This new bison hunt is controversial, but I see as necessary in the short run because of the continued winter feeding of elk in Wyoming, which by default also means feeding bison in the winter. It is controversial because it is hardly a hunt. It is a herd reduction measure.

The Yellowstone bison are not fed and leave the Park looking for food, and the herd is largely self-regulating. The Jackson Hole bison are limited only by summer range, having plenty of artificial feed during the winter. As a result, Grand Teton National Park has an excess of bison, and the herd just keeps on growing. The Jackson Hole bison have little winter mortality, and they are increasingly taking over the valley floor in Jackson Hole and damaging wildlife habitat.

Everyone should note that while Montana livestock politicians are seemingly always in a panic if bison leave Yellowstone Park, suposedly because of the brucellosis infection in the herds, Wyoming livestock politicians are much more interested in keeping the winter feedlots open even though that perpetuates a brucellosis disease rate far higher than in Yellowstone Park.

Once again, the bison issue and problems are really problems spawned by the livestock industry’s insistence on being first in line in the Yellowstone region.

Here is the story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. By Corey Hatch.

About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

6 Responses to Bison hunt begins in National Elk Refuge

  1. kim kaiser says:

    i read the article in the JH news the other day,,, it said somethin to the effect that bison are the culprit in bruscilosos,,, but then i read that cattle were the actual carriers and bison got it from them….and the writer made it sound like it was all the bisons doing, that they brought the diease to cattle,,,,,,it was a bit disconcerting as to how it was written… i would have thought JH paper a bit more sympatheic,,, btw,,,, who did bring in brusiclosis

  2. Brucellosis is not a native (endemic disease). It has long been a disease of cattle and other domestic animals.

    It came to Yellowstone sometime in the early 20th Century when milk cows were brought in to provide milk for tourists and/or to supplement what they thought were the insufficient rations for the tiny bison population struggling against extinction.

    Cattle gave the disease to Yellowstone Park bison, bison gave it to elk, but all of the crossback to cattle in the Greater Yellowstone has come from elk, except in the recent Montana case, unknown, but probably elk.

  3. Monty says:

    No one can argue that the buffalo numbers need to be brought in line with the land’s carrying capacity. Wolves & bears, at best, are “marginal buffalo predators”; however, one would hope that they could get a fair share of the “meat harvest”.

  4. Smiley says:

    How, exactly, is wildlife habitat being damaged by bison? I mean, generally, they are considered an ecological benefit to prairies that they frequent. Do they not migrate far, creating a beating down effect?

    A migrating bison tills the soil wherever it goes and that is why I ask if they are more stationary than most herds. What kind of habitat are they hanging out in, as far as plant life and terrain go?


  5. sal says:

    The Jackson Hole reserve is a large riparian/flood plane that runs the length of the valley for several miles yet when all the ungulates are there, it is rather crowded.

    The problem is that this facilitates a “captive” situation where supposed roving ungulates are penned up. When the balance of the natural activity of these animals is disrupted, it brings about disease among the animals. It also tears up the landscape that they inhabit when clustered beyond the carrying capacity for the small area that they are penned into. (Remember, these animals come from thousands of square miles of range to this little, in comparison, valley.)

    In the natural setting, these animal are not concentrated in an un-natural configuration, instead they are widely dispersed and transient. This means minor stress on the areas they traverse as well as endure smaller disease rates by this activity.

    It’s one of the reasons wolves and other preditors are good, they help keep these ungulates on the move. The studies done on riparian recovery post wolf reintroduction indicate that this is so.

    It’s a matter of humans understanding what they are trading off in order to control nature yet live in the wilderness because they “admire” nature.

    Apparently, not the way is really is.. nature that is.

  6. There’s been no “wilderness” in North America since humans first came. There were people living in Yellowstone and killing and eating bison for 15,000 years. The last couple of generations are the first time in millenia that nobody has been hunting in that area.

    Humans always modify and ‘manage’ their environment; it’s our ecological adaptation. Before humans arrived, North America had a megafauna more like Africa’s — mammoths, mastodons, giant ground sloths, many varieties of antelope, giant wild hogs, horses, lions, cheetahs, saber-tooths.


September 2007


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey