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Winter Bison Hunt Unnecessarily Risky: Yellowstone Neighbors

A winter bison hunt outside the Yellowstone National Park boundaries in a confined area, Beattie Gulch, is unnecessarily risky and puts residents in that area in danger, according to a new lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Yellowstone officials use winter bison hunts to cull the herds after bison descend into lower-altitude feeding grounds outside the boundaries of the park. The lawsuit argues that hunting in Beattie Gulch, located northwest of Gardiner and north of Electric Peak, poses a hazard to local residents. Beattie Gulch is billed as a “natural bottleneck between the [Yellowstone] river and the Gallatin Range of the Rocky Mountains,” which makes it a natural spot for hunting. It’s estimated that over 11,000 bison have been killed by hunters in this narrow strip of federal land. This is not a new controversy: in 2018 Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials proposed closing off Beattie Gulch to state hunts, although tribal hunts would continue. From Bloomberg:

Beattie Gulch is a bottleneck for the herds following the “easiest route” to those winter pastures, according to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by a group called the Neighbors against Bison Slaughter. And the National Park Service’s approval of hunting bison in the tight confines of the gulch has put property owners, visiting renters, and local businesses in danger of stray bullets, the group alleges.

Hunting keeps the Yellowstone bison herds at a manageable size and can reduce the risk that farmers’ pastures will be damaged by the wild herds. But the 2019 Bison Management Winter Plan has unlawfully allowed hunters to shoot bison “mere yards” from nearby businesses and non-hunting individuals, the suit alleges.

The “Federal Agencies have foisted the dangerous and concentrated impacts of bison hunting” onto Beattie Gulch, which is a “tiny geographic area” with “a small group of residents and neighbors,” the group says.

As with all aspects of bison management in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the winter bison hunt is a matter of high debate both locally and nationally.

Image courtesy National Park Service.

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