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Kristy Mahlum's Fundraiser:

Let the Buffalo Roam

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Kristy Mahlum

THE STORY:

The Wild Yellowstone Buffalo


The Yellowstone bison herd is unique, and is descended from 23 individuals who survived the 19th century near-extinction by taking refuge in the Park's remote backcountry.

Unfortunately, America's only truly wild, genetically pure buffalo find themselves at the center of a violent conflict that can result in the yearly slaughter of hundreds or thousands of buffalo.

Yellowstone does not provide sufficient winter range for the resident herds of wildlife due to the deep snows of its high elevation plateaus. Animals leave the Park to forage on lower elevation grasses necessary for winter survival. When buffalo follow their instinctual migration routes to lower elevations, as they traditionally have done, they unwittingly enter a conflict zone where their survival is undermined by Montana politics.

Montana's powerful livestock industry demands that buffalo exiting the Park must be slaughtered to prevent the spread of brucellosis, a European livestock disease introduced by cows and first detected in Yellowstone buffalo in 1917. The livestock industry continuously complains about the threat of brucellosis, but the facts tell another story.

There has never been a single documented case of wild buffalo transmitting brucellosis to livestock. Even if such a transmission were biologically possible, the absence of cattle from lands where buffalo forage in winter months make it physically impossible. Yellowstone elk and other wildlife, also known to carry brucellosis, are allowed to freely exit the park without coming under fire as the buffalo do, belying the DOL's assertions that brucellosis poses such a grave threat.

During the winter of 1996-'97, nearly 1100 buffalo were slaughtered when they crossed the arbitrary Park boundary and entered Montana. These killings, combined with deaths from the unusually severe winter, resulted in a loss of more than half of the Yellowstone herd in a matter of months.

Since that wicked winter, Buffalo Field Campaign volunteers have been patrolling the Yellowstone boundary, monitoring buffalo movements, and documenting the MT Department of Livestock (DOL) and National Park Service (NPS) actions against the buffalo.

While buffalo continue to be killed every year, the presence of our volunteers and the success of our campaigns have kept the bison issue in the national spotlight, and given us considerable success. We will continue to work for the day when Yellowstone's buffalo, and their habitat, are protected. Until that time, we invite people of all nations to work with us in honoring the sacredness of the wild buffalo.

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