Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park

AN Oklahoma newspaper believes all of Yellowstone's elk and bison should be killed in the name of brucellosis eradication.

Here's a novel solution to the woes Montana's livestock industry suffers from elk and bison in Yellowstone National Park: Kill them all. Yup, that's the panacea being promoted by an Oklahoma newspaper.

In an editorial published Monday, the Norman Transcript says the slaughter of the park's elk and bison is a logical solution to the spread of brucellosis, which can cause infected cattle to abort their fetuses. While the newspaper's scribes say the domestic livestock industry has come close to eradicating the disease, it adds that "the biggest impediment to total eradication is the presence of disease in the elk and bison herds in Yellowstone Park."

"If these wild beasts were miraculously turned into cattle, privately owned, there is no doubt we collectively, would require that the herds be eradicated ... slaughtered. Matter of fact, the law would demand it."

And then there's this passage:

No one disputes the grandeur, tradition and emotional connection of these mighty beasts to the West, but they have now become sickened. Typhoid Marys of the Range. Beautiful Yellowstone Park now stands as a pustule disseminating disease like Old Faithful spewing its sulfurous water, every time an infected cow elk or buffalo drops an aborted fetus.

Now, the newspaper doesn't mention that domestic cattle transmitted brucellosis to the park's elk and bison in the first place. And it doesn't touch on the elk and bison in nearby Grand Teton National Park. Nor does it detail how such a killing program would be carried out. After all, many of the estimated 30,000 elk that summer in Yellowstone also disperse into the surrounding forests in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. How would anyone know when all the brucellosis-infected elk are dead?

Nor does the paper mention any cost estimates of such a slaughter, nor any that might involve keeping domestic cattle out of elk and bison grazing areas or tied to development of a workable vaccine. And the paper doesn't mention how, once all the elk and bison are killed and replaced with disease-free elk and bison, brucellosis would not be retransmitted to them from cattle.

No, without fretting the details the paper sees this solution as a no-brainer, a cure-all. Once the slaughter is complete, the park could be repopulated with healthy bison and elk, it says.

"So in 10 years or so, the USDA might be able to say with some credibility, that the United States is Brucellosis Free. And all of us would say, "It's about time." it concludes.

Comments

Not to mention, that there is not a single proven case of Brucellosis being transmitted from wildlife towards cattle. This whole affair is just about fear of loss in the cattle industry. Not based on any fact.

Plain and simple, whoever wrote this editorial is an IDIOT who obviously knows nothing about the subject !! Not worth any other comments.

It's tricky to be sure what we are actually dealing with, and what the possible choices are with regard to Brucellosis in Yellowstone, because both sides in the debate are untrustworthy & devious on the topic.

Wikipedia's Brucellosis entry emphasizes that the disease transmits to humans and is serious. By inference, the more-fundamental threat to the cattle industry than the direct effects of the disease on cattle, is that infected herds would have to be destroyed, to forestall the threat of transmission to consumers.

There is a large U.S. Centers for Disease Control Brucellosis FAQ, which shows that the situation with this disease is broader & more complex than the Yellowstone Park dispute.

Will killing all elk & buffalo in Yellowstone free humanity (or even America) from the Brucella germ? No. It is a diverse problem, and global.

Are the herds of Yellowstone too large? By a large margin. "Ridiculous", if the mission is to preserve a 'natural habitat'. Instead, we have effectively the "Yellowstone Elk & Buffalo Ranch".

Would some like to see the ranching outside Yellowstone reduced or ended, so that overly-large populations of animals can be better-supported by having exclusive access to non-Park grazing lands? It does seem so.

Are the picturesque buffalo & elk herds being managed with a view firstly to tourism-values, and only secondarily in accordance with solid wildlife science? Sure. Many visitors report that their priority in coming to the Park, is to see the elk & buffalo. More normal population levels would be more-dispersed and much less visible. People see them readily, only because they are over-crowded.

The dominant token on this game-board appears to be the hope that by having over-large populations of these major herbivores, the chronic feed-shortage will disperse them seasonally into more & larger areas surrounding the Park, maintaining an implied pressure to treat regions surround the Park as though they are extensions of the Park ... when actually, they're not.

This is an example of the 'halo' idea - that Parks need to be surrounded by an ever-widening 'halo'-zone which falls effectively under Park-management, even though they are not Park and may actually have long histories of other usage.

The herds of Yellowstone ought to be a lot smaller than they are. That would greatly reduce the risk that diseased animals would travel far and thus expose domestic livestock to their disease. It would also take away a tourist-attraction (great masses of large animals in plain view), and disarm those who aim to use elk & bison to create an enlarged 'virtual' Yellowstone Park.

How many of those cattle are grazing on federal lands which are leased at a ridiculously low price? It seems to me that those ranchers don't have much to complain about.

Ted,

It's been a while since I really delved deep into the brucellosis issue, but as I recall it's pretty hard for humans to contract the disease -- which is called "Bangs Disease" in humans. If memory serves me right, they'd have to be exposed to the blood of an infected animal. Its been years since the last case of human infection in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem involving wildlife, and the instance I remember involved an elk hunter who became infected while dressing out his kill.

Your mention of the "halo" idea could spur a thread of its very own, one I'm sure that would quickly grow lengthy. As you and many others know, Yellowstone's boundaries were politically set, not biologically, and therein lies the conflict between wildlife and livestock. The same problem can be cited at many other parks.

In effect, the National Park System is turning into a collection of islands that one day will be genetically isolated if nothing is done to curb sprawl and ensure wildlife corridors.

As for the size of Yellowstone's elk and bison herds, the wolves are working as hard as they can;-)

Kurt,

Yes, I was also surprised at some of the points that came up in a quick read of the prominent sources on Brucellosis.

Wikipedia begins their Brucellosis article with the passage:

"Brucellosis, also called undulant fever, or Malta fever, in humans is a highly contagious zoonosis (infectious disease transmitted from animals to humans) caused by eating of raw minced meat is also a common cause of the infection Brucella." (emph. added)
Relevant exerpts from Federal Centers for Disease Control ("CDC"):
"Various Brucella species affect sheep, goats, cattle, deer, elk, pigs, dogs, and several other animals. Humans become infected by coming in contact with animals or animal products that are contaminated with these bacteria. In humans brucellosis can cause a range of symptoms that are similar to the flu and may include fever, sweats, headaches, back pains, and physical weakness. Severe infections of the central nervous systems or lining of the heart may occur. Brucellosis can also cause long-lasting or chronic symptoms that include recurrent fevers, joint pain, and fatigue."

"Brucellosis is not very common in the United States, where100 to 200 cases occur each year. But brucellosis can be very common in countries where animal disease control programs have not reduced the amount of disease among animals." (emph. added)

"Brucella abortus is a bacterium that causes disease in cattle (and other animals), and also in humans."

"Humans are generally infected in one of three ways: eating or drinking something that is contaminated with Brucella, breathing in the organism (inhalation), or having the bacteria enter the body through skin wounds. The most common way to be infected is by eating or drinking contaminated milk products. When sheep, goats, cows, or camels are infected, their milk is contaminated with the bacteria. If the milk is not pasteurized, these bacteria can be transmitted to persons who drink the milk or eat cheeses made it. Inhalation of Brucella organisms is not a common route of infection, but it can be a significant hazard for people in certain occupations, such as those working in laboratories where the organism is cultured. Inhalation is often responsible for a significant percentage of cases in abattoir employees. Contamination of skin wounds may be a problem for persons working in slaughterhouses or meat packing plants or for veterinarians. Hunters may be infected through skin wounds or by accidentally ingesting the bacteria after cleaning deer, elk, moose, or wild pigs that they have killed."

"Direct person-to-person spread of brucellosis is extremely rare. Mothers who are breast-feeding may transmit the infection to their infants. Sexual transmission has also been reported. For both sexual and breast-feeding transmission, if the infant or person at risk is treated for brucellosis, their risk of becoming infected will probably be eliminated within 3 days. Although uncommon, transmission may also occur via contaminated tissue transplantation."

The upshot of the most authoritative source available (the CDC) seems to be that although brucellosis in humans in our country is rare at this time, that status is thanks to the effort to suppress the disease in wild & domestic animals, and that in the event we allowed those safeguards to lapse, we could indeed see widespread, serious disease in humans in this country.

The Wikipedia reference also contains a section titled "Brucellosis in humans".



The newly-reintroduced wolves are willing & qualified, no doubt, but they are also easily distracted and (ahem) find the limited size of Yellowstone even more chaffing, and dispersal a lot easier, than do the big herds.

The solution that will allow the larger, more-complete habitats that many of us would like to see our National Parks encompass may be to accept a 'mixed-use' and possibly 'mixed-jurisdiction' format. "Impure" Parks in the model of Europe and Alaska could lead to the habitat-preservation and restoration we want. Entities in this form may not offer a uniform or guaranteed 'wilderness experience', but they could enable us to manage very large integrated habitats.

Ted, you raise an interesting prospect, that of borrowing the European model of mixed-use national parks. I've in the past been somewhat befuddled by that model in say, England's Lake District. How could you have villages within a national park's boundaries?

But in these times, perhaps that model, with a few tweaks, could be a viable solution to genetic bottlenecks in the National Park System. By creating different zones of use -- from official wilderness to economic centers -- perhaps wilderness, wildlife, and ways of life could be better preserved than via the process we now employ to confront these issues. To a certain extent that's what some Rocky Mountain resort towns, such as Park City, Aspen, Boulder, Jackson and Sun Valley, are achieving through the purchase of open space.

Even more ambitious than what's transpiring in the Lake District is the European Green Belt project, which aims to "create the backbone of an ecological network that runs from the Barents to the Black sea, spanning some of the most important habitats for biodiversity and almost all distinct biogeographical regions in Europe."

While there long has been talk of creating the Yellowstone-to-Yukon corridor, it seems to have languished. Perhaps by borrowing some of these European ideas progress can be made. Of course, convincing cities and towns that might be involved to go along could be tricky. Or they could see it as sound economic development.

Kurt: "How could you have villages within a national park's boundaries?" Ever been to Yosemite? Seen Wawona? Yosemite Village in the valley? Do you know how many primary schools exist in NPS units, because so many families live there? How about Jasper National Park in Canada? Or Banff? The villages and the people were there before the park was dedicated - or they grew with the staff of the parks. Of course the first explanation is more relevant in Europe, but examples exist in North America as well.

MRC,

Yes, I'm well aware of the Yosemite Valley infrastructure and Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone. However, the European models I refer to operate on a much, much larger scale.

For instance, in Lake District National Park there are more than 42,000 year-round residents and nearly 23,000 "dwellings".

Kinda makes Yosemite Valley look like a backwater.

Kurt et al,

Europe's Green Belt Initiative concept is exciting and their website is a good resource; I look forward to reading more. Especially, they offer under Database > Publications, The Green Belt Book. Though of course centered on their particular project & setting, the book's table of contents sketches out a good start for others with similar aims.

I have to think that a crucial, perhaps the central element on which the success of such a project would depend & revolve, is to bring the human inhabitants of a region being considered as a biome-scale habitat or ecosystem preserve willingly & enthusiastically on-side. Furthermore, they will be powerful allies, if their fears are laid to rest and the future of their culture can be seen as secured.

Getting it right with the locals may well be Job One.

In the late 1990s, there was an intense & highly scientific public input process executed on the Olympic Peninsula to evaluate the proposal to reintroduce gray wolves at the Olympic National Park. This process was really quite extraordinary, and I never felt that the question, "Why was the process conducted in such an unusual way?", was realistically addressed. On the other hand, had that study been conducted to document the existing social & cultural bases of the communities surrounding the ONP on the OP ... then it would strike me as being much easier to understand.

I.e., if the wolf-idea was used as an excuse to study the locals, then it makes better sense.

(The methodology ensured that the resulting data was actually real, objective, scientific data, not a transcript of disputing viewpoints. In fact, many participants objected, because what they wanted was a better forum for engaging in dispute.)

There is of course a very old, now-marginalized but entrenched meme among preservationists, that the Olympic Peninsula offers our best hope for the protection of a complete, intact habitat. (As Kurt points out, even our biggest Parks were poorly-selected to serve as habitat; Yellowstone being Exhibit A.)

The wolf-study was thoroughly documented and is available. It dramatically emphasized the local's interpretation & impression of 'outsiders' attempting to make decisions for them, that affected them, without their own positions being important. Gaging & addressing this particular type of concern really seems like the core to a successful regional eco-preserve project ... and that's what they did here on Olympic Peninsula.

Congress had the study done. Was it a sign that they are thinking in terms of eco-regions?

As Kurt mentions, there are other settings in North America that suggest themselves as candidates for extended habitat protection projects.

Are you folks thinking like Y2Y, The North American Wildlands Network, Freedom to Roam and such?

Random Walker;

Yes! Thank you for the links!

YTY - the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative is an example mentioned by Kurt (he thought languishing). Their website looks nicely developed, with current news. I think there is extra potential for enlarged (and better) habitat preservation in the more-northern regions.

The North American Wildlands Network identifies itself as The Rewilding Institute. I have surfed into material referencing them: they are known & active. Their website is quite attractive, though it is 'content' (which I like) rather than 'community' oriented. Their front page has an intriguing sketch-map (down a ways) of the western USA, showing potential habitat enclaves with linkages between them.

Freedom to Roam's full identity is Patagonia Environmental Activism Campaign: Freedom to Roam. It appears to be a project of the Patagonia clothing corporation. A positive engagement, I'd say. Also a content-site.

The last 2 of these 3 appear focused on establishing linkages, green-belts or migration-ways between now-separated existing habitat enclaves ... or as Kurt refers to them, "islands". (I am about halfway through "Song of the Dodo")

The particular aspect that I and I think Kurt were considering is to establish policy over extended territories (rather than 'corridors'), even allowing for the inclusion of non-wilderness human presence & activities. By doing so, we can manage larger solid regions of terrain.

But the 'connector' idea promoted by these organizations certainly looks good. Many would plainly include human presence.

Lets do this in reverse; kill all of the cattle and raise buffalo and elk. I understand that their meat is better for us anyway. Ted Turner has been trying to convince us of this for years.

Bogator;

While writing an earlier response I considered including reference to "Cervid Wasting Disease", CWD. Looking at web-references about this, I saw mention of:

  • a Canadian national initiative to revive their formerly large deer etc wild game meat industry, and...
  • a reference to an eastern US State's imported deer meat & slaughter regulations, indicating the existence of a meaningful industry.

It is probably that we could follow your suggestion on a substantial scale.

Before anybody gets their shorts in a knot over this rare bacterial infection, consider the following:

Reservoirs include cattle, swine, goats, sheep, dogs and various wildlife species infected with the organism. Wildlife species found infected include bison, feral hogs, elk, caribou,
deer and coyotes. So maybe we should consider killing off all the sheep, goats, dogs and various other small mammals if we, as the article so eloquently states, intend to claim the continent as "disease free" within the coming 10 year period. Fat chance of either happening in our lifetime......

Brucella occurs worldwide, especially in Mediterranean countries, the Middle East countries, India, Central Asia and Latin America. Over 100 cases are reported in the
United States annually. From 1990-1996, five cases were confirmed in Ohio. Brucellosis infection in the United States is, for the most part, an occupational disease of stockyard,
farm, and slaughterhouse workers, butchers and veterinarians. Which makes this about as common and dangerous as West Nile Virus and Asian Bird Flu. Which by the
way are viral infections, and as such have no currently viable antidote, unlike the widely available and highly effective antibiotics for brucella.

The infection is usually contracted by handling livestock fetuses and afterbirth or by contact with vaginal secretions, blood, urine and carcasses of infected animals. Infection
can also be acquired by the ingestion of raw milk or unpasteurized cheese from infected cows, sheep and goats. Airborne spread of the bacteria has also been documented.
Transmission has occurred in the laboratory environment. Persons such as veterinarians, farmers and their assistants may be inadvertently inoculated with the Brucella organism
when using the brucellosis vaccine to vaccinate cattle. Person-to-person transmission has been reported but very rare. Anybody out there ever handled or even been near
a livestock afterbirth, vaginal secretion, blood or urine? I thought not......the airborne transmitted option is indeed possible, but by current counts, less than .001%
of human cases are thought to be traced to this vector.

I've been made sport of in the past for suggesting the methane component of cattle exhaust is more of a problem with the ozone layer than you give it credit for, and that by far the healthiest red meat, in terms of highest protein per gram and lowest cholesterol and overall fat content is buffalo meat. Which tastes far better than cattle meat also, but that's a personal opinion. Both bison and elk are far better health choices than is cow, healthier than both turkey and chicken. But here I go again taking on another long-standing special interest group and their propaganda machine.

EAT BUFFALO.....REAL MEAT FOR REAL PEOPLE. Never again ask, "Where's the beef?"

Lone Hiker, if you're proposing a bison and elk roast, just name the date and location!

Kurt-

It might work, but we'll have to do a blind taste-test for the invitees. I'll tell 'em its diet-lean ground round initially so nobody's the wiser. When everybody has their gullet filled and the truth comes out, clear the path to the vomitorium..........

I know everyone has probably seen the article by now. But those wo haven't....

http://www.normantranscript.com/archivesearch/local_story_246001307

I've been away on vacation camping in Grand Teton and Yellowstone; this is the first chance I've commented on this. As someone who is an activist on this issue, is allied with friends in Buffalo Field Campaign, and has started a group this year in Bozeman, I feel the need to weigh in on the issue. Obviously, the editorial itself is built on a fallacy so obvious I don't feel the need to comment, but I do feel the need to react to Ted's comments above and in a general way to some of the other comments below.

First of all, to the general tenor of remarks about buffalo as a food source, I have to point out that what we in this area promote is the idea that buffalo are wildlife, i.e., not domestic. What Ted Turner does nearby does not fit the model of what most buffalo advocates here want because Turner's buffalo are raised like cattle and then marketed for consumption. The idea is that a restored bison population is one that is more than a restoration of numbers. It is a restoration of habitat, a restoration of respect for buffalo as wildlife, and that comes with a lot of consequences to the way that land is currently used in places like Montana. It's not an anti-hunting agenda; it is, however, against (there are individuals exceptions to this view amongst advocates) accepting what Ted Turner is doing as a viable alternative to a wild and free ranging buffalo population.

Now, I want to turn to Ted.

It's tricky to be sure what we are actually dealing with, and what the possible choices are with regard to Brucellosis in Yellowstone, because both sides in the debate are untrustworthy & devious on the topic.

Ted, I'm not sure what you mean by this. At our tables, for instance, I try my best always to point people to the sources of information on brucellosis that don't come simply from groups like Buffalo Field Campaign. There is a wide ranging discussion on this and not consensus on every fine particular of the debate. As a whole, it is safe to say that buffalo advocates regard brucellosis as a red herring issue, that we believe that given bison management in practice, that brucellosis is not the reason for the persecution of buffalo (given that buffalo are killed in areas where there are no cattle, where the public in areas want the buffalo, that elk in fact are not controlled and kept from cattle in most areas, etc.) In as much as brucellosis is an issue for some ranchers, we believe that the onus is on them to protect their livestock and not on everyone else to control wildlife as though it is domesticated. In fact, many argue that this can be done at much lower cost than current management plans. Brucellosis is the cost of doing business. If it were such an egregious cost, you wouldn't still have so many ranchers. If it were such an egregious cost, then none of them would allow elk to feed with their cattle. Yet, they do. I could go on and on.

Wikipedia's Brucellosis entry emphasizes that the disease transmits to humans and is serious. By inference, the more-fundamental threat to the cattle industry than the direct effects of the disease on cattle, is that infected herds would have to be destroyed, to forestall the threat of transmission to consumers.

Well, this isn't accurate as it currently exists. The easiest counter-example I can draw from is from this year where cattle in the Paradise Valley got brucellosis. Livestock officials - not wildlife advocates - were quick to point out how safe the meat was, even meat that may have been infected with brucellosis. Here is a quote from an AP story: "Brucellosis persists in wild animals including bison and elk in the greater Yellowstone area. It can cause pregnant cows to abort their calves, but transmission to humans is rare. Consuming animals with the disease is not considered dangerous, state officials said." Schweitzer says the same thing in another article. The television news had a long story about how the meat was safe and that the only people at risk potentially were meat handlers. Here is another counter-example. Many bison sent to slaughter are never tested at all for brucellosis - they are not tested before or after the slaughter. However, the meat is given to Indian tribes as well as to food banks. No one requires a test for brucellosis for elk that are hunted in Montana. I haven't heard of a single case of undulant fever caused by brucellosis.

Herds are destroyed en toto because of outdated APHIS rules, not because of any realistic threat.

But, even if there were ... well, let's move on ...

There is a large U.S. Centers for Disease Control Brucellosis FAQ, which shows that the situation with this disease is broader & more complex than the Yellowstone Park dispute.

Will killing all elk & buffalo in Yellowstone free humanity (or even America) from the Brucella germ? No. It is a diverse problem, and global.

There has been a long war against brucellosis; and yes, eradicating brucellosis in Yellowstone wouldn't end the problem.

Are the herds of Yellowstone too large? By a large margin. "Ridiculous", if the mission is to preserve a 'natural habitat'. Instead, we have effectively the "Yellowstone Elk & Buffalo Ranch".

I don't disagree with this; however, this is something that's in wide dispute outside and inside the buffalo advocacy community. For instance, consider this. The National Park Service has said repeatedly since the late 1960s that they didn't believe that Yellowstone was overgrazed by elk, bison, and everything else. They argued that if it were, you would see an irruption of the species followed by a steep decline. Since that never happened, then they argued that Yellowstone never reached its carrying capacity. I have been heavily influenced by an ecological scientist named Frederic Wagner, however, who argues that the northern range (the only part of Yellowstone where there has been significant study on this issue) has been overgrazed by elk - not by bison, because their numbers have never been allowed to get very high.

Now, this is where this gets us nowhere in settling the argument. The Park Service isn't killing elk at all (unless one considers the reintroduction of wolves to be an elk reduction program, which is not what they say it was). They are killing lots of bison, but they don't do so because of range management considerations but because of brucellosis. Some buffalo advocates accept the NPS argument about range and suggest that as one less reason to be killing buffalo. The argument goes that buffalo are nearly extinct and reducing numbers makes no sense for an endangered herd on a range that could support more buffalo. However, I and others like me who are buffalo advocates think that Yellowstone is completely out of whack when it comes to the wildlife restricted to such a small area. The answer for me is to allow buffalo to increase into their historic range and to manage them (if "manage" is even the right word) as wildlife as we do any other species that wanders out of the park. Then, you can have hunts or whatever, but you stop treating them like people treat cattle. The lack of range, then, is an argument not to cull herds, but to allow herds to expand. So, no matter where you stand on the range issue, it doesn't make sense to kill Yellowstone buffalo.

Would some like to see the ranching outside Yellowstone reduced or ended, so that overly-large populations of animals can be better-supported by having exclusive access to non-Park grazing lands? It does seem so.

Yes, of course. This is an argument first and only about grass and who gets it. Domestic abuse of cows on range land as commodity for slaughter is no rationale to keep bison off the grass. And, the livestock industry, who has a completely different idea on the use of grass and its purpose, see bison as direct competitors. They also see elk that way, but they cannot get traction on that because people in Montana value having their wildlife - and no one will deny that elk are wildlife; they get confused by buffalo (in part because operations like Ted Turner's).

Grass is the issue; ideology over the use of grass and who owns the grass ... it's not at all about brucellosis. But, it's a lot of smoke to clear up.

Are the picturesque buffalo & elk herds being managed with a view firstly to tourism-values, and only secondarily in accordance with solid wildlife science? Sure. Many visitors report that their priority in coming to the Park, is to see the elk & buffalo. More normal population levels would be more-dispersed and much less visible. People see them readily, only because they are over-crowded.

And, that's an improvement over the Albright years when buffalo were kept in a fence close to the road and fed hay so that people could see them. People complain on blogs every day if they see too many or too few buffalo -- if the buffalo in the road keeps them from getting somewhere else or if there aren't enough wildlife to capture with a picture. I read them every single day as I read dozens and dozens of blogs that people put out about their travels to Yellowstone.

But, we have to note something that the philosopher Alston Chase noted years ago when he wrote Playing God in Yellowstone, namely that Yellowstone is not an intact ecosystem. And, even if it were, ecosystems themselves are not closed systems. We cannot pretend that Yellowstone National Park is intact; the boundaries are arbitrary. There is no reason to put up a border to stop and control their movements and their numbers.

The dominant token on this game-board appears to be the hope that by having over-large populations of these major herbivores, the chronic feed-shortage will disperse them seasonally into more & larger areas surrounding the Park, maintaining an implied pressure to treat regions surround the Park as though they are extensions of the Park ... when actually, they're not.

I actually hope they'll expand further and that they pose a never-ending challenge to our assumed land use ideology. However, if there is any place where areas outside the park are a lot like areas in the park, it's in Yellowstone because there are a lot of wilderness areas and areas that are nearly managed like wilderness areas. I have a friend in the Gallatin Wildlife Association named Glenn Hockett, who routinely travels with a map of the area. He knows the ranchers, he knows the allotments, and traveling with him is a treasure where I learn so much. Glenn makes a very convincing argument that there are some very natural boundaries of bison expansion in the area; he points out the natural "buffalo jump" in Tom Miner Basin, for instance. I think he's wrong, that buffalo would find ways beyond those boundaries, but he at least makes a case that in the interim that buffalo would be manageable wildlife with clear winter and summer ranges, that those of us who would rather deal in philosophical and ideological extremes might not need to do so. What's more, a lot of people in this area would like to see that.

Then, perhaps, the park would begin to look more like what's outside of it and vice versa. I don't want the place I love the most to be simply a zoo of curiosities. I know that it's much more than that, and we are caging it up.

This is an example of the 'halo' idea - that Parks need to be surrounded by an ever-widening 'halo'-zone which falls effectively under Park-management, even though they are not Park and may actually have long histories of other usage.

There's no need for this halo to be under park management. Geez. That's the last thing that most of us would want, whether extremists like me, or more middle of the road types.

The herds of Yellowstone ought to be a lot smaller than they are. That would greatly reduce the risk that diseased animals would travel far and thus expose domestic livestock to their disease. It would also take away a tourist-attraction (great masses of large animals in plain view), and disarm those who aim to use elk & bison to create an enlarged 'virtual' Yellowstone Park.

I'm not sure what you are getting at here. But, the shift in your argument from brucellosis to range management, I hope I have shown, has more to it than it seems. And, no matter what, there is no reason to keep wild buffalo from being wild - whatever boundaries happen to be in the way.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Good timing on this - there's an extremely thorough analysis of the brucellosis issue by Patrick Klemz in the Missoula Independent. Having not been a fan of Patrick's last effort on this earlier this year, I think this piece is a far more balanced view on the controversy and all the ins and outs of it from a wide variety of perspectives.

See Bigger game: The state’s livestock industry wants to eradicate brucellosis from Yellowstone, but more than the bison stand in the way. How far will Montana ultimately go for healthy cows?, published on September 4, 2008. My friend Glenn is used extensively as a resource on the wildlife advocate side of things.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Jim Macdonald et al;

We will know that the buffalo have recovered and are safe, when they take their place beside other large herbivores in the State Hunting Regulations. As the animal spreads from its present restricted locations it will become a valued & sought-after big-game species.

Indeed, experience in Yellowstone shows that it is important to thin & control buffalo, to forestall several problems. Their instinct to form into large, dense herds makes them extra-picturesque, but it also exacerbates a range of issues that naturally arise with large grazing animals. Heavy trampling-impact, over-grazing, disease-transmission, among other challenges ... most of which can be readily ameliorated by hunting.

I realize that many who read The National Parks Traveler are not hunters, and some oppose hunting on philosophical grounds. However, to reach the goal we all share, of expanding the habitat available to maintain or restore especially the larger species which have been excessively reduced or extirpated, it is crucial to integrate multi-purpose lands into a broader & larger habitat-management perspective. It is unrealistic to expect that as a general case, such expanded management practices will entail any Park-like ban on hunting. Indeed, hunting remains under discussion even for some Park situations.

There is an Alaska buffalo hunt. Their herd is maintained at 400-500 head. It was established in the 1920s, in the vicinity of Delta Junction. Later (1970s), an agricultural development of some 10s of thousands of acres was created in the same area (for much the same reasons it was selected for the buffalo herd). Conflicts between the herd and the barley farmers have lead to valuable experience with the challenge of maintaining such a commanding species in the presence of economic & infrastructure assets. The Delta herd also shows that a population of Plains Buffalo can be maintained within a designated area, and not spread elsewhere. These are important precedents, for those who would like to see buffalo more-widely reintroduced.

It may be a significant side-thread of this topic, that Alaska is actively investigating the prospect of re-introducing Wood Buffalo (extirpated there). This species is still available in Canada. They differ from Plains Buffalo in lacking the strong herding instinct. They scatter on the land, and are better-adapted to use brushy & forested habitat ('the woods'). They are also significantly larger than the Plains variety.

It is probably worth bearing in mind that in most of the potential habitat that we have available for bison, Wood Buffalo would be a better natural bet than the Plains type, and would probably pose less of a management challenge.

Not to mention, when we are killing all these elk and bison, what exactly are the bears, wolves, mountain lions, eagles and coyotes going to be eating? My guess would be cattle. Then the demand will come up: we must kill all the predators! Soon the greatest intact temperate ecosystem remaining in North America will be no more. Only a memory. A story to tell our grandchildren. Yellowstone will stand, much like the Monument Geyser Basin, as a great shadow of what once was. Slowly the economies of three states will start to dry up, as hunters, wildlife watchers and photographers will no longer swarm to Yellowstone with their millions of eco-tourist dollars. Some will still come for Old Faithful, but for most people facing ever increasing travel costs, Yellowstone will just be another of many pretty places, one that is somewhat out of the way.
Every year they slaughter hundreds of bison that leave the park and send the meat off to food banks and Native Americans WITHOUT TESTING IT! This shows clearly just how big a danger to humans brucellosis really is in the modern world (not very). There is a logical solution to this problem. It lies with APHIS and in changing their antiquated, outdated rules.
Regarding Yellowstone herds being too large: I spent a couple days in the Tetons recently. On my way down there (and back) I drove from the north gate of Yellowstone to the south (early AM on the way down, late afternoon/evening on the way back). With the exception of a dozen or so elk in among the buildings in Mammoth, I saw a grand total of six bison (down and back...4 and 2). That's it..total wildlife. In the Tetons I saw about 2-300 bison, several herds of elk, 6 moose, one grizzly bear, one beaver, three bald eagles and a herd of pronghorn. I spoke with an outfitter I ran into down there (eco-tourism) and he told me that they no longer even offer wildlife tours of Yellowstone anymore, because they can't find any wildlife to show their clients. All such tours are now in the Tetons, he said.
As for bison hunting: Montana already has bison hunting. Now all we need is year around bison HABITAT. Then we can actually have bison to hunt, in a legitimate, fair chase. Not a stand-on-the-border-of the-park-and-shoot-any-animal-that-crosses-the-line-looking-for-food-not buried-under-the-ice-hunt.

well i guess i figure if it can be transmitted to humans then it must be safe to say it can be transmitted to cattle. not only that yellowstone national park was only supposed to have 350-450 bison on it and now there is over 3000 there, so why not get rid of the ones that test postive and have a clean healthy bunch that dont have to starve to death because of over population.

yeah you are right those cattle are grazing on fedral lands but those cattle are what are keeping your costs at your local grocery store down not only that fedral lands are set up for ranchers because in the 30s those were the lands that were not good enough to make a living on. and the government is not supposed to own land anyway.

The bison are not prey of the wolf the only bison the wolves eat are the ones that winter kill or are already severly injured i would love to see a pack of wolves take on a herd of healthy bison and actually kill one.

Kyle, Yellowstone wolves began killing bison about two years after their reintroduction and have since killed quite a few. In fact, some wolves have become specialists in the task of killing bison during winter when they are most vulnerable. They do not just kill injured bison.