June 2010

Judge rejects mandatory hazing of bison

A judge in Montana has dismissed a request by ranchers that would have required state officials to drive bison better known as American buffalo out of their spring calving and feeding grounds and back into Yellowstone National Park by May 15 each year. In early spring, buffalo often wander outside of Yellowstone and onto the nearby Horse Butte peninsula in Montana in search of food. Under the 2000 Interagency Bison Management Plan, state and federal officials have needlessly and cruelly hazed the buffalo back into the park in recent years using helicopters, horses and ATVs or sent them off to slaughter. The government agencies justify the hazing by saying it protects domestic cattle from the disease brucellosis, even though there are no cattle on Horse Butte, and there has never been a documented case of brucellosis transmission from buffalo to cattle in the wild. While the judge's decision provides more flexibility in managing Yellowstone's buffalo, two other counts in the ranchers' suit remain to be heard. In the meantime, NRDC will continue to push to end hazing altogether on Horse Butte.