Two women who chained themselves to a stairway inside a Yellowstone visitor center to protest the slaughter of buffalo in the park were freed from their bonds and then arrested by park police yesterday. West Yellowstone residents Catherine Simonidis, 22, and Miriam Wasser, 20, were charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with agency functions and taken to the Mammoth Hot Springs jail, which raises an inevitable question:
Mammoth Hot Springs has a jail?!
But seriously, folks: Simonidis and Wasser haven't been the first protesters to hit the clink this year. Several groups and individuals have cried out against the park's Interagency Bison Management Plan, which protects grazing cattle near the park from contracting the disease brucellosis through buffalo contact. Bison suspected of brucellosis exposure are quarantined and then slaughtered if tests confirm they've been exposed to the disease. More than 1,200 bison have been killed this year — mostly through the management plan, though some from hunting.
Nathan Drake, a member of the conservation group Buffalo Field Campaign, was arrested in February for a similar protest wherein he chained himself to a gate used to capture and keep bison.
Brucella bacteria can sometimes cause domestic cattle to abort calves if contracted, but the likelihood that buffalo can transmit brucellosis to domestic cows is very low. Still, Montana ranchers fear the costs involved with testing and quarantining exposed cattle, and they can be prevented from shipping livestock out of state until the rigorous quarantining and testing requirements have been fulfilled.
Yellowstone enacted the Interagency Bison Management Plan in 2000 to help mitigate bison/cattle contact, which can be difficult to manage since roaming bison regularly move beyond the park borders and into private ranch land that now occupies their historic range. — Ted Alvarez