Silencing the Thunder

2014, Nature  -   12 Comments

Silencing the Thunder presents audiences with the challenges facing bison (or buffalo) conservationists, and cattle ranchers in Montana and near Yellowstone National Park. Brucellosis, a disease that is carried by immune elk and buffalo, and has never been transmitted from bison to cattle in any reported cases, is public enemy number one for Montana cattle ranchers who believe the buffalo should be traumatically driven away, or worse, upon exiting Yellow Stone National Park.

Some ranchers, like the one featured in this documentary, site property destruction as another reason why the current methods, which are described early on in Silencing the Thunder, are the correct way of going about controlling the animal. However, residents of Yellowstone who are near enough to the park to have a valid opinion on the matter will say flat out that the real cause of damage is bison being horrified by the sounds of snow mobiles or helicopters used to chase them away.

Chasing buffalo away with the aid of the aforementioned machinery, shooting them on site, or herding them off and sending them to slaughter houses, as opposed to Yellow Stone National Park where they are protected, is the way the buffalo issue is handled in Montana. The largest part of that issue being the money it costs ranchers in the beef industry to have their livestock tested for brucellosis if bison mingle with them and the amount of grazing buffalo would do on public land if they were allowed to leave the park. Should free roaming animals be confined from public spaces quite possibly because the beef industry is opposed to free and public grass which then helps ranchers make money in the private sector? Silencing the Thunder opens your mind to questions like this and more.

Questions or dilemmas aren't the only thing this film has to offer, it also offers unique solutions to issues raised by ranchers that are being used in some places already. The solutions seem even more worth striving towards when you consider the bison as a conscious being rather than a threat to your bottom line.

While you may find yourself agreeing overwhelmingly with one side or the other, it is worth noting that people with seemingly true convictions who appear to believe in the accuracy of their statements are being interviewed here. Neither side of the discussion is represented by an obvious ignoramus and this directorial choice, although "these casting choices" may be a more accurate statement, says a lot for balance and a willingness to tell a story and present an issue without seeking to influence it in any way as a director or narrator.

Ratings: 8.80/10from 97 users.

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12 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Connie

    America is not America without the Buff.....

  2. sam

    password required to watch?

  3. Kiffy

    Great documentary!
    Need more information on the aminal its self. I see so many films on animals we see as "cute" but not so much the others

  4. EdwardWarren

    A good documentary. This is a difficult issue that presents both sides of it. Both sides need to work together to come up with a solution that everyone can live with. No one will ever be completely happy. The problems come when people are not willing to compromise. Nothing is ever black and white.

    Those who want bison to move out of Yellowstone actually have an option available to them. Raise money and buy the land and put it into trust. If open spaces is the problem that would solve it, piece by piece. Until that happened, I would lean towards the ranchers.

    There would not be a problem if park management weren't so successful in growing the herd while doing little to keep it in check. Bison and elk actually ruin large amounts of Yellowstone itself and recent increases in wolf populations in the park have shown that where wolves are keeping bison and elk numbers down. Water fowl, fish, and other mammals have flourished in those areas.

  5. southab403

    If they vaccinated the cattle at branding time rather than isolating and blood testing them, it would be much less expensive. To graze the cattle on public vs private land should be "use at your own risk". If a wolf gets a calf, oh well, you've been allowed cheap pasture, so take the loss.
    I've heard there are plans to have a south Sask. (Canada) into Montana corridor for Bison and that some folk are buying up farms ranches to make it happen. Drought problems are causing some farmers and ranchers to bail. Nice to know they have buyers and wildlife may soon have large ranges to repopulate.

  6. Bill Billson

    I've been on a run of bad documentaries. So nice to find a great one. Both sides told well, no fluff. Very well done.

  7. FollowTheFacts

    ...superb work...powerful documentary...just high quality all around...

  8. a_no_n

    i wonder how much the testing costs compared to the price of a fleet of helicopters/atv's and all the fuel they must use doing this.

    Stupid thing is if they all clubbed together they could probably get a really cheap group deal on the testing.

    1. Fabien L

      There is a vaccine and ELISA test available for Brucella abortus so I don't understand why they don't test and vaccinate the bisons in Yellowstone.

    2. Ashley

      The bison are carriers of brucellosis with a natural immunity.

    3. Fabien L

      I don't understand how you can be a carrier of a bacteria and be immune at the same time. Do you mean they are asymptomatic?

    4. Raven Cassidy

      it's simple ... ranchers should cross cattle with Bison and that will make them immune