Yellowstone bison hunt to go forward, judge rules

Dec. 4 (UPI) — A Montana judge has ruled that tribal hunts of Yellowstone bison, which area residents called “dangerous,” can proceed.

The residents had sued in federal court to stop the yearly winter bison shooting at Beattie Gulch. They claimed it was reckless and would discourage tourism.

Judge Susan P. Watters of the U.S. District Court in Montana declined Monday to issue an injunction against the hunt, largely because the tribes had been “planning for months” for the event, which had been approved in 2018.

“The hardship imposed on the Tribes is likely,” the Judge Watters wrote. “The Tribes rely on bison hunting for subsistence, they use bison hides for clothing and other items, and the hunt itself serves as cultural preservation.”

The judge also said if the hunt distressed neighbors, they could “choose not to watch [it].”

The hunt takes place when Yellowstone National Park’s protected park bison descend from the mountains in winter to search for better forage material.

Lines of between 30 and 50 tribal members and other hunters licensed by Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks department line up on Forest Service land near the park’s north entrance and open fire.

Treaty rights dating to 1855 to hunt bison are important for “cultural traditions and lifeways,” a group of tribes said in a brief filed with the court.

Other tribes that did not participate in the hunts said they would work to move live Yellowstone bison to tribal lands to better control how ceremonial hunting takes place. This year, Yellowstone transferred 55 bulls from the national part to the Fort Peck Reservation.

“We do respect the hunts of other Tribes,” the Rapid City, S.D.-based InterTribal Buffalo Council said in a statement. “Our goal is the transfer of live bison out of Yellowstone to Tribes.”