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Candlelight Vigil for "Buff-Love" in Montana

PHOTO: There's a march and candlelight vigil tonight in Gardiner to show support preservation of bison herds in Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.
PHOTO: There's a march and candlelight vigil tonight in Gardiner to show support preservation of bison herds in Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.
February 12, 2015

GARDINER, Mont. - It's about "buff-love" for Valentine's Day in Montana. That's how organizers characterize a week of action to raise awareness about wild buffalo - also called bison.

There's a march and candlelight vigil tonight in Gardiner. Stephany Seay, media coordinator with the Buffalo Field Campaign, says hundreds of the animals are killed each year just for moving beyond the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park and her group wants that to stop.

"There's been a few polls in the past few years that show over 70 percent of Montanans want wild bison roaming free in the state," Seay says. "It's time our voices are heard."

Seay's organization reports 425 animals have been killed so far this winter and more than 200 are being held in a trap inside Yellowstone National Park. She says it's expected they will be sent to slaughter. Many ranchers and some property owners object to the animals roaming outside of the park because of concerns of possible disease transmission to livestock and other damage.

Seay says there is a move to limit the number of animals inside the park to 3,000 which, she says, isn't a large enough number to support genetic diversity.

"We really want the Park Service to stop participating in the destruction of these gentle giants and to fulfill their obligation to the buffalo and to the American people by protecting and defending them," says Seay.

She adds wild bison are migratory animals, so it's in their nature to move beyond Yellowstone boundaries in the winter in search of better quality food.

Tonight's march begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Forest Service Ranger District office. Candlelight vigil is at 6:30 p.m. at Roosevelt Arch, Yellowstone National Park.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT