cause the disease brucellosis, in 1917. Brucellosis is only transmitted through animal ingestion of contaminated reproductive products. Brucellosis can cause abortions in infected animals, but only infectious females who have the bacteria in their reproductive system represent any potential threat of transmission. The risk of transmission between wild buffalo and cattle was deemed low in a 1992 General Accounting Office report, and again in a 1998 National Research Council study. In fact, there has never been a confirmed incidence of brucellosis transmission in the wild from buffalo to cattle. Buffalo with brucellosis and cattle have grazed together for over 50 years in the Jackson Hole area south of Yellowstone without any incident of disease transmission. Despite these facts, the National Park Service, the United States Forest Service, and the State of Montana Department of Livestock haze, capture, and kill members of the Yellowstone buffalo herd in an attempt to keep them unnaturally confined within Yellowstone National Park. At the same time, approximately 13,000 Yellowstone elk, some of which also harbor brucellosis, are allowed unfettered access to Federal land outside the Park. Since 1984, nearly 3,700 American buffalo have been killed in Montana as a result of this policy. In the winter of 2002-2003, 244 buffalo were killed by the Federal and State agencies, including 231 buffalo which were captured and slaughtered by the National Park Service.

(7) The key lower elevation habitat needed by American buffalo is primarily on Gallatin National Forest lands adjacent to the north and west sides of the Park. On the north side, taxpayers spent $13,000,000 in 1999 for a private-Federal land exchange intended to make low elevation habitat adjacent to the Yellowstone River accessible to the Yellowstone buffalo herd and other wildlife. The land exchange has not yet been finalized by Federal agencies and therefore key habitat is not available to the Yellowstone buffalo herd.

(8) On the west side of the Park, the Horse Butte peninsula provides prime wildlife habitat for grizzly bears, trumpeter swans, bald eagles, wolves, and buffalo. The peninsula comprises approximately 10,000 acres of primarily Gallatin National Forest Federal lands extending into Hebgen Lake.

(9) National Park Service lands have been set aside for the conservation of resources and values and for the enjoyment and use of all citizens. The Federal lands adjacent to the Park represent some of the most valuable and important wildlife habitat in the lower forty-eight states. They are integrally connected to the health of wildlife residing seasonally in our Nation’s oldest national park. Together, the Park and the adjacent Federal lands provide some of our Nation’s richest opportunities for recreation, wildlife viewing, family camping, wildlife conservation, fishing, and other recreational and sporting activities. These Federal lands should be preferentially managed to sustain this rich and diverse wildlife resource and to provide the public with enjoyment of this National treasure.

(c) PURPOSE- The purpose of this Act is to provide for the protection of the Yellowstone buffalo herd by allowing the Yellowstone buffalo herd to freely roam Federal lands outside of the Park. The Federal lands that are affected by this Act are those within the Park and adjacent to it on the north and west boundaries as indicated by zones 2 and 3 on the Modified Preferred Alternative Map on page 181 of the 2000 Bison Management Plan for the State of Montana and Yellowstone National Park Final Environmental Impact Statement.

(d) DEFINITIONS- For the purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:

(1) HAZING- The term `hazing’ means any individual effort to drive away, obstruct, chase, scare, or deter natural movements of wildlife, including hazing efforts carried out on foot or horseback or efforts aided by machinery, aircraft, or any type of noise-making device.

(2) INDIVIDUAL- The term `individual’ means any person representing a State or Federal Government.

(3) PARK- The term `Park’ means Yellowstone National Park.

(4) SECRETARY- The term `Secretary’ means the Secretary of the Interior.

(5) YELLOWSTONE BUFFALO HERD- The term `Yellowstone buffalo herd’ means the wild, free roaming, unfenced buffalo living primarily within Yellowstone National Park.


(1) PROHIBITED ACTS- No individual may kill, haze, or capture any buffalo on Federal land or land held under Federal conservation easements or use any form of bait to lure buffalo from any Federal land onto private land until the duties under subsection (f) are carried out.


(A) INITIAL VIOLATION- Any individual found to be in violation of paragraph (1) for the first time shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned not more than 1 year or both.

(B) SUBSEQUENT VIOLATIONS- Any individual found to be in violation of paragraph (1) after the first such finding shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than 2 years or both.

(C) REWARD- One half of any fine collected under this subsection or $2,500, whichever is less, shall be paid to any person or persons giving information which leads to conviction of a violation of this subsection.

(D) EXCEPTION- This subsection shall not apply to a person that is found to have been hazing a buffalo if the person is physically endangered or private property was damaged by a buffalo.

(f) DUTIES- The Secretary and other appropriate Federal agencies shall ensure that the following is accomplished not later than 3 years after the date of the enactment of this Act:

(1) The Yellowstone buffalo herd is allowed to freely roam the Park and the Federal lands adjacent to Yellowstone National Park on the north and west boundaries as indicated by zones 2 and 3 on the Modified Preferred Alternative Map on page 181 of the 2000 Bison Management Plan for the State of Montana and Yellowstone National Park Final Environmental Impact Statement without being hazed. These lands shall be made available preferentially for buffalo and wildlife use.

(2) Management authority of the Yellowstone buffalo herd within the Park is under the sole jurisdiction of the National Park Service.

(3) The land exchange described in section 1(b)(7) with the private property owner has been finalized, as set forth in the agreement executed in 1999, so that the Yellowstone buffalo herd may freely roam the lands described in paragraph (1).

(4) The National Park Service has disassembled the Stephens Creek Buffalo Capture Facility.

(5) The Secretary has made every effort practicable to allow the Yellowstone buffalo herd to freely roam Federal lands through incentives and cooperative efforts with adjacent private landowners, including through acquisition, easement, cattle vaccination, and landowner agreement pertaining to temporal and spatial separation of livestock from the Yellowstone buffalo herd.

Montana Lawmakers Pass Bison Hunt Bill

In April the Montana Senate and House of Representatives approved a bill that would allow that states Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission to create a limited hunt of bison targeting those animals that stray out of Yellowstone National Park.

Before approving the bill, legislators removed a provision that would have prevented out-of-state hunters from taking part in such a hunt, and set the price for bison tags at $75 for Montana residents and $750 for out-of-state hunters. The hunt is motivated in part by the fact that bison in Yellowstone carry the bovine disease brucellosis which some fear could spread to cattle in that state.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Jeff Hagener told the Billings Gazette that if the bill is signed into law by Montana Governor Judy Martz, any hunt is still at least a year away.

The Fund for Animals was quick with a press release decrying the proposed hunt. According to a Fund for Animals press release,

Hunting bison allegedly for disease control purposes lacks scientific basis. Given that there has never been a documented case of bison transmitting the disease brucellosis to livestock in the wild, there is no justification for hunting bison for disease “management.” To claim otherwise, is to mislead the public and to cave in to the unsubstantiated fears of the livestock industry.

The Fund is apparently planning to launch a tourist boycott of Montana if the bison hunt resumes.


Fund for Animals Alert, April 9, 2003.

Panel OKs opening bison hunt. Jennifer McKee, Billings Gazette, April 17, 2003.

Animal Rights Activist Mauled by Bear, Arrested for Failing to Pay Child Support

On August 25 animal rights activist Jeffery Scheu (at the time using the alias Jesshua Aman) was tracking a bison with the Buffalo Field Campaign when he apparently surprised a grizzly bear which proceeded to savagely maul him.

The Buffalo Field Campaign is a group opposed to federal and state efforts to control the number of bison migrating from Yellowstone National Park into Montana in search of feed during the winter months. An estimated 50 percent of the bison in Yellowstone carry a bacterial infection called brucellosis which Montana and federal authorities spent decades and tens of millions of dollars eradicating from cattle herds in the state.

After it was revealed that Scheu used an alias and was wanted in Ohio for failing to pay child support, the Buffalo Field Campaign quickly disavowed him maintaining that he did not represent their group (even though he was working with them as a volunteer at the time of the attack) and lied on a volunteer agreement.

Mike Mease, a spokesman for the group, said,

One bad apple slipped through our screen process and it took a grizzly to point him out. This is poetic justice.

As opposed to the 22 Buffalo Field Campaign activists arrested in the winter of 1998-1999 and the 21 activists arrested in the winter of 2000-2001.


Animal rights group distances itself from bear mauling victim. Associated Press, September 7, 2002.