Tribal leaders of the Native American Nez Perce tribe have asked to revive the practice of hunting bison within Yellowstone National Park. Subsistence hunting in the 18th and 19th century almost drove the species to extinction, but today remnants of the once great population live within the national park that spans Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, and it is illegal to hunt them.

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Although it is still illegal to hunt bison, for many Native American tribes, such as the Nez Perce and the Idaho tribes, it was a traditional practice. Some leaders feel that since the bison population has reached certain levels, they should be able to resurrect the tradition.

“Before there was a park, there was a tribe,” Nez Perce Chairman Silas Whitman said to press. “Some of our members already feel we have the right to hunt in the park, but it hasn’t been exercised because we feel it would be remiss in going forward that way.”

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The Nez Perce have not yet formally requested hunting rights inside the park, but if they do it will require an extensive federal review. The prospect of hunting any of the 4,000 buffalo within Yellowstone boundaries is strongly opposed by animal advocates, who already condemn an existing culling program that allows hundreds of bison to be slaughtered annually.

“Yellowstone is against any proposal to hunt in the park,” said David Hallac, chief of the Yellowstone Center for Resources, the park’s science and research branch.

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The bison population of Yellowstone has always been a controversial issue. Culling the animals is designed to ease the worries of Montana ranchers who fear bison transmit the cattle disease brucellosis, which can cause animals to miscarry. But hunting within the park woul causes even more problems.

“Even a proposal to hunt in the park causes more problems than the dilemma it intends to solve,” he said. “These are America’s wildlife and a crucial part of our national heritage. To propose to hunt in a place established specifically to prevent animals from being hunted is bizarre.”

+ Yellowstone National Park

Via The Guardian

Lead image via TheZfox and inkknife_2000