Yellowstone – Discovered in 1807 was a lost world found by the hands of humanity after being the home to wild Native Americans for over 11,000 years. A land ruled by ice, brimstone and fire should be un-inhabitable, yet the most treasured wilderness can be found here than any other place on earth. One of the beautiful giants that live here is the Bison – an outstanding representative survivor of the last ice age. Built for the harsh winters that Yellowstone delivers, these Bison are the last wild herd left in North America.
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Winter in Yellowstone is unkind, harsh and deadly when composed of a six month contract frozen and buried under ice and snow. Many species struggle with the conflict of cold and locked away nutrients under the ice, but this particular story is dedicated to the Bison – who has battled through hundreds of years of the conflicts of Yellowstone’s winters.
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The Bison is an impressive adaptable character, consisting of many evolved features to battle against the harsh climate. Firstly is the impressive thick layered coat, used for insulation which aids against the intolerant freezing temperatures of Yellowstone. In order to make sure energy is conserved efficiently over a long term, their metabolisms are slowed right down making sure their energy is only focused and reserved for feeding.
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Snow consumes the once grassed floors in thick layers – making feeding almost impossible to many species, but to the Bison this is no set back. Using their thick, large powerful muscles in their neck they sweep the snow centimetre by centimetre, removing snow right down to the grass. Majestic in appearance, Bison bulls can grow up to 6 feet tall at the shoulders, weighting over 2,000 pounds and over past centuries this species have taken on their ancestral traits proudly and ferociously to conquer winter after winter.
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Unfortunately for 2010 – 2011’s winter of Yellowstone, these Bison are suffering from a truly unethical disaster. Due to global warming, pollution and other contributions the rate of snow has dramatically increased making levels far too deep for the Bison to sweep and graze through. Getting through just half of this thick layer of snow would consume more energy than can be replaced. As an emergency response to this some of the only few pure remaining descendents of Americans original bison herds are leaving Yellowstone National Park for lower elevations where winter conditions may not be as harsh on buried vegetation.
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Unfortunately these desperate roaming Bison – only on the move for survival have fallen into a lawsuit filed by the State of Montana where a new bison management plan was developed. It currently stands that any bison entering Montana via Yellowstone’s north boundary would be shot, slaughtered or shipped. Reasons behind such dramatic action are due to the scare and belief that bison will spread the disease brucellosis to livestock and eat grass which ranchers want preserved for their cattle. However, despite such a solid sounding argument, no Bison to cattle transmission of brucellosis has ever been documented.
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Due to a scare of finance lost by livestock and grass, approximately 400 Yellowstone Bison are being held in corrals near Gardiner, Montana where they await their fate. This is a fate that should not be in the control of man’s hands but nature. All of the captured Bison are currently being tested for the disease brucellosis and those that test positive will be slaughtered. Even those Bison that are brucellosis free may also be killed as the corrals have been designed to hold only 400 bison at a time, but federal agents have been aggressively rounding up any animal that has been straying from the dangerous winters of Yellowstone.
Federal officials can allow Bison to roam parts of the 1.8 million-acre Gallatin National Forest, and some Montana tribes are both desperate and excited to restore the bison back into their historical relationship within their reserves. So even with alternatives, can we really justify the loss of such a meaningful species both important to ecological balance and beauty of Yellowstone over exaggerated fears?
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Bison scientists have predicted that multiple herds of at least 1,000 are required to ensure long term survival. Currently – Yellowstone is one of the only places in the world left to accomplish this, yet the National Park and Forest Service are working together often resulting in the culling of Bison when leaving the park. It was only in the early 1800’s that over 65 million Bison roamed throughout the continent of North America, and now numbers are only reaching 1000.
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Without additional habitat the numbers of bison will decline, and not to a good cause but to become lost in misunderstandings, slaughtering and achievements that could not be met.
If you feel like you want to express your voice over this matter, or would like to become involved, the amazing charity Defenders of Wildlife, have put together a petition that specifically focuses on the Bison that are currently being held at Montana where their deaths are in decision. It’s not too late to save these magnificent beasts of Yellowstone. If you wish to voice your message to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, urging them to stop the slaughter of Bison and to provide space that is essential for their survival, then here is the link. The petition takes no longer than two minutes to complete.