Buzzing buffalos with helicopters at Yellowstone National Park is ok, despite concern by a wildlife protection group that it harms endangered grizzly bears, a federal appeals court has ruled.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday there is little proof that the herding operation using helicopters harms the grizzly bears.
The wild bison are allowed to roam outside the park’s boundaries to graze in winter but are herded back to the park in May to prevent the spread of a disease that can sicken local cattle herds.
The Montana Department of Livestock uses cowboys on horseback, off-road vehicles and helicopters to move the buffalo out of Montana and back to the park.
The Alliance for the Wild Rockies sued Montana and the US Forest Service and the National Park Service claiming the helicopter “hazing” harmed the endangered grizzlies and challenged the Bison Management Plan for allowing helicopters.
The 9th Circuit upheld the ruling of U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell, who dismissed the case saying there was no evidence of harm to the bears.
“Although there was evidence in the summary judgment record that helicopters had flown over bears, there was no evidence that helicopters had continued hazing operations in areas with signs of grizzly bear presence in violation of the instructions to stop,” wrote Judge Richard Paez for the panel.
Joining Paez were Judges Mary Schroeder and Marsha Berzon.
This is not the first time the court has allowed helicopter herding of wild animals. In May, the appeals court upheld use of wild horse and burro roundups in Nevada using helicopters.
Case: Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. USDA, No. 13-35253
Photo: National Park Service