20 November 2015
Fewer than 1,000 plains bison escaped the uncontrolled killing spree that led to the species’ near extinction in the late 1800s. Of these, most were captured and held on private ranches; fewer than 25 remained in the wild, deep in Yellowstone National Park. Today, those few survivors have produced more than 4,000 descendants who remain wild within Yellowstone. However, as these bison wander outside of the park boundaries in winter months, outdated policies require park officials to ship them to slaughter, with the goal of keeping the Yellowstone bison population below an arbitrary population cap. This tragedy unfolds almost every year. . And this week, Yellowstone announced it plans to cull approximately 1,000 bison this winter.
At Defenders, we believe there are much better alternatives to this senseless and tragic slaughter program. This program kills bison that could, instead, be the beginnings of new restoration herds. Recently, Defenders, our conservation partners and the state of Montana have worked with the tribal governments of Fort Peck and Fort Belknap Indian reservations on two successful relocation efforts of wild Yellowstone bison on tribal lands in eastern Montana – the heart of the species’ historic range. We’re working to convince Yellowstone National Park to reinitiate this relocation program rather than ship Yellowstone’s wild bison to slaughter, and we’re also working to convince Montana’s Governor to allow Yellowstone bison more room to roam outside the park.
Anti-wolf resolution proposed in Colorado
Today, Colorado’s Parks and Wildlife Commission reviewed a proposed resolution to oppose reintroduction of gray wolves and Mexican gray wolves into Colorado. The text of the resolution reads more like a myth or fairytale about wolves, and it is sad to see the commission spending time on such fear mongering about this species. At this morning’s meeting, we told the commission that this resolution is a major impediment to wolf recovery in Colorado, which has some of the best remaining suitable habitat for wolves in the Lower 48. On top of that, keeping wolves out of Colorado is not what Coloradans want. According to recent polling, 70 percent of Coloradans support the state restoring wolves to wilderness areas in Colorado. The commission will make a final decision in early January, and we’ll be sure to keep you posted.
Oregon Stands Firm on Penalties for Wolf Poaching
This week, news surfaced that the hunter from Baker County, Oregon, who shot a wolf earlier this month has been charged with the maximum penalty for killing an imperiled species. Illegal killing of wolves by coyote hunters remains a primary threat to wolves’ continued recovery throughout the country. Especially in Oregon where wolves were removed from the state list of protected species just last week, it’s vital that officials continue to hold poachers accountable for their actions. In addition to strengthening both the criminal and civil penalties for poaching a wolf, Oregon should continue its proactive efforts to educate local residents about the potential presence of wolves, their status as a protected species, and how to tell the difference between wolves and coyotes.