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Montana Considers Managing Wild Bison as Wildlife

January 29, 2009.

The state of Montana is beginning a very important discussion about how they manage the wild bison herd with which they are blessed.

Currently, Montana's wild bison are not managed by wildlife professionals as wildlife. Rather, they are managed by the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL), an organization which is clearly not motivated by the health of the bison herd.

When bison leave Yellowstone National Park during the winter, DOL employees systematically herd bison in to corrals, then transport them to slaughter. The tax-funded destruction of this public resource is not conducted based on wildlife management principles, but rather based on the DOL's Ahab-like adherence to a poorly-formulated, unfounded, and inflexible policy designed to prevent the possible (but grossly unlikely) transmission of brucellosis to domestic cattle.

During the winter of 2007-2008, the DOL slaughtered 1,450 wild bison — about half of Yellowstone's remnant population. Hunters were only allowed to take 166, by comparison.

On January 29, the people of Montana will begin discussing legislation designated as HB 253, co-sponsored by Mike Phillips (D-Bozeman) and Ted Washburn (R-Bozeman). The bill, known as "the Montana Wild Buffalo Recovery and Conservation Act of 2009," seeks to:

  • Define wild bison as “valued, native wildlife.”
  • Takes wild bison management authority away from the DOL and gives it to the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP).
  • Protects the private property rights.

“We need to manage bison like elk,” notes a key proponent of the bill. This means protecting the resource, and it means more opportunities for hunters.

Montana's House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee begins hearing testimony Thursday, January 29 at 3:00pm. Wild bison hunters everywhere should hope that Montana chooses to manage wild bison as wildlife.

For good background on the topic, see this article from New West.


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