Federal officials are beginning the annual process of shipping hundreds of wild American bison from Yellowstone National Park to slaughter.
Fifteen bison are being sent to slaughter this week,
park officials told The Associated Press. Around 400 bison — sometimes colloquially called American buffalo — are being held in a park facility and are slated to follow the others to slaughter in the coming weeks. Officials said they want to reduce the population by 1,300 this winter. Female bison in Yellowstone Park. (Photo: William Campbell via Getty Images)
Yellowstone has been culling bison annually since 2000, when the
Interagency Bison Management Plan was crafted in response to disputes between the state of Montana and the National Park Service about bison roaming outside Yellowstone boundaries.
Wildlife biologists say
there’s not enough space inside the park to support more than a few thousand animals without causing overgrazing and potential mass starvation.
Montana law allows only “very limited” numbers of bison to migrate outside park boundaries,
the National Park Service says. State and federal laws prohibit transporting wild bison anywhere, other than slaughterhouses and research facilities, for fear they’ll transmit brucellosis — a bacteria that can cause pregnant cows to abort their fetuses — to domestic cattle. Additionally, ranchers don’t want bison eating grass they use to feed their cattle, according to Reuters. Bison at Yellowstone's Stevens Creek capture facility, awaiting shipment to slaughter, in 2014. (Photo: William Campbell via Getty Images)
The first bison shipped to slaughter this year were part of a group of 40 that had been held at a quarantine facility at Montana’s Fort Peck Indian Reservation, with the intention of establishing a herd there,
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports. But state livestock officials and federal animal health agents opposed the transfer, and the group’s 15 females — which are at higher risk for brucellosis than males — were loaded onto trucks taken to slaughter on Wednesday, the AP reports.
As a compromise, the 25 males were sent to a U.S. Department of Agriculture corral, where they are set to be quarantined and eventually transferred to Fort Peck. One of the bulls was shot on Tuesday after breaking a leg.
Story continues Bison at Yellowstone's Stevens Creek capture facility, awaiting shipment to slaughter, in 2014. (Photo: William Campbell via Getty Images)
There’s never been a documented case of a bison actually transmitting brucellosis to cattle. However, the National Park Service maintains that it could happen, and says it hasn’t because of
concerted efforts to keep bison and cattle apart.
In order to uphold the terms of the Interagency Bison Management Plan, the government organizes the killing of hundreds of bison every year. Hunters outside of park boundaries kill some, and others are captured and sent to slaughter — a process that animal advocates slam as
stressful and traumatic for the bison. The meat is distributed to various Native American tribes.
The annual cull has plenty of vocal opponents, including
animal protection groups and concerned members of the public. Even the National Park Service itself denounces the practice as outdated, and says a new management plan is needed.
“Many people are uncomfortable with the practice of culling bison, including the National Park Service,” Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk
said in a statement last year. “The park would gladly reduce the frequency and magnitude of these operations if migrating bison had access to more habitat outside the park or there was a way to transfer live bison elsewhere.”
Not everyone agrees on what to do. The National Park Service touts a quarantine program as a way to save some animals and transfer them to other protected areas.
But the Buffalo Field Campaign, a group that advocates for wild bison, says
quarantine is no solution. The group condemns the quarantine process — which involves separating family groups and forcing the wild animals to live in captivity — as inhumane. Even in quarantine, bison that test positive for the disease are killed.
However, both the park service and the Buffalo Field Campaign seem to agree that bison should be given greater freedom to roam outside Yellowstone boundaries, as other wildlife species can do.
“Over the last two decades, nearly 20 livestock operators in the three states surrounding Yellowstone discovered brucellosis in their animals,” the
National Park Service website states. “In each case, wild elk transmitted the disease. However, the state of Montana allows elk to move freely outside Yellowstone: a freedom that bison deserve, but have been denied.” Love HuffPost? Become a founding member of HuffPost Plus today. Also on HuffPost Winner, Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016A young male orangutan makes the 30-metre (100-foot) climb up the thickest root of the strangler figthat has entwined itself around a tree emerging high above the canopy. The backdrop is the richrainforest of the Gunung Palung National Park, in West Kalimantan, one of the few protected orangutanstrongholds in Indonesian Borneo. The orangutan has returned to feast on the crop of figs. He has amental map of the likely fruiting trees in his huge range, and he has already feasted here. Tim knew hewould return and, more important, that there was no way to reach the top – no route through the canopy –other than up the tree. But he had to do three days of climbing up and down himself, by rope, to place inposition several GoPro cameras that he could trigger remotely to give him a chance of not only a wide‐ angle view of the forest below but also a view of the orangutan’s face from above. This shot was the onehe had long visualized, looking down on the orangutan within its forest home. Winner, Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016A crow in a tree in a park: a common enough scene. It was one that Gideon had seen many times near hishome in London’s Valentines Park, which he visits regularly to take photographs. But as the blue light ofdusk crept in and the full moon rose, the scene transformed. The spindly twigs of the sycamore treesilhouetted against the sky ‘made it feel almost supernatural, like something out of a fairy tale,’ saysGideon. Positioning himself on a slope opposite, he tried to capture the perfect composition. But the crowkept moving along the branch and turning its head away, and so getting a silhouette of it with the moon inthe frame meant Gideon had to keep moving, too. Then, just as the light was about to fade beyond thepoint that photography was possible, his wish came true, and an ordinary London scene turned intosomething magical. Winner, BirdsThese Indian rose-ringed parakeets were not happy. They had returned to their roosting and nestinghole high up in a tree in India’s Keoladeo National Park (also known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary) to findthat a Bengal monitor lizard had taken up residence. The birds immediately set about trying to evict thesquatter. They bit the monitor lizard’s tail, hanging on for a couple of seconds at a time, until it retreatedinto the hole. They would then harass it when it tried to come out to bask. This went on for two days.But the action only lasted a couple of seconds at a time and was fast-moving. The branch was also highup, and Ganesh had to shoot against the light. Eventually the parakeets gave up and left, presumably totry to find another place to rear their young. These Indian birds are highly adaptable, and escapedcaptive parakeets have founded populations in many countries. In Europe, where they are known asring-necked parakeets, they are accused of competing for nest holes with some native species, such asnuthatches, and even bats, but in turn, other birds such as starlings are quite capable of evicting theparakeets from their nest holes. Winner, MammalsEerie silence and a mound of lifeless bodies: the contrast with the mayhem of the previous day couldn’t have been starker. And the stench was already dreadful. The day before, thousands of wildebeest onmigration through Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve had massed at the Mara River, nervous of thecrossing ahead and of the huge Nile crocodiles lying in wait. Once one made the leap, they all surgedforward and the river became a maelstrom of flailing hooves and crocodiles. In their frantic efforts to getout, they carved gullies in the riverbank, and in over an hour, as the gullies became deeper and deeper,more and more wildebeest slipped back down and died under the hooves of the ones coming out of theriver. Simon returned at first light, knowing that scavengers would gather at the site of the carnage. ‘Itwas a sinister scene,’ he says. ‘There must have been 50 or more carcasses, piled two or three deep.’Spotted hyenas were already feeding, and hippos and crocodiles had gathered in the river below. AsSimon watched from the other side of the wide river, one hyena left the feast and stood, as if standingsentry, at the river’s edge watching the gathering of crocodile s in the water below. Winner, Underwater For several days each month (in tandem with the full moon), thousands of two‐spot red snappers gatherto spawn around Palau in the western Pacific Ocean. The action is intense as the fish fill the water withsperm and eggs, and predators arrive to take advantage of the bounty. Having read about the drama,Tony couldn’t understand why there were so few photos of it – until he hit the water there for the firsttime, in 2012. The currents were unrelenting – ideal for eggs to be swept swiftly away but a struggle forhim to keep up with the fast‐moving fish. Also, the light was low, and the water was clouded with spermand eggs. That first attempt failed, but he has returned every year to try to capture the event. Noticingthat the spawning ran ‘like a chain reaction up and down the mass of fish’, his success finally came whenhe positioned himself so that the action came to him. Rewarded with a grandstand view, he was intriguedto see that the fish rapidly changed colour during mating from their standard red to a multitude of huesand patterns. Even their characteristic two white spots, close to the dorsal fin on their back, seemed tofade and reappear. On this occasion, with perfect anticipation, he managed to capture a dynamic arc ofspawning fish amid clouds of eggs in the oblique morning light. Still obsessed by the dynamics andmagnitude of this natural wonder, he will be returning to Palau next April to witness once again thespectacular snapper party. Finalist, Black & WhiteLance had tracked the pride for several hours before they stopped to rest by a waterhole, but theirattention was not on drinking. The lions (in South Africa’s Tswalu Kalahari Private Game Reserve) haddiscovered a Temminck’s ground pangolin. This nocturnal, ant-eating mammal is armour-plated withscales made of fused hair, and it curls up into an almost impregnable ball when threatened. Pangolinsusually escape unscathed from big cats (though not from humans, whose exploitation of them for thetraditional medicine trade is causing their severe decline). But these lions just wouldn’t give up. ‘Theyrolled it around like a soccer ball,’ says Lance. ‘Every time they lost interest, the pangolin uncurled andtried to retreat, attracting their attention again.’ Spotting a young lion holding the pangolin ball on a termitemound close to the vehicle, Lance focused in on the lion’s claws and the pangolin’s scratched scales,choosing black and white to help simplify the composition. It was14 hours before the pride finally movedoff to hunt. The pangolin did not appear to be injured, but it died shortly after, probably not just from thestress of capture but also from being out in the heat all day. Winner, Plants and FungiWith every gust of wind, showers of pollen were released, lit up by the winter sunshine. The hazel treewas near Valter’s home in northern Italy, and to create the dark background, he positioned himself tobacklight the flowers. Hazel has both male and female flowers on the same tree, though the pollen mustbe transferred between trees for fertilization. Each catkin comprises an average of 240 male flowers,while the female flower is a small bud-like structure with a red-tufted stigma. The pollen-producingcatkins open early in the year, before the leaves are out, and release huge amounts of pollen to becarried away by the wind. And now recent research suggests that bees may also play a role. The catkinsare an important source of pollen for early bees and have a bee‐friendly structure, while the red colour ofthe female flowers may entice insects to land on them. ‘The hardest part was capturing the femaleflowers motionless while the catkins were moving,’ explains Valter. ‘I searched for flowers on a shortbranch that was more stable.’ Using a long exposure to capture the pollen’s flight and a reflector tohighlight the catkins, he took many pictures before the wind finally delivered the composition he had inmind. Finalist, MammalsA grizzly bear charges at ravens trying to grab a piece of the feast. The bison is a road-kill that rangers have moved to a spot they use for carrion to avoid contact between predators and tourists. The location is Grand Teton National Park, part of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem in the western US, wheregrizzlies still roam. ‘Approaching a bear’s lunch is a dangerous thing to do,’ says Charlie. So there werestrict protocols for getting out of his vehicle every time he went to check his camera trap. Over nearlyfive months, he had thousands of images of ravens and vultures, but only a few of wolves or bears, andnone were up to the high standards he set himself, until this one. ‘The moment I saw it, I was so excited.It had taken nearly five months to get a decent image out of the set-up. It’s rare that I like my images,but I really like this one – though I still get annoyed that the top raven is positioned right over the GrandTeton mountain.’ The Yellowstone grizzly population has been protected since the 1970s, but now thatnumbers are recovering, it is proposed that the population is removed from the federal list of protectedspecies, allowing hunting outside the two parks. This has raised concerns not only about the grizzlies’fate but also about the knock-on effect on the ecology. Winner, Urban At night, in the Aarey Milk Colony in a suburb of Mumbai bordering Sanjay Gandhi National Park,leopards slip ghost-like through the maze of alleys, looking for food (especially stray dogs). The Warlipeople living in the area respect the big cats. Despite close encounters and occasional attacks(a particular spate coinciding with the relocation of leopards from other areas into the park), the cats arean accepted part of their lives and their culture, seen in the traditional paintings that decorate the wallsof their homes. The leopard is not only the most versatile of the world’s big cats but possibly the mostpersecuted. With growing human-leopard conflicts elsewhere grabbing the headlines, Nayan wasdetermined to use his pictures to show how things can be different with tolerance and planning. Once hehad convinced the Warli people of his plan, they supplied him with valuable information, as well askeeping an eye on his equipment. Positioning his flashes to mimic the alley’s usual lighting and hiscamera so that a passing cat would not dominate the frame, he finally – after four months – got the shothe wanted. With a fleeting look of enquiry in the direction of the camera click, a leopard went about itsbusiness alongside people’s homes. Nayan hopes that those living in Mumbai’s new high-risedevelopments now impinging on the park will learn from the Warli how to co‐exist with the originalinhabitants of the land. Winner, The Wildlife Photojournalist Award: Single image Nothing prepared Paul for what he saw: some 4,000 defrosting pangolins (5 tons) from one of the largestseizures of the animals on record. They were destined for China and Vietnam for the exotic‐meat trade orfor traditional medicine (their scales are thought, wrongly, to treat a variety of ailments). Pangolins havebecome the world’s most trafficked animals, with all eight species targeted. This illegal trade, along withhabitat loss and local hunting, means that the four Asian species are now endangered or criticallyendangered, and Africa’s four species are heading that way. These Asian victims, mostly Sunda pangolins,were part of a huge seizure – a joint operation between Indonesia’s police and the World ConservationSociety – found hidden in a shipping container behind a façade of frozen fish, ready for export from themajor port of Belawan in Sumatra. Also seized were 96 live pangolins (destined to be force-fed toincrease their size), along with 100 kilos (220 pounds) of pangolin scales (formed from keratin, the samesubstance in fingernails and rhino horn) worth some $1.8 million on the black market, and 24 bear paws.All had come from northern Sumatra. The dead pangolins were driven to a specially dug pit and thenincinerated. The live ones were taken north and released in the rainforest. ‘Wildlife crime is big business,’says Paul. ‘It will stop only when the demand stops.’ Nosy neighbour, Sam Hobson, UK Sam knew exactly who to expect when he set his camera on the wall one summer’s evening in a suburban street in Bristol, the UK’s famous fox city. He wanted to capture the inquisitive nature of the urban red fox in a way that would pique the curiosity of its human neighbours about the wildlife around them. This was the culmination of weeks of scouting for the ideal location – a quiet, well‐lit neighbourhood, where the foxes were used to people (several residents fed them regularly) – and the right fox. For several hours every night, Sam sat in one fox family’s territory, gradually gaining their trust until they ignored his presence. One of the cubs was always investigating new things – his weeping left eye the result of a scratch from a cat he got too close to. ‘I discovered a wall that he liked to sit on in the early evening,’ says Sam. ‘He would poke his head over for a quick look before hopping up.’ Setting his focus very close to the lens, Sam stood back and waited. He was rewarded when the youngster peeked over and, apart from a flick of his ear, stayed motionless for long enough to create this intimate portrait. Termite tossing, Willem Kruger, South Africa Termite after termite after termite – using the tip of its massive beak-like forceps to pick them up, the hornbill would flick them in the air and then swallow them. Foraging beside a track in South Africa’s semi-arid Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the southern yellow-billed hornbill was so deeply absorbed in termite snacking that it gradually worked its way to within 6 metres (19 feet) of where Willem sat watching from his vehicle. Though widespread, this southern African hornbill can be shy, and as it feeds on the ground – mainly on termites, beetles, grasshoppers and caterpillars – it can be difficult for a photographer to get a clear shot among the scrub. The bird feeds this way because its tongue isn’t long enough to pick up insects as, say, a woodpecker might, and though its huge bill restricts its field of vision, it can still see the bill’s tip and so can pick up insects with precision. What Willem was after, though, was the hornbill’s precision toss, which he caught, after a 40-minute, 40°C (104°F) wait. Splitting the catch, Audun Rikardsen, Norway Sometimes it’s the fishing boats that look for the killer whales and humpbacks, hoping to locate the shoals of herring that migrate to these Arctic Norwegian waters. But in recent winters, the whales have also started to follow the boats. Here a large male killer whale feeds on herring that have been squeezed out of the boat’s closing fishing net. He has learnt the sound that this type of boat makes when it retrieves its gear and homed in on it. The relationship would seem to be a win-win one, but not always. Whales sometimes try to steal the fish, causing damage to the gear, and they can also become entangled in the nets, sometimes fatally, especially in the case of humpbacks. The search for solutions is under-way, including better systems for releasing any whales that get trapped. Having grown up in a small coastal fishing community in northern Norway, Audun has always been fascinated by the relationship between humans and wildlife. And for several years, he has been trying to document the interactions between whales and fishermen. A specially designed, homemade underwater camera housing allows him take split‐level pictures in low light. But he needs to get close to a whale, though not close enough to disturb it or be dragged under a boat’s side propeller. So having the fishermen’s permission to snorkel by their boats has been as important as being tolerated by the whales. Swarming Under the Stars, Imre Potyó, Hungary Imre was captivated by the chaotic swarming of mayflies on Hungary’s River Rába and dreamt of photographing the spectacle beneath a starlit sky. For a few days each year (at the end of July or beginning of August), vast numbers of the adult insects emerge from the Danube tributary, where they developed as larvae. On this occasion, the insects emerged just after sunset. At first, they stayed close to the water, but once they had mated, the females gained altitude. They filled the air with millions of silken wings, smothering Imre and his equipment in their race upstream to lay their eggs on the water’s surface. Then they died, exhausted, after just a few hours. This ‘compensatory flight’ – sometimes as far as several kilometres upstream – is crucial to make up for the subsequent downstream drift of the eggs and nymphs, and luckily for Imre, it was happening under a clear sky. To capture both the mayflies and the stars, he created an in-camera double exposure, adjusting the settings as the exposure happened. A flashlight added the finishing touch, tracing the movement of the females on their frantic mission. Thistle Plucker, Isaac Aylward, UK Try keeping a flying linnet in sight while scrambling down rocky embankments holding a telephoto lens. Isaac did, for 20 minutes. He was determined to keep pace with the linnet that he spotted while hiking in Bulgaria’s Rila Mountains, finally catching up with the tiny bird when it settled to feed on a thistle flowerhead. From the florets that were ripening, it pulled out the little seed parachutes one by one, deftly nipped off the seeds and discarded the feathery down. Isaac composed this alpine-meadow tableau with the sea of soft purple knapweed behind, accentuating the clashing red of the linnet’s plumage. Crystal Precision, Mario Cea, Spain Every night, not long after sunset, about 30 common pipistrelle bats emerge from their roost in a derelict house in Salamanca, Spain, to go hunting. Each has an appetite for up to 3,000 insects a night, which it eats on the wing. Its flight is characteristically fast and jerky, as it tunes its orientation with echolocation to detect objects in the dark. The sounds it makes – too high‐pitched for most humans to hear – create echoes that allow it to make a sonic map of its surroundings. Mario positioned his camera precisely so that it was level with the bats’ exit through a broken window and the exact distance away to capture a head-on shot. The hard part was configuring the flashes to reveal the bat and highlight the edges of the glass shards. His perseverance paid off when he caught the perfect pose as a bat leaves the roost on its night‐time foray. Golden Relic, Dhyey Shah, India With fewer than 2,500 mature adults left in the wild, in fragmented pockets of forest in northeastern India (Assam) and Bhutan, Gee’s golden langurs are endangered. Living high in the trees, they are also difficult to observe. But, on the tiny man-made island of Umananda, in Assam’s Brahmaputra River, you are guaranteed to see one. Site of a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, the island is equally famous for its introduced golden langurs. Within moments of stepping off the boat, Dhyey spotted the golden coat of a langur high up in a tree. The monkey briefly made eye contact and then slipped away. Today, there are just six left on the island, and, with much of the vegetation having been cleared, the leaf-eating monkeys are forced to depend mainly on junk food from visitors. Blast Furnace, Alexandre Hec, France Eruption at Kilauea, Hawaii. When the lava flow from Kilauea on Hawaii’s Big Island periodically enters the ocean, the sight is spectacular, but on this occasion Alexandre was in for a special treat. Kilauea (meaning ‘spewing’ or ‘much spreading’) is one of the world’s most active volcanoes, in constant eruption since 1983. As red-hot lava at more than 1,000 ̊C (1,832 ̊F) flows into the sea, vast plumes of steam hiss up, condensing to produce salty, acidic mist or rain. Alexandre witnessed the action and returned in an inflatable the following evening to find that a new crater had formed close to the shore. Capturing the furious action in a rough sea was no easy task. From 100 metres (328 feet) away, he was blasted with heat and noise – ‘like a jet taking off’. In a moment of visibility, his perseverance paid off, with a dramatic image of glowing lava being tossed some 30 metres (98 feet) into the air against the night sky. Collective Courtship, Scott Portelli, Australia The Aggregation of Giant Australian Cuttlefish is rare event that can only be seen at a certain time of year, where thousands of cuttlefish compete for mating rights. a vivid display of colours and textures is what entices the opposite sex to mate. The Disappearing Fish, Iago Leonardo, Spain In the open ocean, there’s nowhere to hide, but the lookdown fish – a name it probably gets from the steep profile of its head, with mouth set low and large eyes high – is a master of camouflage. Recent research suggests that it uses special platelets in its skin cells to reflect polarized light (light moving in a single plane), making itself almost invisible to predators and potential prey. The platelets scatter polarized light depending on the angle of the sun and the fish, doing a better job than simply reflecting it like a mirror. This clever camouflage works particularly well when viewed from positions of likely attack or pursuit. What is not yet clear is whether the fish can increase its camouflage by moving the platelets or its body for maximum effect in the ocean’s fluctuating light. The lookdowns’ disappearing act impressed Iago, who was free-diving with special permission around Contoy Island, near Cancun, Mexico. Using only natural light, he framed them against a shoal of grey grunt to highlight the contrast between them. This article originally appeared on HuffPost.