April 30, 2014 | Volume 101 / Number 18

Free Roam Or Stay Home

It was Matthew Brown of the Associated Press who wrote that the “tens of millions of bison” in the 19th century were wiped out by hunters. I say Poppycock.

Now it's the NWF's (National Wildlife Federation) Steve Woodruff who is echoing almost those same words in an effort to raise public support and “'pull out all the stops' in an effort to FORCE” (his word, not mine) “establishment of a free-roaming bison herd in North Central Montana.”

Woodruff also wrote that “ ranchers who see bison as a perceived, not real threat to and competitor for cattle could thwart these efforts. Yaaa, Go Ranchers!!

A private poll commissioned by the NWF stated that “American people are steadfast in support of the restoration of bison”, and “68% of people polled overwhelmingly support bison restoration.”

The pollsters “randomly” gathered 400 names from the phone book and began making calls. I live in North Central Montana. I didn't get a call. Did you? I would suggest that maybe the phone book was from western Montana where most of the liberals, tree-huggers, conservationist, and “let's save the wildlifer's” take up residence.

Now, I'm all for going out and taking pictures of elk, deer, sage hens, side-hill gougers and rattlesnakes and I enjoy a nature hike but amidst a large herd of free-roaming bison? Not me, chum.

There are bison in nearly every state in the nation including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands for people to ooooh and ahhh over.

Free-roaming. I guess that term can best be determined by the size of your “bison yard.” Free-roaming, back in the days before the white man took over the west, meant from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean and from northern Canada to middle Mexico. I mean ... those rascals were free-roamin'!.

These days the largest free-roaming spot in the world would have to be the two and a half million acres of Yellowstone National Park (YNP) but even an area that large has it's limitations.

The Director of the Fish Wildlife and Parks, Jeff Hagener stated that “it is no longer considered viable to establish a herd of free-roaming bison without any fencing or other limitations as to where they go.” A while ago he was a fairly staunch supporter of free-roaming bison.

Hagener also cites the need to preserve the bison's genetics. I say, why is it up to the government to do this when Montana is home to nearly 50 bison producers/ranchers who are concerned with the same thing'? The private sector has been proven to be better at regulating themselves in many areas, than is any government agency.

YNP officials have struggled for decades with the problem of containing bison inside park boundaries. The park is home to over 6,500 bison in an area the government previously decreed could sustain just 3,500 of the beasties.

I talked with Dean Reddig, who raises buffalo on his ranch north of Lustre. He told me he has had no problems with his herd “escaping” ranch confinement. He said “as long as bison have forage, water and a stable, healthy social structure, containment is not a problem. It's when they can't get enough to eat or the water dries up or there are more bulls in the herd than cows, that the trouble starts.”

It's obvious that the folks who manage the bison in YNP haven't heard of the three basic things that bison need to make them happy. Food, Water and Lovin'.

Kit Fischer, also a NWF'er wrote , “The decimation of the bison was a wrong that people would like to repair and doing so would be the crowning achievement in Montana's century-long commitment to wildlife.” Crowning Achievement? What's next? Grizzly restoration?

And how many of these touristas will think of the bison as “pets” and try to get up-close and personal, winding up lying on the prairie in a fetal position with bleeding puncture wounds and crying “mama?”

There are over 500,000 buffalo in the North America as we speak. The opportunity for “the children” to see one is right there in their own back yard. By not having a 10,000 head herd of free-roaming bison in North Central Montana is NOT going to deprive anyone the opportunity to see a real live buffalo.

So to all the “fat cats' who blindly support these wildlife groups without knowing the truth behind them come here and see for yourself. Spend a week with a ranching or farming family. See what you are trying to take away from them and their children.

That's it for now folks. Thanks for listening.

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