The Yellowstone Bison Herd and its Management

WHEREAS, the Yellowstone bison herd stems from the few individuals that remained at the turn of the century and as the last wild bison herd in the contiguous United States, its recovery is one of the great conservation stories of the century; and

WHEREAS, the Yellowstone bison herd was devastated this past winter by severe winter weather and government-sanctioned reduction, declining from about 3,500 to about 1,200 individuals; and

WHEREAS, approximately 1,100 of these bison deaths were attributed to shooting individuals leaving the boundaries of Yellowstone Park; and

WHEREAS, this reduction was carried out by the Montana Department of Livestock as a strategy of controlling brucellosis so that the state of Montana would not lose its status as a "brucellosis-free zone" as determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); and

WHEREAS, there are no documented records of brucellosis transmission from bison to cattle in the wild, and cattle can be vaccinated to protect against brucellosis transmission; and

WHEREAS, Yellowstone bison and elk have been found to carry brucellosis, and most scientists believe the elimination of brucellosis from wild animals to be difficult short of eradicating the herd; and

WHEREAS, Yellowstone bison are native wildlife species, not livestock, and therefore should not be managed like cattle; and

WHEREAS, the Yellowstone bison are caught in a jurisdictional crossfire of a dispute about brucellosis and about who should decide the management of America's most famous wild bison herd;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the American Society of Mammalogists, meeting at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, 14-18 June 1997, call on the Executive branch of the United States Government and the U.S. Congress to: (1) strongly urge cooperation between local, state, and federal agencies in the management of the Yellowstone bison as a native wildlife species and (2) order a complete review by the most knowledgeable National Academy of Sciences review panel possible in order to answer the underlying questions behind the USDA-APHIS brucellosis policies to insure biologically sound management of the largest living land mammal native to North America.