Although the horse seems to be taking all the headlines this past month (and not in a good way), the bison has garnered some ‘media’ as well…but in a far more interesting way that shows the extreme necessity of the hunting community. Whether you know it or not, the American Bison is actually a new face in our area; in fact, it was only about ten thousand years ago that they first crossed the North American path.
The steppe bison was the first to grace these shores, but due to habitat changes and ecosystems shutting down (not to mention technology that allowed the hunter to improve), that particular species found themselves on the out and their Eurasian relative taking their place. The American Bison had the ability to adapt to all types of issues, and adapt well. Out on the Great Plains, prairie fires would be sparked to transform the habitat to meet the needs of Man, and the bison had to be stronger and more able to adapt their diet and grazing patterns in order to survive.
Now, in 2013, it seems the herds have thrived – in extremely large numbers – and expeditions and events have been put in place to regulate the ever-growing population.
‘Out of control,’ the American bison cause many issues to arise, but – thankfully – the cruel treatment of harvesting these creatures has expired. Once, when bison herds were large, there was one way where that problem was managed (in this day and age, it would only be seen as cruelty). Bison were actually herded into large chutes that were made out of rocks and branches and then actually stampeded over the cliffs in order to get food as well as supplies for trading. Nowadays, the population is controlled with far more ‘kind’ hunting techniques.
Just recently, the headlines arrived that spoke of the huge overpopulation that was happening in and around Yellowstone National Park. And this year, hunters were able to kill more wild bison migrating from Yellowstone than they have in decades. The population of American Indians, harvesting the bison under treaty rights that have been in place for centuries, played a huge part in controlling the herds and protecting the land. And with all the participation this season, approximately 250 have been killed since last fall.
This is only half the number that many want to take away, however, considering that there are over four thousand putting pressure on the Yellowstone area. Not only do large herds cause harm to the environment, they have also been a huge health issue. Eight thousand pounds of remains from harvested bison was actually found outside the northern boundary of the park, which is just the thing to attract grizzlies coming out of their winter homes. The area is extremely close to the town, which caused panic and fear, to say the least.
All hunters and organizations agree that although the population needs to be leveled and regulated so that the habitat, as well as the human population can be protected, they are not in any way interested in seeing a ‘slaughter’ of any kind – which is why precautions are being taken. However, the hunting must be done; Yellowstone has relied heavily on hunters (seeing as that hunting is not allowed inside the park boundaries), to keep the population in check as the bison migrate into Montana
Many tribes combined this year to take over 200 of the 250 mammals during the three-month season and many are breathing a sigh of relief, seeing as that a large number of bison carry the disease, brucellosis; which, if transferred to cattle, can cause pregnant animals to lose their calves. This is one reason why Montana’s livestock industry is pushing the government to restore past restrictions that would keep bison in the park – reversing the state of Montana’s decision to allow the bison to roam free in Gardiner Basin.
It was back in the late 1980s, when Montana was once before encouraging hunters to actually kill every bison that crossed the Montana line. However, that ‘encouragement’ brought down a record 489 bison in one year – cancelling bison hunting until 2005.
This, as with many other hunting ‘issues’ has supporters on both sides with a great many opinions. Should bison herds be kept within Yellowstone and leave the weight on their shoulders? Or, should the migration to Montana be continued now that hunters have shown that the population can be regulated? Whichever side wins, it will always remain that by controlling the bison population – in a ‘humane’ way – the habitat, the people, as well as the herds, themselves, will find themselves enjoying a much healthier and worry-free existence.
Source: Baret News Wire / Sportsmans Life