Cease Fire! Yellowstone Buffalo Need to Recover

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It is time to bring a halt to the so-called buffalo hunts that take place on the park’s western and northern borders.Last winter was the buffalo’s worst “hunting” season since the nineteenth century. Winter arrived early and harshly, and we watched one of the greatest migrations into Montana long before Yellowstone. Hunters slaughtered 1,175 buffalo, the majority of them were slaughtered at the killing grounds of Beattie Gulch in the Gardiner Basin, largely by tribal hunters.

Yellowstone Buffalo

To take advantage of the circumstance, the majority of tribes who now hunt under treaty rights extended their hunting seasons. It gets worse every year, but Beattie Gulch turned into a massacre site last winter, with gut heaps running as far as the eye could see, many of them encasing baby buffalo who would never see the light of day. A torrent of blood flowed down Beattie Gulch and into the Yellowstone River. The hunters overlooked the disaster they had caused and instead congratulated themselves on a successful hunting season.Roam Free Nation, in collaboration with our allies at the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, the Gallatin Wildlife Association, and the Council for Wildlife and Fish, recently asked Gallatin National Forest Supervisor Mary Erickson to close Beattie Gulch to bison hunting due to serious public safety concerns. It’s much more than that for Roam Free Nation; the well-being of our National Mammal is our first priority.

Yellowstone Buffalo

The Yellowstone buffalo are currently being considered for Endangered Species Act status by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, but in the meantime, practically every single one is shot after leaving the park, thus listing cannot come soon enough. We know that people who “hunt” there will fight us since they have the right to kill. However, just because you have a right does not make it correct. Humans have a responsibility and an obligation to guarantee the viability and evolutionary potential of hunted populations, as well as all other creatures with which we share our planet.Yellowstone’s chief bison biologist, Chris Geremia, urged state, federal, and tribal decision-makers against taking fatal action in the Hebgen Basin, near West Yellowstone, at the October 2023 Interagency Bison Management Plan meeting, as he has for many years. Why? To provide some form of protection for the Central herd, the country’s last really wild, migratory buffalo. The Northern herd migrates into Montana’s Gardiner Basin, whereas the Central herd migrates into both the Gardiner Basin and the Hebgen Basin, making mismanagement measures twice as damaging.

Yellowstone Buffalo

For more over a decade, the Central herd has been declining. Yellowstone experts continue to caution against hunting in the Hebgen Basin, but their warnings go unheeded. As I write this, 8 bull buffalo have already been killed by state hunters near West Yellowstone. Ignoring these warnings is a disservice by hunt managers, and continuing to kill is total disdain and irresponsibility by hunters. It’s past time for hunters to cease helping Montana’s Department of Livestock and its cattle interests.These murdering sprees are unsustainable. Wild buffalo will never be able to recover as long as hunters do not exercise constraint and hunt managers do not impose restraint. The buffalo barely have any access or expression on the tiny “tolerance” zones they’ve been allotted. A cease-fire is needed to allow them to do so, and then we can work together to save additional buffalo on a far wider scale.

 


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