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Decrying a ‘War on Bison’

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The U.S. cattle and livestock industry is waging war on the last vestiges of the original buffalo population that escaped slaughter 200 years ago, environmental journalist Deborah Bassett reported recently on the Huffington Post. Just 4,000 descendents remain of the original 23 that escaped back when the early settlers killed the other 30–60 million.

These American buffalo now reside in Yellowstone National Park, part of the habitat they have roamed for tens of thousands of years. But their annual migration route takes them to the edge of the park, where hunters await, overseen by the Montana Department of Livestock’s Interagency Bison Management Plan, Bassett reported. They are assisted by the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, all working together to capture or kill bison under the mistaken idea that they risk spreading the cattle disease brucellosis, which came with Eurasian cattle, wrote Bassett.

“However there has never been a single incident of transmission of the disease from wild buffalo to cattle, even in areas where infected buffalo and livestock have co-mingled for more than four decades,” she wrote. “Elk on the other hand are renowned carriers of the disease and have transmitted it on several recorded occasions in the past, yet are allowed to migrate freely and commingle with cattle, leaving one to wonder why there is no ‘management plan’ in place to deal with such a considerable (read: legitimate) threat.”

More than 3,000 bison have been killed since the Interagency Bison Management Plan took effect in 2000, Bassett said. The Buffalo Field Campaign said that since Jan. 4, 69 wild American buffalo have been captured in Yellowstone and are being tested for exposure to brucellosis. So far this winter, 65 have been killed, according to the campaign’s website, even in the absence of disease.

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“The cattle industry is determined on keeping the buffalo classified as an animal ‘in need of disease control,’ ” said Mike Mease, a longtime bison protector who co-founded the Buffalo Field Campaign, to Bassett. “As such, they are trying to domesticate the buffalo and breed the ‘wildlife’ out of them based on this blatant fear-based hype. It is very similar to what we’ve done to the Native American in this country. In fact, we often call Yellowstone National Park the Bison Reservation.”