JUST WHO “OWNS” MIGRATORY ANIMALS, ANYWAY?
When I read that Yellowstone’s bison are being slaughtered I wonder where this is taking place. When I read that one of Yellowstone’s grizzly bears was killed in Rigby, Idaho, I wonder when the park grew to such a large size. When I read that Yellowstone’s wolves killed a domestic dog in Cameron, Montana, I wonder if I will have to pay an entrance fee to drive to Ennis.
Such balderdash is shameful. It’s understandable when whiners like bison advocates use the phrases – their job is inflammatory language. It’s unforgivable when scientists and journalists use the same phrasing. The wolves are not Yellowstone’s. The bison are not Yellowstone’s.
Our National Parks do not own the migratory animals that periodically visit them. Ducks, Geese, Trout, Elk, Wolves, Bison, etc. visit the parks and some are afforded sanctuary, protection, and solace. Some remain – some leave – some are caught and eaten.
The crux of the current situational argument about wildlife is “MANAGEMENT.” I enjoy seeing bison in Yellowstone. I enjoy seeing them on the road to Big Sky, Montana. I enjoy the elk and deer and cougars and ducks and geese on the same stretch of road. I would not enjoy bison in a head-on confrontation at 50 mph.
Wherever wildlife and people coexist, management of both must be considered. The current rants in the blogs and advocacy press are missing a significant and salient point. Bison management, in the recent past, has failed. Yellowstone National Park has failed to manage it’s elk and it’s bison, with a view to the very sustaining elements of these creatures, – the forage base
Of course the bison want out of the park! There is neither enough, nor the quality of forage to sustain the population that is artificially inflated by protection. The wolves have figured this out and are radiating outward from their original introduction sites. The elk have done it for years – much to the delight of hunters. Yellowstone should be pleased to see them leave.
In fact there are so many elk produced in the protected incubator of Yellowstone that some are on welfare in the Jackson, Wyoming area. Management by feeding is one way to insure piles of elk for the tourist industry. I doubt that it is good for the elk. This artificial crowding encourages the spread of disease and dependence on humans.
The bison need to be managed! Hazing the bison back into Yellowstone is a sham. If the bison want to leave, let them. AND, LET THEM BE MANAGED BY THE POPULATIONS THAT THEY VISIT. They do not belong to Yellowstone, nor do they belong to the whiners or the cheerleaders. The current interagency solution is a failure.
If Yellowstone National Park refuses to manage the byproducts of it’s incubation policy, the surrounding populations should accept the responsibility – after all, the federal bureaucracy is notorious for failure in most management endeavors.
What is the solution? It’s too simple to contemplate. Treat them in exactly the same way that other game animals are treated. Manage the population for sustainability and minimal destruction of private property.
Brucellosis could be a problem, but does not appear to be at the present. Elk have it and they are managed by areas surrounding Yellowstone. Bison management by Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming could be easily accomplished. Treat the bison as a threat to domestic livestock in the same way that wolves are treated. Remove them and the potential threat. Compensate ranchers just as is done with wolf kills. The wolves seem to be doing just fine with this solution. Some are killed – some are not. Let the bison cheerleaders put their money where there mouth is. Perhaps they could morph into the “Rocky Mountain Bison Foundation.”
The bison in this area are far from wild. A game animal approach would allow the poor critters to recapture their human avoidance behaviors. It would be better for them than their current wallflower status. Let them be wild and run from humans rather than pose for pictures. The pathetic bison that currently exist around here need a bit of pep.
For those of you that truly believe that there is something unique about the bison of this region I suggest that you read NPS Scientific Monograph No. 1. This was a great start to a management strategy that was abandoned – sad, but true. Pay particular attention to chapter 3 and the history of the mingling of sub species and the current makeup of the herd. Also look at chapter 9 that began to deal with management. It might also be useful to visit chapter 5 and see the population characteristics. Remember that this monograph was written in 1973 – just as the population explosion was being anticipated. It’s a shame that whiners and cheerleaders and park managers refuse to read.
A series of bison reductions from 1961 through 1965 consistently removed a large number of breeding-age females. Records indicate that the reductions by field shooting of the mid-1950s also did this, as did some of the earlier removals at the Buffalo Ranch in Lamar (Table 9). Some population characteristics may change after a period without reductions. Data for all categories were not obtainable each year; hence, selected figures are used in some instances to suggest population conditions.
Yellowstone National Park has again failed to follow it’s own lead. Had the park administration finished what they started there would be fewer bison today, they would not have eaten the park to death, they would not be leaving the park in search of forage, and the “Brucellosis Scare” would be less. Of course the whiners and cheerleaders would then be screaming for more bison – pictures for the folks back home!
Yes, it’s O.K. to kill my bison. It should be O.K. to kill yours too. But the sad thing about it all, is that Yellowstone National Park has no friends. The native forage has no friends. The sustainable dynamic that is ecology has no friends. Only the bison and the bears and the trout and the other critters have friends. Well, ignorance is bliss.