Culling Of Yellowstone Bison To Continue? 15-Yr-Old Practice Of Slaughtering To Be Replaced By Hunting, Says Park Superintendent

The Yellowstone bison may face culling in large numbers over concerns about transmittable diseases. While the officials debate changes to 15-year-old agreement that drives the practice, the slaughtering of the beast may be replaced by hunting in the long run, said Yellowstone National Park’s Superintendent Dan Wenk.

Large numbers of Yellowstone National Park bison, migrating to nearby Montana, are most likely to face slaughter over the next few winters as park officials discuss changes to the agreement that sends these beasts to the slaughter house. According to Idaho State Journal, Government agencies aim to kill or remove up to 900 wild bison from Yellowstone National Park this winter. The “removal” is an annual process and is part of an ongoing effort to limit the number of bison’s migration into Montana.

Most of the bison removed from Yellowstone are sent straight to the slaughterhouse primarily because officials are concerned these creatures from America’s first national park could transmit the disease brucellosis to Montana livestock. This winter, the situation is even more grim for the creatures, as evident from the numbers released by park officials indicate at least 600 to 900 could be killed either by hunters, or captured and sent to be slaughtered. If these numbers hold true, it will be the largest massacre of these creatures since the winter of 2008.

Culling Of Yellowstone Bison To Continue
(Photo by Mark Ralston / Getty Images)

There are about 4,900 bison in the Yellowstone National Park. Such a large population has rarely been recorded, but the number of the animals the park officials plan to slaughter translates to more than 18 percent of the bison population. Superintendent Wenk shared he’s hopeful the slaughters eventually will be phased out and replaced by hunting, but stated that the present techniques of limiting their numbers will continue.

“Under current population numbers, we will have to capture and ship bison to slaughter. That’s just the world we’re living in today. It might not be the world we’re living in three years from now.”

Wenk did, however, add that the park wasn’t “comfortable” with killing the beasts in large numbers & wished for alternate methods.

“The National Park Service is uncomfortable with the practice and interested in alternatives, such as sending disease-free animals to other public, private or tribal lands. The park would gladly reduce the frequency and magnitude of these operations if migrating bison had access to more habitats outside the park or there was a way to transfer live bison elsewhere.”

Every year, the bison migrate from the high country of Yellowstone to their traditional winter grazing grounds at lower elevations in Montana. However, over concerns that large number of these creatures could transmit the animal disease brucellosis, more than 8,200 bison have been slaughtered since the 1980s. Incidentally, it wasn’t the bison that developed the disease. Brucellosis was introduced into Yellowstone’s bison herds by domestic livestock brought into the region by early settlers, reported ABC News.

Chron reports that there have been no recorded bison-to-cattle transmissions of brucellosis in the wild since the agreement was made in the year 2000. This is one of the proofs that the bison management agreement, which was signed between federal agencies and Montana officials, has worked as intended. The agreement is to be revised and expected to be completed by next year.

Using the brucellosis argument is baseless, argued Dan Brister, executive director of the Buffalo Field Campaign,

“The brucellosis argument has been discredited so much that they’re shifting their argument and saying there are surplus bison that need to be killed. You never hear anyone talking about surplus elk or other wildlife species. We really want to see bison treated like elk and other wildlife.”

Yellowstone National Park today boasts about having the only genetically pure bison in the entire world. From a few dozen in the early 1990s to record numbers today, the Yellowstone bison has managed to spawn healthily. However, the conservation success is steadily being threatened by the slaughters and hunting, in the name of controlling bison numbers.

[Photo by Thomas Lohnes / Getty Images]