A backbone and scattered chunks of fur are all that remain of a bison killed by hunters near Beattie Gulch, one of two popular bison hunting areas north of Gardiner and Yellowstone National Park.
A Gardiner-area landowner is suing the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service to halt the hunting of bison just outside Yellowstone National Park’s northern border, saying the agencies have failed to analyze the consequences of the hunt as required by law.
“The Park Service and Forest Service have never analyzed the impacts of hunting on private property owners, neighbors, and visitors” through the appropriate environmental process required by law, stated the complaint by Bonnie Lynn and Neighbors Against Bison Slaughter, which shares her address.
Lynn is seeking a permanent halt to any future bison killing within a mile of her home and rental cabins as well as a temporary restraining order to stop the hunt this winter.
The lawsuit argued that rather than address the situation, “the Federal Agencies have foisted the dangerous and concentrated impacts of bison hunting onto a small group of private property owners, neighbors, and visitors.”
The complaint specifically focuses on Forest Service land known as Beattie Gulch, which is just across the road from Lynn’s residence. Each winter and spring, as bison migrate out of Yellowstone in search of forage, tribal and state hunters concentrate at the pinch point to kill the big ungulates.
In the most extreme case, 389 bison were killed on the land in the winter of 2016-17, the majority of them by tribal hunters exercising their treaty rights. Bison gut piles, legs and other remains are often left behind after the hunts, attracting predators such as bears and wolves as well as scavenger birds.
The second complaint, filed by Lynn and L&W Construction LLC, is seeking $500,000 from the federal government claiming that because predators and birds have sometimes spread the carrion to her property it is a taking of her property rights, physically occupying her land, without just compensation. Bison are known carriers of brucellosis, a disease that can cause undulant fever in humans.
Lynn’s two complaints were filed Tuesday in a District of Columbia federal court. One of the attorneys representing her is former Montana U.S. House candidate Jared Pettinato.
Tourists planning to visit Yellowstone National Park or elsewhere in bison country might want to store some AC/DC on their playlists.
The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office in Montana on Tuesday revealed that the heavy-metal band’s music has helped to clear the roadways of stubborn bison.
“When deputies respond to a bison on the road, they turn on lights and siren and encourage the animals to leave the road with an air horn,” the Sheriff’s Office wrote Tuesday on Facebook. “With a reluctant bison, they’ve been known to play ‘Hells Bells’ over the speakers – that usually seems to work.”
So-called bison jams are fairly common inside Yellowstone National Park, and can leave tourists stranded for 30 minutes or longer.
The iconic critters are encountered outside the park, too, and local motorists can attest that it’s sometimes difficult to persuade a 1,000- to 2,000-pound bison to let traffic pass.
It’s usually a job best left to sheriffs or park rangers.
Yellowstone guidelines call for tourists to remain inside their vehicles when in close proximity to bison, because the enormous animals are surprisingly fast and unpredictable.
But that does not always prevent scary encounters.
Last month a tourist recorded dozens of bison in a stampede. One of the animals smashed into the family’s rental car and cracked its windshield.
It’s doubtful that music would have helped in that case.
However, the power of music is not to be underestimated when it comes to close wildlife encounters.
In late July a hiker in British Columbia, Canada, claimed that she scared off a mountain lion that had been stalking her by playing the heavy-metal song “Don’t Tread On Me” by Metallica.
–Top image courtesy of the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office. Other images courtesy of ©Pete Thomas
BILLINGS, Mont. — US wildlife officials rejected petitions Thursday to protect Yellowstone National Park’s storied bison herds but pledged to consider more help for two other species — a tiny, endangered squirrel in Arizona and bees that pollinate rare desert flowers in Nevada.
Wildlife advocates have campaigned for decades to halt the routine slaughter of bison migrating out of Yellowstone to reach their winter grazing grounds in Montana.
The burly animals, also known as buffalo, once numbered in the tens of millions before overhunting reduced them to just a few small herds.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service rebuffed calls for special protections for Yellowstone bison in 2015 but was forced to reconsider under a US District Court order issued last year.
Wildlife service spokeswoman Jennifer Strickland said there’s no scientific information showing bison should be treated as a threatened species.
The park’s slaughter program, along with hunting of the animals in Montana, is meant to prevent the spread of the disease brucellosis, which can cause bison, elk and cattle to abort their young.
“The overall numbers of bison are stable despite culling and the presence of brucellosis,” Strickland said, adding that the park has as many bison as it can hold.
Darrell Geist with the Buffalo Field Campaign said the government’s decision ignored the fact that one of the park’s two major bison herds has been in steep decline, which Geist said could have implications for the herd’s genetic health.
The so-called central herd declined from more than 3,500 animals in 2006 to 847 in 2017, according to park biologists. Yellowstone’s northern herd grew from about 1,500 bison to almost 4,000 over that time period.
Regarding the Mount Graham red squirrel of eastern Arizona, officials agreed to consider whether more habitat protections are needed. Weighing a mere 8 ounces, the squirrels are found solely in the Pinaleno Mountains.
Fires, roads and developments including a University of Arizona telescope complex have impacted the squirrel’s range. An estimated 75 remain in the wild.
Wildlife advocates contend the squirrels’ only hope is the removal of the telescopes, some nearby recreational cabins and a bible camp in the area.
“It’s an incredibly precarious situation,” said Robin Silver of the Center for Biological Diversity, which sued government officials last year to force a decision on the group’s 2017 petition for more habitat protections. “If you want to try to have these animals survive you have to remove those structures.”
In Nevada, officials said the Mojave poppy bee faces potential threats from grazing, gypsum mining, recreation and competition from honeybees. Its survival is closely linked to two rare desert poppy flowers in the Mojave Desert.
Federal law allows citizens to petition for plants and animals to get protections under the Endangered Species Act.
The positive finding on the petitions for the poppy bee and red squirrel means officials will conduct more intensive reviews before issuing final decisions.
BANFF, Alta. — Parks Canada says a third bull bison has wandered out of Banff National Park.
A herd of wild plains bison has been free to roam a 1,200 square-kilometre area in the backcountry for the past year as part of a pilot project to determine whether they can be restored in the country’s first national park.
Blair Fyten, a human-wildlife conflict specialist with Parks Canada, said they got a report on Aug. 1 that one of the animals had left the park.
“On Aug. 2 and 3, Parks Canada resource conservation staff took immediate action to investigate the report using aerial searches, ground patrols and remote cameras,” he said during a conference call Friday afternoon.
Fyten said they received another report from a member of the public on Aug. 4 and kept searching.
“Parks Canada located the bison approximately 15 kilometres northwest of Sundre on Aug. 4,” he said. “This was approximately 44 kilometres east of the previous sighting.”
He said they don’t know how the five-year-old bison ended up there, but decided to immobilize and relocate the animal because of its proximity to agricultural areas and its continued eastward movement.
“We are pleased to report that the bison is safe and healthy, however, it will no longer be part of the Banff Bison Reintroduction Project and will not be returned to Banff National Park,” said Fyten, reading from a statement.
He said the bison will join a small herd of plains bison managed by Parks Canada at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, which has a 24-hectare fenced-in pasture.
It’s not the first time a bison has wandered out of Banff National Park since the herd was allowed to roam free.
Last August, two bison bulls were removed from the herd because they posed a safety risk to the public and to livestock. One of the bulls was killed by park wildlife staff, while the second was captured and relocated to Waterton Lakes National Park’s bison paddock.
The rest of the herd, which is 35 animals, remains within Banff National Park.
“The main group — it would be 33 animals — are currently in the northwest section of the park within the reintroduction zone,” said Saundi Stevens, acting lead on the bison project. “The remaining two bulls, at last known location, they were apart from that main group.
“Adult males do have a tendency to wander further.”
(CNN)A 17-year-old from Colorado was gored by a bison Saturday at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, officials said.
Yellowstone National Park trapped 23 bison early March 13, taking advantage of a large group that migrated north in search of food.
Yellowstone spokeswoman Linda Veress said in an email that the 23 were part of a group of about 500 bison that moved north of Mammoth Hot Springs. About 300 were spotted near the park’s Stephens Creek Capture Facility, a set of corrals on the west side of the Yellowstone River near Gardiner, Mont., where bison are trapped.
The park ordered an area closure around the capture facility last week, a move that comes each year just before trapping begins.
Shipment to slaughter for the 23 bison will likely come this week, Veress said. Meat from slaughtered bison is distributed to Native American tribes. More complete numbers on bison removals will be posted to the Interagency Bison Management Plan website later this month, Veress said.
The capture of the bison comes as the window for trapping narrows. Park officials typically don’t capture bison beyond March. This year’s relatively late start could have consequences for managers’ attempts to remove between 600 and 900 bison from the population between hunting and shipments to slaughter.
Biologists estimated there were about 4,500 bison in Yellowstone late last summer. The removals are meant to either slightly reduce the population or keep it stable.
Bison migrate out of the park each winter in search of food, which is when they become vulnerable to hunters from seven tribal nations and the state of Montana. The migration is completely dependent on weather forcing the bison out of the park’s interior. Until this month, this winter was one of little bison movement, making things tough on hunters whose seasons ended early in the year.
The migration appeared to begin in the last two weeks. One group of animals crossed into the state last week, where they were met by gunfire. A total of 16 were killed, said Mark Deleray, regional supervisor for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Two died inside the park borders where hunters can’t retrieve them.
Deleray said he is working to gather harvest data from the various Native American tribes who hunt bison on the outskirts of the park, but acknowledged that the numbers are likely low. None of FWP’s 80 regular tags were filled. Deleray said he’s still waiting to hear on the state’s five backcountry tags.
Bison trapping began much earlier last year, with 96 captured over a few days in mid-February. By this time in 2018, the park had already sent more than 300 bison to slaughter.
Park officials are still holding 79 bison in two specialized pens at Stephens Creek for a brucellosis quarantine program. Quarantining bison is meant to provide live animals to enhance other wild herds or establish new ones, and officials and some bison advocates hope it will eventually prove a viable alternative to slaughter.
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CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — A man was injured by bisonat Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area after climbing a fence inside a restricted area.
It happened July 4 at the South Bison Range in the park located on the Kentucky-Tennessee border, authorities say.
“He climbed the fence and walked over to a group of bison, a pretty large group,” of seven or eight, said Land Between the Lakes spokesman Chris Joyner. “According to a witness, it appeared he was going to touch one. He got to within 5 to 10 feet and at least one charged him.”
Staff and passers-by helped the man after he made it back to the fence and collapse. A bystander broke the gate to get him out, and they began giving him first aid until help could arrive.
The 37-year-old man was treated by Stewart County Emergency Medical Services and transported by helicopter to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville where he was in stable condition Friday. His name was not released, Joyner said.
“We continue to stress to the public that bison and elk are wild animals,” said Curtis Fowler, wildlife technician at Land Between the Lakes. “Bison will aggressively protect their calves by confronting any perceived threat.Their sharp horns and hooves are unforgiving, and they can react surprisingly fast.”
There are two bison enclosures at Land Between the Lakes.The South Bison Range offers limited viewing from the Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway.The Elk and Bison Prairie offers an opportunity to drive through and observe animals in their native habitat from the safety of their vehicle.
Jack Gladstone’s first hunt may be his last.
The well-known Montana singer, who has received the 2016 Governor’s Arts Award along with other honors and touts the nickname “Montana’s troubadour,” is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe. As such, he secured one of the first tribal permits to hunt bison near the Yellowstone National Park boundary earlier this month. This is the first year the tribe has exercised its treaty rights to hunt Yellowstone bison when they migrate into Montana near Gardiner and West Yellowstone.
But after tangling with the tribe’s game wardens, Gladstone would be happy never to hunt again.
“Because I’m a tribal member they have the authority to make my life unbearable on the reservation,” he said. “I’m very, very troubled.”
Blackfeet tribal attorney Derek Kline did not respond to a phone call to his office.
Few bison were migrating out of Yellowstone when Gladstone arrived in Gardiner on Feb. 7 with his wife, Patti, son-in-law Tyrel Hulet, and his friend Sam Miller. The extra folks were there to help Gladstone butcher and haul a bison if he was lucky enough to shoot and kill one of the large animals.
But the scene near the park boundary was offensive to veteran hunters Hulet and Miller. Tribal members sat in their trucks until bison wandered out of the park far enough to legally shoot. Some of the animals were injured and ran back into the park.
“It wasn’t what I expected for a hunt,” said Hulet, a Columbia Falls resident.
“That was troublesome,” Gladstone agreed.
“It was pretty wild,” said Miller, a Kila resident. “The dynamics were strange.”
The firing line, as some people refer to it, is a constant source of complaints to the Park County Sheriff’s Office.
“There are a lot of state and tribal hunters congested in a small area,” said Sheriff Scott Hamilton of the Beatty Gulch region just outside the park boundary. “People block the road with their vehicles. And some locals are upset with the way the bison are taken. There are a lot of shots, not all of them clean shots. It’s difficult for people to watch that.”
While at Beatty Gulch, one of the Blackfeet game wardens, three or four of whom journeyed to the area to monitor their tribal hunters, spread the word that the bison tag could also be used to take an elk. One of Gladstone’s friends shot a spike bull on Feb. 9 above Gardiner off Travertine Road. Wardens arrived, checked the hunter’s license and there was no problem.
“The next morning I had elk fever,” Gladstone said after helping his friend.
So he and his crew returned to the area to see if Gladstone could find an elk. Because Hulet and Miller had been warned that they couldn’t be near Gladstone when he shot, they all stayed in the truck while Gladstone stalked a cow elk about 250 yards from the end of the road. He shot, the elk died, and his family and friends walked over to help gut and haul the animal back to the truck.
A Blackfeet tribal warden showed up when the group was almost done. He told them to move the gut pile farther away from the road. They complied, loaded the elk into the back of Hulet’s Ford F-250 diesel and tried to drive away but were flagged down by wardens.
That’s when chief game warden Keith Lame Bear showed up. When contacted by phone on Tuesday, Lame Bear said he was too busy delivering emergency rations to outlying tribal members to discuss the incident.
“He accused us of hunting,” Hulet said. “We tried to tell him we were there just to help (Gladstone) get it out of the woods. He said, ‘You have blood on your hands. You’ve been hunting.’”
Gladstone’s crew countered that other people were being allowed to help tribal hunters with their bison, including a group of nontribal members who spend part of the winter near Beatty Gulch, and they weren’t being cited.
“There were a lot of other people running around doing the same thing,” Miller said. “I definitely felt like it was pretty personal.”
Hulet said at first that Lame Bear asked if they had enough cash to pay the $500 fine for unauthorized hunting. Hulet told him they didn’t carry that kind of money. Then the fine was raised to $12,000 for Hulet and Miller. As collateral for the fine, the wardens ordered the truck towed and impounded, the rifle and elk confiscated. Gladstone was charged with providing false information to a game warden for saying Hulet and Miller weren’t hunting with him.
“I was kind of dumbfounded,” Miller said. “It was almost like a ransom situation.
“It felt like I didn’t have any rights at that moment.”
As the argument heated up over whether the tribal wardens had authority over nontribal members off the reservation, a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks warden arrived. He called the Park County Sheriff’s deputy, who then called the sheriff.
“I’ve never been faced with that situation before,” Sheriff Hamilton said.
So he called the state attorney general’s office. Deputy attorney general Melissa Schlichting told him if the truck had been used in the commission of a crime, it could be seized. She later learned that advice was incorrect.
“We were operating under the idea that there was an agreement between the tribe; Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; and Yellowstone National Park,” she said. “But I was uninformed.”
After reviewing the situation the next Monday, she said no tribal game wardens have authority to seize property or even cite nontribal members for any civil infraction off the reservation.
“They can only cite tribal members for violations of their code,” Schlichting said.
“It’s really confusing, hence why we were caught flat-footed, not knowing what applied and did not apply,” she added.
Sheriff Hamilton was uncomfortable with the situation, just one of several problems and complaints surrounding bison hunting near Gardiner that his office has to deal with every winter.
“My agency expends a lot of overtime and resources down there,“ he said.
The standoff in the streets of Gardiner left Gladstone angry and ashamed.
“It was a very confusing time for the county sheriff and state game wardens,” Gladstone said. “I felt a degree of shame for the optics, they were horrible.”
Luckily for Gladstone’s group, he had driven to Gardiner, as well, so they had a car to return home in. But the fight was not over. He appealed the fines and impoundment to the Blackfeet Nation Fish and Wildlife, aided by his attorney.
“My desire is to straighten out this approach because this looks like hell,” Gladstone said. “It’s the only way to force change.”
After long negotiations with tribal officials, they agreed to drop Hulet’s and Miller’s fines and return the truck and rifle, but not the elk. Gladstone is also prevented from hunting bison for a year.
“I say thank you,” he said, because his first — and possibly only — hunting trip turned out so badly he’s in no hurry to repeat the experience.
Gladstone agreed to talk about the situation because he fears that the way the Blackfeet Tribe is now conducting its bison hunt is unsustainable.
Sheriff Hamilton agreed that the hunt — which also involves other treaty right tribes in addition to tribes that are awarded two state bison tags — is getting congested. Montana recognizes the treaty hunting rights of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the Nez Perce Tribe, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, and the Confederated Tribes of the Yakama Nation.
“Calls actually picked up about a week ago when the Blackfeet showed up,” Hamilton said. “They came in with a large number of hunters, took 40 or 50 bison” in a couple of days “and didn’t coordinate with the other tribes. So they ruffled some feathers.”
Last Sunday, more than a week after the truck was confiscated, Hulet got his pickup back from Gardiner. The tow fee was $455. Gladstone also paid a $350 fine to the Blackfeet Nation Fish and Game. With attorney fees, the final cost of not getting an elk was close to $5,000.
“This was quite the ordeal,” Hulet said.
“It was a crazy situation,” Miller said. “It didn’t feel like anything American.”
Gladstone apologized for his part in the “misunderstanding.”
“Nothing like this is ever going to happen again if I have anything to say about it,” he said.
To his credit, President Donald Trump recently drew attention to the “horror show” that is elephant trophy hunting, adding in a tweet that he would be “very hard pressed” to see it otherwise. Never has that tawdry business been called out so bluntly, at such a high level, and we could use some similar candor in a matter closer to home – a trophy-hunting horror show soon to be staged in, of all places, Grand Canyon National Park.
It is the project of Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar, who has long sought to rid the park of bison. Their iconic appeal is lost on the congressman. And so, he is pleased to report, sport hunters will be “empowered” to go in and systematically slaughter the creatures.
The bison live near the North Rim, where, complains Gosar, they are “wreaking havoc.” They threaten, no less, “the wonder that is the Grand Canyon” and even its “longevity.” With his prodding, the National Park Service has decreed that a population it calculates at between 400 and 600 bison must be reduced to “200 or fewer,” meaning that as many as 400 could be culled.
The fact that the low end of the official population estimate approximates the number that might be killed, or that these expert wildlife managers can’t even survey the current total to within a third, is just one sign of a capricious plan crying out for public scrutiny.
Oddly enough, the Park Service itself has inadvertently given the bison their most convincing defense. Its “Initial Bison Herd Reduction Environmental Assessment”purports to show how intolerable their presence has become, but on close reading only reveals Gosar’s claim of “devastation” – “a bison problem that has reached borderline epidemic proportions” – as the nonsensical, trumped-up case that it is.
In the euphemistic parlance of the scheme, we learn that “reduction actions” are called for because of “soil disturbance” by the bison.
Apparently, that’s an inexcusable offense in the park these days, even though it is elsewhere considered a vital ecological function of this keystone species, and nobody was complaining at the Grand Canyon until sport hunters started lobbying for the cull.
The herd also stands accused of threatening “erosion potential.” The bison graze, drink water, and pass through streams, inviting further charges of causing “the potential for increasing impacts on vegetation” and “potential concerns about changes to local hydrology.”
“Potential damage” to archaeological sites is cited as yet another transgression, even as the report concedes there is no evidence that any buffalo has so much as stumbled into one of them, causing any actual damage.
“Potential benefits” likewise show the Park Service straining for a rationale to do an obviously cruel thing. You know they’re reaching when we’re informed that wiping out the herd will decrease “the potential for visitors slowing and/or stopping . . . to view bison resulting in potential vehicle-vehicle collisions.”
Have collisions become an actual hazard? Again, no.
And never mind that this particular example of a “benefit” merely reminds us that visitors love to see the buffalo that the Park Service wants to kill.
The sound of gunfire? Yeah, ignore that
On such vague and conjectural grounds, we are supposed to accept as unavoidable the miserable death of these beautiful creatures – whose presence at the Canyon, it becomes clear, is utterly benign, causing no harm to anyone who leaves them in peace.
Unmentioned, too, is that as hunting becomes the norm, surviving bison will increase their rate of reproduction, exactly the opposite of the intended result, although in passing we do learn that the “initial” culling will require three “reduction actions” a week.
This will involve helicopters, ATVs and snow machines for the chase, along with other alterations in “visitor experience” and the “acoustic environment” of what had been a wildlife sanctuary. Translation: Try to ignore the sound of gunfire as the North Rim of the park becomes a game farm for trophy hunters.
Gosar actually submitted a bill, the Grand Canyon Bison Management Act, just to make sure the volunteer hunters may haul off the “full bison” for display in trophy rooms. Hard to believe an act of Congress could be wasted to serve such a silly and squalid purpose, but the “stakeholders” insisted, so he obliged.
And who are they?
His office provides a list consisting exclusively of sport-hunting groups, as if no one else might have an interest in the matter.
The Park Service airily dwells on “values such as visitor experience and wilderness character” (which, of course, the bison are faulted for “potentially” ruining), but we would be wiser to think of our own values and our own character.
There are other ways to manage bison
A humble herd of 500 or so buffalo, in a country where some 50 million were annihilated, carries no burden of justifying its existence.
These creatures deserve better and we should expect better of ourselves, by managing them in ways that don’t leave blood trails, with a view to fertility control instead of lethal culling.
Consider a program carried out on Catalina Island, off the coast of California, once the unlikely habitat of 600 free-roaming buffalo. Its population stands today at 150, and is held there by an immunocontraceptive vaccine (porcine zona pellucinda, or PZP) administered by marksmen directing darts at the females. The vaccine indisputably works, and there is no reason it could not be employed at the Grand Canyon.
If relocation is in order for some of the herd, there are resourceful ways to accomplish that as well, as happened when the park’s wild burros were captured and transported to sanctuaries.
Among other groups, the Humane Society of the U.S. is prepared to take on the assignment, working with Arizona authorities and the Park Service. Their methods challenge the old “game-management” mindset of domination, violence as the answer to every problem, and rank exploitation dressed up as high science.
They offer a benevolent approach, inspired by respect and empathy, and who doubts that they better represent public opinion than the trophy hunters do?
Alas for the noble buffalo, all of their imagined offenses now bring imminent punishment. To spare the bison will take swift action by the media, others in Congress, our governor, and most importantly the public demanding to know why wildlife sanctuaries in law are not sanctuaries in practice.
Enough with the bogus studies, scandalous insider deals and volunteer butchers. Now let the real stakeholders speak up, extend our compassion to these grand and worthy creatures, and stop a bad idea dead in its tracks.
Matthew Scully, a Phoenix-area resident, is a former senior speechwriter to President George W. Bush and the author of Dominion: the Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy.