More than half of Yellowstone National Park's bison herd has died since last fall, forcing the government to suspend its annual slaughter program.
Bison's natural habitat is at high elevations, but they move lower when grass for grazing becomes scarce.
More than 700 of the iconic animals starved or otherwise died on the mountainsides during an unusually harsh winter, and more than 1,600 were shot by hunters or sent to slaughterhouses in a disease-control effort, according to National Park Service figures.
As a result, the park estimates its bison herd has dropped from 4,700 in November to about 2,300 today, prompting the government to halt the culling program early.
"There has never been a slaughter like this of the bison since the 1800s in this country, and it's disgusting," said Mike Mease of the Buffalo Field Campaign, a group seeking to stop the slaughter program for good.
Government officials say the slaughter prevents the spread of the disease brucellosis from the Yellowstone bison to cattle on land near the park. Brucellosis can cause miscarriages, infertility and reduced milk production in domestic cattle. [..]
The USDA acknowledges that bison-to-cattle transmission is difficult to document, but it says investigations indicate that bison were the likely source of infections in cattle herds in Wyoming and North Dakota.
But critics call the culling an overreaction. There is no documented case of the disease passing from bison to cattle, they said.
Let's call this another front on the War On The Environment, shall we? Since their concerted effort to gut the Endangered Species Act last year, which included de-listing the gray wolf in February, resulting in 10 wolves being killed in Wyoming alone this month, the Bush administration has been responsible for causing at least two species (the Lake Sammamish kokanee and the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit) to become extinct. And even more are threatened as they ignore environmentalists. Further, experts are saying the construction of the ridiculous border fence is threatening to make species like jaguars, ocelots, and the Sonoran pronghorn extinct in the United States. Heckuva job, Bushie.