Thursday, April 15, 2010

Suzanne Lewis on Bison Management

I was talking with someone today about MT and the buffalo and I remembered this letter I wrote to Suzanne Lewis-YNP Superintendent in 2009. Here's a copy past from the email I received from Lewis.

Dear Ms. Vincent,
Please see Superintendent Lewis' responses to your questions in red below.
Thank you for your interest in Yellowstone National Park.


Dear Suzanne Lewis,

I read an article in the Helena Independent Record entitled 'Brucellosis
Most Difficult Issue Facing Yellowstone National Park, Neighbors'.
http://www.helenair.com/articles/2008/07/22/state/90st_080722_brucellosis.txt


I have a few questions regarding how brucellosis is to be managed.
First, the article states, "Lewis said federal researchers are expected to
unveil later this year a new study looking at ways of remotely vaccinating
bison against the disease. She said all entities in the debate should rally
around developing better vaccines and better ways of administering them to
wildlife."
My question is, why administer it to bison when there has been no evidence
of bison transmitting brucellosis to cattle especially when there are no
cattle present in the areas the bison roam?
This measure will indirectly lead to greater tolerance for bison on low
elevation winter ranges in Montana (i.e., on areas outside the jurisdiction
of the National Park Service), through reducing the seroprevalence of
brucellosis in bison.


Under natural conditions, the risk of transmission of brucellosis from
bison to cattle is low (only because of our current management practices).
The Interagency Bison Management Plan has committed human resources to keep
cattle and bison separated, especially during the third trimester of
pregnancy and through the end of the birthing season for bison. This
measure virtually eliminates the probability of bison to cattle
transmission of brucellosis. However, transmission of brucellosis from
naturally infected captive bison to cattle has been documented in North
Dakota on a range were bison and cattle commingled. Bison to cattle
transmission has also been documented under experimental conditions when
the two species were contained in pens at Texas A&M University. Bison to
cattle transmission is a situation that Yellowstone bison managers can not
allow to happen, but is quite likely if bison were to colonize currently
vacant ranges outside the national park. Check out these publications for
more details about bison to cattle brucellosis transmission:


Flagg, D. E. 1983. A case history of a brucellosis outbreak in a
brucellosis free state which originated in bison. Proceedings of the U.S.
Animal Health Association 87:171-172.

Davis, D. S., J. W. Templeton, T. A. Ficht, J. D. Williams, J. D. Kopec,
and L. G. Adams. 1990. Brucella abortus in captive bison. I. Serology,
bacteriology, pathogenesis and transmission to cattle. J. Wildlife
Diseases 26 (3):360-371.

Davis, D. S., J. W. Templeton, T. A. Ficht, J. D. Williams, J. D. Kopec,
and L. G. Adams. 1995. Response to the critique of brucellosis in
captive bison. J. Wildl. Dis. 31 (1):111-114.

To probe even more of the details of interspecies transmission, read
"Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area," by Norm Cheville and Dale
McCullough, published by the National Academy Press in Washington D.C. You
can read portions of the book at the National Academy of Sciences web site.

In order for the state partners to feel more secure about allowing more
bison onto low elevation winter ranges in Montana, The NPS needs to make
progress toward reducing the brucellosis prevalence in the bison (a part of
the agreement settlement from 2000). The goal of a vaccination program
would be to break the infection cycle and eventually reduce the impacts of
this disease on our wild bison population. This in turn should open up
more space for bison on low elevation areas that are outside our management
jurisdiction.

The article states that you said the bison will not be 'rounded up and
eliminated' in order to get rid of brucellosis.
My next question is, then why have over 6,000 bison been slaughtered with
1,613 of those just this past winter?

While brucellosis risk management actions have resulted in many bison being
captured and sent to slaughter over the years, the population abundance has
remained between 2,000 and 5,000 since 1980. One of the primary goals for
management of the Yellowstone bison is to maintain a population of free
ranging bison within a primary conservation area describe by the Record of
Decision. I refer you to these resources at our web site for more details:
http://www.nps.gov/yell/parkmgmt/upload/yellbisonrod.pdf
http://www.nps.gov/yell/naturescience/upload/2006bison_site_bulletin.pdf
http://www.nps.gov/yell/naturescience/gatesbison.htm
http://www.nps.gov/yell/naturescience/upload/bmpstatusreview.pdf
http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/upload/YS15(2)partII.pdf (start at
page 20)


The article states, 'Yellowstone ought to keep its bison herd to 3,000
animals.' 'Lewis said that number merely sets out how the animals will be
managed; it does not require the park to limit the number of wild bison.'
What do you mean by 'limit the number'?
So far, they can't even reach 3,000 due to the slaughtering every year.
Do you mean 'limit' as in lowest number that is allowed to live?

See the web sites listed above for information on the bison population.
The current bison population estimate (June 2008) is approximately
2,800-2,900 animals.



I look forward to hearing back from you.

Sincerely,

Eva Vincent
Descendant of former Acting Superintendent of Glacier National Park, Ray
Vincent and of John Vincent a previous Foreman of Glacier National Park

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