Montana governor reprieves Yellowstone bison, signs death warrant for wolves

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2011:
BOZEMAN–U.S. District Court Judge Charles Lovell on February
13, 2011 appeared to have doomed 525 bison who were to have been
trucked to slaughter after wandering outside Yellowstone National
Park, rejecting a Buffalo Field Campaign application for an
emergency injunction against the killing. A day later, however,
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer issued an executive order
prohibiting the transport of wild bison through Montana for 90 days.
The order means the bison and any others captured by the
National Park Service after leaving Yellowstone will have to be held
in corrals at Stephens Creek, northwest of Gardiner, until spring.


“With all other routes closed due to snow, there are no other
options for the National Park Service,” said a Buffalo Field
Campaign media release. “We applaud this decision, yet are
perplexed.” Governor Schweitzer, Buffalo Field Campaign recalled,
“is the same man who in 2005 reinstated the bison ‘hunt’ [actually
close-range shooting] as a form of ‘more tolerance’ and who, just
last year, boasted to livestock interests that ‘No governor in the
history of Montana has killed more buffalo’ than he has.'”
Schweitzer claimed to have issued the order for the same
reason that Montana does not allow bison to migrate into the state:
fear that some may transmit the cattle disease brucellosis, which is
actually transmitted in the Yellowstone region mainly by elk.
Explained Carly Frandro of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, “Brucellosis
is spread when animals make contact with infected fetuses, uteruses
or afterbirth, raising questions of how transporting the animals in
trucks to slaughterhouses raised disease concerns.
Schweitzer gave several examples,” in announcing his order.
“In one scenario,” Flandro recounted, “he imagined a bison cow
aborting a fetus on the truck and the fetus bouncing out of the
vehicle. A magpie could move it into a pasture and a cow could sniff
it. ‘Bang! Brucellosis!’ he said.”
Lest anyone imagine Schweitzer had developed a soft spot for
Yellowstone wildlife, he wrote to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on
February 16 that he has directed the Montana Department of Fish,
Wildlife & Parks to stop investigating wolf shootings north of
Interstate 90, which crosses the state just north of Yellowstone,
and to kill entire packs of wolves implicated in livestock
depredation in the Bitterroot Valley.
Schweitzer wrote to Salazar three weeks afer Montana
Congressional Representative Denny Rehberg introduced two bills
seeking to permanently remove wolves from Endangered Species Act
protection, and Montana Senator Jon Tester asked Salazar to allow
wolf hunting in Montana to limit the wolf population.
Montana ranches in 2010 held 2.5 million cattle and nearly
250,000 sheep, according to USDA data. The latest available wolf
depredation data, from 2009, shows that the state wolf population
of 524 killed 97 cattle and 202 sheep. USDA’s Wildlife Services
killed 145 wolves, and ranchers killed 10. Montana ranchers
received $141,462 in compensation for 367 confirmed and “probable”
livestock losses to wolves. The Montana elk population is estimated
to be about 150,000. “According to end-of-season reports from FWP,”
said Defenders of Wildlife representative John Motsinger, “overall
hunter harvest was on par with the long-term average across the
region. Elk harvest in particular was up this year in the Bitterroot
Valley.”

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