'I kill them and cook them'

  • Inspector Kal Fogal and Mac Carelli

    Ritchie Doyle/Cold Mountain, Cold Rivers

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

When officials from the Montana Department of Livestock decided they needed help slaughtering bison leaving Yellowstone National Park, they thought of Mac Carelli, owner of C&C Meats in Sheridan, Mont. Even though he says scores of reporters have been all over him "like ugly on an ape," Carelli is still willing to talk:

Mac Carelli: "It's a terrible deal. They only have so much feed in the park for all the elk and buffalo they've got. They're overstocked and there's no grass anymore. If a rancher ran his business the way the park does, he'd be out of business in 30 days. You have to control your population.

"The state pays me for killing them and cooking them. We go over there and trailer them back here under supervision by the state of Montana and the Park Service. I just do what they tell me to do. I'm just a dumb truck driver.

"Then the state hires a licensed auctioneer. We've had three sales. A lot of people just want to buy a head or hide and have them tanned. Everybody buys them, people from Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Nevada and Wyoming. The last big heads brought $380 for the skull and horns. People used to hunt bison, but now the environmentalists won't let you shoot anything. The only way to get a trophy is to come here. The state gets the money.

"They've stopped bringing the bison in now. The animal activists have put a stop to it. They're turning them back into the park, letting them die of starvation and letting the wolves eat them. Or they're shooting them and giving them to the Indians. Now it's just a great expense to the state instead of them getting any revenue back.

"Those poor goddarned animals. What are they going to do? They're just like you and me. What would you do if you didn't have any food?"

Feb 10, 2006 02:35 PM

So few bison were saved from extinction that other than a small Wood Buffalo population the few remaining were only in private herds or government refuges. Because of this; bison were largely overlooked by the movement to preserve and restore big game populations and habitat that was spearheaded by hunters and state game managers. Instead the cattle industry and agricultural agencies have classified bison as livestock and hazed or sent to slaughter any buffalo trying to utilize their historic winter range.

If sportsmen were able harvest the portion of the overpopulated herd that leaves Yellowstone during severe winters; their political and financial power might be harnessed to handcuff the subsidized livestock industry and open more traditional habitat to free ranging bison. A "Rocky Mountain Wild Bison Foundation" patterned after the "Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation" could link state Wildlife Federations and other sportsmens groups.

Ray Ring, HCN's Northern Rockies editor has more opinions on this subject in a "Writers on the Range" contribution.