Tag Archives: Livestock Industry

1,000 Bison to be killed in Yellowstone



The National Park Service has announced that Yellowstone National Park intends to cull as many as a thousand of the park’s genetically unique and only continuously wild herd of bison. This annual slaughter has no basis in science, is unethical and is corrupted management precipitated by cattle ranching interests. The killing of bison is an annual event. Since 1985 some 8,634 Yellowstone bison have been “culled” to appease the livestock industry.

The main justification given for this killing is the fear of brucellosis transmission to domestic livestock. The Montana Dept. of Livestock and the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) have worked together to perpetrate the idea that brucellosis poses a threat to the livestock industry. As a consequence the state and federal agencies, including the National Park Service, more or less restrict bison to Yellowstone Park (although there is a small area where bison are permitted outside of the park for a short period of time—but they are then killed by Native Americans and Montana hunters).


Unfortunately for the bison, the urge to migrate in winter to find accessible food under shallow snow cover puts them in the cross hairs of the Montana livestock industry. A“bison wall” (analogous to the Berlin Wall) effectively confines them to Yellowstone National Park.

The main justification given by the livestock industry for its continued support of slaughter or hazing of wild bison is a disease known as brucellosis. There are reasons to believe that brucellosis is a Trojan Horse.

First, only infected pregnant bison cows  can potentially transmit brucellosis during the last trimester of pregnancy (February – April), bison bulls and calves are regularly slaughtered, so the killing of these animals demonstrates that brucellosis is not the primary reason for the containment of buffalo in the park.


There are other animals that carry brucellosis. Some elk in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) are also infected with brucellosis. Predators and scavengers, such as coyotes, crows, vultures, and bears, are rarely infected as well, though they are not at high risk for shedding the bacteria.

Though there has never been a single documented case of brucellosis transmission to cattle from wild bison, all the instances of cattle infection seem to be the result of elk transmission.  Despite these well-known facts, bison are still singled out for control and death.


The wild bison in Yellowstone are not just any bison herd. They are the only continuously wild bison left in the United States. They are the most  significant bison herd free of cattle genes. They are a national and international heritage. Most of the bison in the Untied States are managed as commercial livestock and selection is for traits favorable to domestication.

Both the Buffalo Field Campaign and Western Watersheds Project have petitioned to have Yellowstone’s bison declared a threatened distinct population segment under the Endangered Species Act. An earlier attempt to get the bison listed in 1999 resulted in the Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to consider the listing, however, they did acknowledge that the Yellowstone population may be discrete and may meet the criteria for Distinct Population Segment.

To treat Yellowstone’s bison in this matter is a national disgrace and crime against the environment. The fact that this killing has been on-going for decades without resolution is also a scandal and sheds light on the corrupt power the cattle industry has on American politics.


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Christopher J. Gervais, F.R.G.S.
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