Washington, DC — Yellowstone National Park is aggravating its bison migration problems by feeding hay this spring to brucellosis-free bison on its north boundary, according to one of its own long-time rangers. The released bison will migrate north next winter in search of another free hand-out of food, thus aggravating conditions currently leading to the record slaughter of Yellowstone bison.
In a letter released today, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is calling on National Park Service Director Mary Bomar to convene a panel of outside experts to evaluate the park’s bison management program and to determine whether park practices violate federal regulations against feeding wildlife.
So far this year, Yellowstone has sent more than a thousand bison to slaughter – approximately one-quarter of the park’s entire population – to stem winter migrations outside the park. Possibly hundreds more will come out of the park if the weather does not let up.
Bob Jackson, a 30-year backcountry ranger at Yellowstone National Park and a recognized bison behavioral expert, contends that –
- Yellowstone is feeding bison at its Stevens Creek North boundary capture facility, an action that will accelerate movement of bison from the park for years to come;
- Yellowstone baited buffalo to their corrals for several years prior to this year and then fed them for months before letting them return to their summer haunts; and
- Yellowstone’s administrators are oblivious to the connection between bison feeding in previous years to the expanded pilgrimage and subsequent slaughter now occurring on its North Boundary.
“Yellowstone knows the danger of habituating wildlife, as it found out in the 1960’s and 70’s with the ‘garbage dump bears’ which had become dependent on human-provided food,” Jackson said, noting that despite expressing concerns about habituating bison, the park is doing precisely that. “Any rancher can tell you that four-hoofed creatures go to where the food is…and choice hay is hard to beat.”
Last week, the Government Accountability Office issued a report that blasted Yellowstone’s failure to monitor the consequences of its management actions. GAO also faulted the lack of “clearly defined objectives” in how the Yellowstone bison are handled.
“If, as it claims, Yellowstone is using the best available science to manage its bison herds then it should welcome independent review,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that Yellowstone has blocked all outside monitoring of its bison capture operations. “The Park Service mission statement says that it is supposed to ‘preserve the inherent integrity’ of its wildlife but it is difficult to see how the ‘inherent integrity’ of Yellowstone’s bison is enhanced by treating them like stray cattle.”