Having already spent a considerable amount of time in the Canadian Rockies, an awe inspiring wilderness in terms of the grandeur of the mountains and the wildlife in the area, I was still left dumbstruck at the variety and abundance of wildlife in Yellowstone National Park in the US. The park invites gasps of wonder on many levels. The 2,000 plus geothermal features provide a range of visual and audible displays of hissing, steaming, spewing, bubbling water and mud in multi-colored pools and geysers. It’s feels like a Geological Theme Park for Americans making their once in a lifetime pilgrimage to see the park and it’s inhabitants.
The range of inhabitants such as elk, bison, bears, pronghorns, coyotes, wolverines, wolves plus countless others that roam the park is awe-inspiring. Visitors are enthralled by the buffalo seeing them roaming the park and imagining how life was before they were systematically wiped out by the theearly settlers to gain control of the lands against the Indians.
In the early 1800’s the buffalo or bison (same animals) were at one time 60 million strong ranging from New York to Oregon and from Canada to Mexico. By the 1890 there were only 1,000 animals left. Due to lobbying and protection by 1996 there were 3,000 bison in Yellowstone National Park.
So you would think that the bison have suffered enough? No – definitely not. We still seem intent on focusing on short-term gains versus a legacy for the next generation to see the last remaining wild bison roaming the lands. Any bison leaving the park boundary is fair game.
The fear of the disease called brucellosis which can cause abortions in cattle (a disease which the bison caught from the cattle) means that all bison entering Montana can be shot or shipped to slaughter despite there being no documented cases of free roaming bison’s transmitting the disease. Due to the management removals and winter-kill, the Yellowstone bison population in March of 1997 was estimated to be approximately 1,200 to 1,500 animals. That is less than half of what the population was estimated to be at the start of the 1996-1997 winter. Since 1985 there have been over 5,000 bison killed. In the winter of 2005-2006 they slaughtered 1,016 of Yellowstone’s 5,000 bison.
The fear of the disease called Brucellosis which can cause abortions in cattle (a disease which the bison caught from the cattle) means that all bison entering Montana can be shot or shipped to slaughter. There have been no documented cases of free roaming bison’s transmitting the disease plus almost all cattle have been inoculated. Since 1985 there have been over 5,000 bison killed. In the winter of 2005-2006 they slaughtered 1,016 of Yellowstone’s 5,000 bison. The worry is that if there is a really bad winter and the bison leave the parks in droves – then there existence will be in peril.
To get some idea of what is happening check out the Buffalo Field Campaign video to watch the hazing activities that go on even inside Yellowstone Park by the Park rangers assisting Montana State or if a Bison Hunt from July 2006.
So what can you do? Well there is the lobbying with the Wildlife Action Center to send your own message or failing that you had better get to Yellowstone soon so you can be the last to enjoy the legacy. For more info on wildlife issues in the US check out The Humane Society.