POLITICS DRIVE YELLOWSTONE BISON ENDANGERED SPECIES REVIEW, NO ONE HAPPY
You have heard of Bison, surely. Maybe you call them Buffalo. Or maybe you think the word tatanka, because of the Dances With Wolves movie. Regardless, you know them. They used to have massive herds across the Plains states. Right up until the Buffalo Bill era resulted in their near extinction in the late 1880’s. They went from a population of over 60 million to less than 100! And now, politics and industry interests force a Bison Endangered Species Review of the Yellowstone population, jeopardizing tribal efforts to build new herds. And the situation is complicated, at best.
NO LONGER ENDANGERED, BUT EFFORTS TO REESTABLISH BISON HERDS NOW THREATENED
There are several problems. One, the Endangered Species Act is there to prevent the extinction of animal species. But buffalo are no longer at risk of extinction… In 2010, estimates of Bison numbers were 400,000-500,000. The majority of those were commercial and conservation herds, with about 15,000 in the wild. But in the last decade or so, indigenous tribes have gotten involved, making the commitment to reestablish herds on tribal lands. This review could jeopardize that, opening the door to hunting and culling. Why? Industry interests, of course. Cattle.
BISON CARRY DISEASE THAT IS A HUGE THREAT TO CATTLE RANCHES, AND BISON MIGRATE
Yellowstone’s bison population is around 5,500 now. But there is annual culling of up to 1,000 every year. It’s also worth noting that just a week ago, a bison killed a woman tourist there when she got too close, ignoring warnings. But the industry cattle interests are because of the disease brucellosis. It’s a bacterial disease that came to America with beef cattle. The problem? 60% of wild bison carry the disease. And it can devastate cattle ranches. And so, when buffalo migrate every year, they risk exposing domestic cattle to the disease. It’s not a small problem and there are no easy solutions.
Now, we and the animals themselves have to wait and see how this review process will play out. Whatever the findings are, it will have major policy repercussions.