Bison slaughter begins at Yellowstone park in US
Feb. 13, 2014
BILLINGS, Montana (AP) — The U.S. moved forward with a plan to drastically reduce the size of the country's largest genetically pure bison population, with Yellowstone National Park transferring 20 of the animals to an American Indian tribe for slaughter.
The transfer was first disclosed by the Buffalo Field Campaign, a wildlife advocacy group, and confirmed by park officials.
Tens of millions of bison once roamed the North American Plains before overhunting drove them to near extinction by the early 1900s. Yellowstone is one of the few places where they survive in the wild.
Montana's livestock industry has little tolerance for bison because of concerns over disease and competition with cattle for grass.
But James Holt, a member of the Nez Perce tribe and board member for the Buffalo Field Campaign, said many tribes have a sacred, spiritual connection with the animals because American Indians historically depended on them for food and clothing.
"We're talking about the last free-roaming herd here," he said. "It does them a disservice and is a disrespect to them that they are being treated in this manner."
Yellowstone administrators plan to slaughter up to 600 bison this winter if harsh weather conditions inside the vast park spur a large migration of the animals to lower elevations in Montana. It's part of a multiyear plan to reduce the population from an estimated 4,600 animals to about 3,000.
Holt said the park's population target was an arbitrary number that threatens to infringe on treaty hunting rights held by his and other tribes.
The last major bison slaughter occurred in the winter of 2008, when 1,600 were killed.