About the buffalo
At the beginning of the 19th century, there were likely 30-40 million bison (or buffalo) in North America. By the end of the century, the buffalo were nearly extinct. Inside of Yellowstone National Park, their numbers had been reduced in the wild to 23.
Since then, their numbers have rebounded but mostly for domestic production and often mixed with cattle populations. The largest wild herd remains in the remote mountain environs of Yellowstone National Park(hardly the most prime habitat for wild buffalo). Yet, even there they have faced slaughter and harassment, especially when they have wandered outside the boundaries of the park trying to find forage during Yellowstone's extremely harsh winters.
Since 1985, more than 6,600 buffalo have been shipped to slaughter or been killed in hunts. In the winter of 2008 alone, more than 1,600 were killed (the most since the 19th centuray) mostly by Yellowstone National Park and Montana's Department of Livestock for what they claim is prevention of the spread of a disease called brucellosis (that buffalo acquired from cattle and which have never been spread in the wild from buffalo back to cattle) under something known as the Interagency Bison Management Plan.
Beyond those 6,600 plus deaths, every winter bison face harassment - what is known as hazing - mostly along the western and northern boundaries of the park, calves face quarantine, buffalo are kept in capture facilities and tested for exposure to brucellosis (many are killed without so much as a test - a test that does not verify that the animal has the disease), bulls - which under almost no circumstance can spread brucellosis - are also shipped to slaughter. Montana has a hunting season for buffalo even though there is no permanent buffalo habitat provided in the entire state (leading to a kind of firing squad along Yellowstone's border). To make matters more absurd, there are not even any cattle on the western end of the park; neighbors have formed a group (Horse Butte Neighbors of Buffalo) trying to urge the end of the slaughter to no avail.
That doesn't even begin to explain the absurdity in the north end of the park where the government is paying the Church Universal and Triumphant $3.1 million for grazing rights for only 25 of Yellowstone's buffalo on land that already has public access roads, where the animals are forced back into Yellowstone every April 15, where they still undergo extensive testing (including vaginal transmitters implanted into them). What's worse, some believe that this is actually progress, though not a single buffalo is actually helped over time.
Yellowstone's buffalo herds in Fall 2007 totaled 4,700; by the end of the winter 2008 the National Park Service reported that over half the herd had been killed off or had died from the winter. This is a significant total of the overall population of wild bison in the world as well as a significant total of the bison population that isn't in some part mixed with cows. Many of them live with a disease that has no serious effect on them and which at the same time has no serious risk to cows which don't share the same grazing habitat in this region.
A lot more can and should be said about these animals. While we construct this site, we urge you to check out the same section in Buffalo Field Campaign's excellent Web site. We in Buffalo Allies of Bozeman are drawn to these animals and fighting against the senselessness of their plight.