Bison hunt carcasses alarm some Gardiner residents


GARDINER, Mont. - PLEASE NOTE: Some readers may find content within this article and the video above disturbing.

A Gardiner-area land and business owner says some tribal bison hunters are not taking responsibility for gut piles left over after hunts.

Three tribes have hunting rights in the area around Yellowstone National Park -- the Salish and Kootenai, the Umatilla, and Nez Perce. Each tribe is required to regulate its own hunt, meaning it doesn't fall under the jurisdiction of any local, state or federal government.

One of the areas of particular concern is in the Beattie Gulch area. It's a 65-acre piece of Forest Service land north of Gardiner that is popular with tribal hunters.

Some say the discarded animal parts create dangerous conditions, attracting grizzly bears and other predators to the area.

It's the second year this has become an issue. In 2013, Fish, Wildlife and Parks cleaned up 8,000 pounds of gut piles. But one resident says this year state and federal agencies are not taking responsibility of gut piles.

Bonnie Lynn of Gardiner made it clear she doesn't have issue with the rights of the tribes to hunt, she would just like to see it handled differently.

Lynn lives about 5 miles from Gardiner, a gateway community to Yellowstone National Park. She is well accustomed to seeing bison.

Lynn said, "My land is right there. It's the first land the bison greet after they come out of the park."

Lynn has witnessed the hunts that happen in the Beattie Gulch area firsthand, as well as the gut piles left behind. She tells NBC Montana the amount of leftovers are growing from the 8,000 pounds created last year.

"This year there is many more although spread out," Lynn told us. "One tribe did move some up the hill, but most of it is right across from our driveway."

She says it's a problem that affects many aspects of her life. From the health concerns of rotting remains just outside her front door, to the attraction of bears to the area. She says it even impacts her business.

Lynn revealed, "I had one man leave, saying, 'This is the way Montana treats its wildlife?' and he wrote the governor."

Lynn tells us she would like to see an expansion of landscape for the bison to roam to create a fairer hunt, and to alleviate the bottle necking that causes the pileup of guts, which Lynn says no one is taking responsibility for.

"No one's removing the gut piles," Lynn says. "I've asked Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, and they won't remove them this year. You talk to the Yellowstone Park and they have no obligation to remove them."

Al Nash, the spokesperson for Yellowstone National Park, reiterated that it's up to the individual tribes to regulate hunting practices such as what to do with remains.

He tells us the Park depends on state and tribal hunters to regulate bison population in and near the park.

Nash said, "Our job is to protect the wild bison population and to keep bison away from livestock."

And Nash said questions about the gut piles are better left to tribal leaders.

We reached out the Nez Perce tribe today for comment on this story. We were told the tribal chairman and the chief legal counsel were out of the office.

The tribe did respond to its hunting practices last week after a Blackfeet protester tried to deliver a bison heart to the governor.

Chairman Silas Whitman told the Helena Independent Record that conditions sometimes dictate that hides and organs are left in the field.

We double checked regulations in the area where gut piles are being discarded. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks confirmed tribal treaty hunters will follow their own rules and regulations.

The only regulation on animal carcasses in that area is a National Forest food storage order that says animal carcasses can be left on the ground only if they are more than 200 yards from a National Forest System trail, and more than a half-mile from a camping area. Beattie Gulch, the area near Gardiner where tribes are hunting bison, meets those guidelines.