Why is Yellowstone destroying its bison herd? Editorial by Bob Jackson

Ed. note: Bob Jackson was a notable backcountry ranger in Yellowstone Park for 30 years. I covered a number of stories about him on my old web site.

Now he is a private bison rancher.


Why is Yellowstone Destroying its bison herd?

By Bob Jackson.

I spent 30 years in Yellowstone protecting its resources, which I carried out with all my heart. Yellowstone, for most of those years, enthusiastically supported me whenever I brought a poacher to court. But the black and white of whether a person is a poacher is not the same as managing the greater population of animals in the Park.

Yellowstone has always been prone to politics. But due to its mission, Yellowstone has always led the country, with science, in countering the detrimental political influence imposed on Park resources. Employees always rose to the occasion because they had the deep conviction to protect the Park’s resources. But not now with the bison issue. I wish one could simply say Yellowstone has rolled over and given up, but it is much worse. I see the Park actively ensuring the status quo of ignorance. Yellowstone IS CULPABLE in the destruction of its bison.

I had heard of the elk reductions in the 50’s and 60’s. A few of the old time rangers, during evenings shared in backcountry cabins, would confide in me. None liked what they had been ordered to do. I was told the Model 70 Winchester 30-06, the very same one I slipped into my saddle scabbard for all those years of boundary patrol, had kill over 2000 elk in Yellowstone. But those days of unenlightened and exploitive management were over! I was proud to carry the same gun used to kill so many Park elk, because now it protected them.

No one thought Yellowstone would ever again stoop to allow such abuse of its resources. Black and white has blurred into shades of gray. The best Yellowstone administrators can offer is backroom whispering to non profits telling them to save their bison. Where is the honor and conviction of these public servants to stand up for what is right? If they had it, there would be a desperate search for answers, as was done for Yellowstone’s elk in the 60’s. Yellowstone had a lot of years to address this bison issue and has unequivocally failed to take the lead.

There is so much Yellowstone can do to fight for their bison. To start with, they need to acknowledge bison herds are composed of families and extended families, the same as elephants. Then they could focus studies showing the effects to the remnants of these families after they are broken up in the Park corrals. After determining family order, they also would realize each bison has a role within its family. Therein lies the solution to the brucellosis issue. For example, elimination of scout bulls, the Jim Bridgers and Kit Carsons of the bison world, upon entering unoccupied (ranch) lands, would solve the problem of bison families expanding into areas of concern.

Culpability comes from Yellowstone’s administrators lobbying against all but perfunctory University research to study these family groups. Why? It was something too far out of their knowledge grasp and thus became threatening to in-house status quo.

Second, Yellowstone needs to acknowledge the Mountain Bison culture of the non-migratory Mirror–Pelican herd still exists as a distinct functioning entity. The matriarchal segments of this herd are much warier than the introduced Plains bison and would never occupy areas where humans habituate. Protecting these bison from human contact in the summer means expansion of this native herd and at the same time be assured these animals will not leave the Park. Why doesn’t Yellowstone acknowledge this unique herd? Because they would have to reassess then rewrite their Bison Management Plan. Include in this the fear of the inevitable demands to remove the introduced Plains Bison.

More culpability comes in because Yellowstone had already been given this information about Mountain Bison. They have done nothing but give precautionary research lip service to it. Of course if they wait long enough, biologists “in-the-know” can then claim it as their own “discovery”. All this stalling, while our last native bison herd is fractured and destroyed.

Third, Yellowstone is covering up abuse of bison at their Stevens Creek Corrals. The Humane Society asked to film these corrals because they had heard of injuries and deaths at this facility. Even though no animals were around when filming was to be done, one excuse led to another until finally the Park’s Public Affairs Office had to come out and say NO. The Humane Society has a long history of cooperation and is welcome in other National Parks as a monitor. Not Yellowstone! Nor is the media now permitted to film corralling activities… in the name of animal welfare.

Culpability also comes from Yellowstone not questioning the off limit policy of filming carcasses after shipment of animals from Yellowstone. But with initial reports of massive bruising and broken ribs wouldn’t administrators, in the name of humane treatment, insist on independent monitoring? They do not, and thus they are culpable.

I wish I could simply say Yellowstone doesn’t have the backbone for a fight like they did with 50’s elk reductions or eliminating garbage dumps. But what Yellowstone has allowed to happen on their soil today, to my “alma mater,” is sickening. I ask the rank and file in Yellowstone; rise above the fear of job retaliation and remember why you joined the Park Service.

To cower in the closets of your Ranger Stations, maintenance sheds, and Mammoth administration buildings may secure careers, but every year of compromise means adding another year of personal slow death. Is it worth it? Lack of initiative by park administrators to have employees’ concerns heard and documented lets employees know their “leaders” are more like political lemmings following Washington pied pipers. Perhaps “political servant” is more appropriate than public servant.

For the public, I ask you to question the Park on these culpabilities. In fact question my statements. It is the best way to come up with personal conviction. Your questions means substantiating facts are disclosed. The cover up of inhumane treatment especially needs to be addressed. From the beginning, the interagency bison committee insulated themselves by writing in “experimental handling” language, making them immune to Montana State’s animal humane treatment laws. There is nothing going on at Yellowstone’s Steven’s Creek corrals today to justify being above the law, unless one believes in the validity of Holocaust experiments. I ask Yellowstone and any of the public who cares about Yellowstone to take the bull by the horns. Let’s rectify what’s happening to our Park and its wildlife.



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  1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Bob’s on the mark, but from the standpoint of science, I think the point needs to be made that the National Park Service and Yellowstone National Park have never supported ground-breaking science that might challenge the hide- and tourist-bound policies that date back to Stephen Mather and Horace Albright–that is, to the very beginning of the NPS.

    Science only got started in the NPS when George Wright, who was independently wealthy, pushed for it hard in the early 30s; it was he, before his untimely death in 1935, who pushed for and got the famous “fauna” series, the first of which he was a contributing author, which truly introduced ecological thinking to the already hide and tourist bound NPS. Yet at the same time, Adolph Murie’s groundbreaking ecological study of coyotes in the 30s was opposed all along the way by YNP, because Murie was finding out that coyotes weren’t the predatory terror that virtually everyone else (except professional naturalists) was claiming it to be. Murie was shaking the anti-predator policy boat, as was his brother Olaus, in fighting for more “natural” management regimes and no holds barred science.

    We see the same hostility to groundbreaking science in the despicable treatment of the Craigheads and their grizzly studies.

    Bison are no different for the NPS and YNP; we see no interest in treating bison as ecological beings and conserving them as such. YNP is hell bent for leather to treat bison as livestock, with its brutal haze, capture, test, vaccinate, and slaughter livestock regime. Too many scientists these days can’t stand it if they can’t poke em, bleed em, and slaughter em if “things just aren’t right.” YNP wastes time on trying to find a brucellosis vaccine for bison when it should be studying the bison’s social structure, for example, as Bob is recommending. But YNP needs to go further and assess the large scale habitat needs of bison. They are, once again, ecological as well as social beings. Their conservation as wild bison depends upon extensive habitat, with multiple family groups, in multiple and diverse habitats. Just their genetic health depends upon their occupation of diverse habitats.

    My own view is that the NPS and YNP are poor stewards of their charge, and perhaps we need to disband them and start over.


  2. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    On 11/17/97, I spoke with Cheryl Mathews, of YNP – she was a PR officer, I believe, and she told me that the Yellowstone bison slaughter started in 1984, 24 years ago.

    Here’s the earlier total, from Cheryl Mathews; year 2000 and beyond are from BFC:

    1984: 88
    1985: 57
    1985: 6
    1987: 35
    1988: 569
    1989: 4
    1990: 14
    1991: 271
    1992: 79
    1993: 5
    1994: 424
    No totals for 95-96; approx. 400-450; I used 425
    1997: 1084
    Since 2000: 3,194 (from BFC)

    Six thousand, two hundred and fifty-five bison killed for no reason other than to placate and pander to cattlemen in Montana.

    This bison slaughter is one of America’s most important wildlife tragedies.

    Mack P. Bray
    My opinions are my own


  3. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    We need totals for ’98-’99. As if it matters…

    Mack P. Bray
    My opinions are my own


  4. jimbob Avatar

    I can hear the sickness in Bob Jackson’s voice. The same is true of me although I am filled with cotempt and enmity for those within our political system that continue to allow the few to impact the will of the many in such corrupt policies! Contempt and despite! All in the name of the American dollar and the American Way! Science is constantly losing to the spin and profit segment! Let the Bison roam!

  5. Buffaloed Avatar

    661 captured so far this year with another 135 killed in the “hunt”. 796 total and this figure doesn’t account for any winter kill.

  6. kim kaiser Avatar

    i did some thinking today while riding through the park,,,
    what may work to at least shed a terrible light on the bison practise,, and it brought me to the 60s 70s and 80s. Now, i say this as a business and property owner in Gardiner,, the North entrace to YS..

    a term and method that i hate because it is so destructive, but efffective,, if threatned, and even more so, if implemented with determination, is boycott…yes,, boycott of YSNP,,,, first,, the local access business or a good percentage would have to be on board in gardiner, West YS, maybe cody,, and even jackson, althoguth the last two are WY.. A letter of intent to boycott or take a strong stance with it intent is sent to the government of MT..stating that the businesses will either not service the comings and goings of park visitors which would be hugely inconvienent,, for gas, food, espcially gas and/or,, addlitional cost will be passed on to the visitors, say an xtra buck or two or percnetage of sale, and that money will go to funding nation wide advertising and awareness to the handling of the bison and the poor policy which the fine state is engaging in with all the myths they portray,,,,,,with the millions of people who come through the park, and an extra .25 or so cents would generate a LOT of CASH for exposure purposes…and the letter can be sent to NYT, and other national liberal newspapers, putting them on notice of the notice sent to Montana govt of the discontent this causes and how they allow a single govt agecny determine the fate of the Symbol of the National Parks. Liberal news papers like this sort of stuff, small towns take on big mean govt sort of things, but there is an economic effect to the state, both directly and indirrctly.

    YS will not be directly affectied as they get money from the big house gvt. but MT. will be,, #1, it sheds a really nasty light on the govt, and on a state that prides itself on wild, free and so on,, also,, when implemented, will generate cash, which is so sorely needed in these types of awareness things, and if a certain percentage fo the traveling public of that several million people also find this distasteful treatment, they make take there money and toys and go elsewhere.. and that DOES get the attentions of the govt.. money they count on going somewhere else…when it gets expensive, they respond…… if you remebert last summer, it took only a bunch of emails to make the governer and the govt change and make an abrupt about face on the summer migration of the bison on the west side,,,,they went from slaughtering them to acutally packing them up and sending them into the interior. so while emails work, the old addage money talks and bullshit walks, would be as or more effective, because they dont count on the small little BFC type groups to have any money to get out the word on the situation. They placate till the smell goes away, then proceed as usual. Again, i dont say it lightly to do such a thing as it will affect me and cost me as a business onwner at the park. but i would add to my pricing to support the effort.. I dont know who else in the area would. But I do know from living in the south for 45 years, determined boycotts or similar which can get attention, make for very nasty politics that I am quite sure that the Govt of mt does not want made public,, as long as its a quiet little secret,, its ok,
    i am not an organizer, but would participate in such an endeavor and would let my customers know that a percentage goes to the effort,, while it would piss off a few, i would think that many would not object,, its just my opinion that the last thing MT wants in this is to be embarressed as the state of big sky, wild and free, this and that, and having money to fight or expose the hippocracy to it is just something they or the dol counts on no one in the struggle as having,, except them.

    just a thought!

  7. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    I wrote the above “editorial” as a guest commentary for the Feb 20th issue of the Bozeman Chronicle. I definitely would not have been as “polite” in my assessment of NPS science, Robert H, if I would have written this for an environmental group. Robert, your knowledge of NPS history is extensive and hits the mark on a lot of their past science issues as I know it. As always most of the biologist rank and file employees have good “science” but the politics of “political servants” invariably trumps those well meaning individuals. The only saving grace is the persistence of these employees, and all those that follow after, turns the tide in favor of Park objectives…..usually. I guess one could say the meek do inherit the earth…that is if there is any left to inherit.

  8. Monty Avatar

    Thanks to all for the above comments. What is one to do when contemporary mainstream politics is hostile towards biology and contemptuous of emperical science? Vote the bums out? But, then who do we replace them with?

  9. Don George Avatar
    Don George

    Bob, A well written article. I wish it could be published in USA today or some National level editorial. I am sending it to friends of mine around the country asking them to forward it also. The NPS has been lead lately by political puppets. I was really discouraged when Gail Norton from my great state of Colorado was given the job. Hopefully in the future we’ll get a person that respects and has knowledge of the great outdoors and the inhabitants of it.

  10. Bob Caesar Avatar
    Bob Caesar

    I still don’t, and maybe never will, understand why the flap over killing bison out of Yellowstone, yet no one – Well, almost no one – utters a word about killing HUNDREDS of bison this Fall on the National Elk Refuge (of all places) just outside and adjacent to Grand Teton National Park?

    These bison are every bit as much born in a National Park as their brethren in Yellowstone. They’re born wild. Lured into the feed lines by the US Fish & Wild Life (we can laughingly call) Refuge, with the promise of hay and then mowed down by those some would seriously call “Hunters”.

    So what’s the diff?

  11. Don George Avatar
    Don George

    Bob,,There is no difference. Between Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana there will be no buffalo, wolves, grizzly bear or any other wild animal left. Money talks,,,,,and its not in favor of preserving wildlife. Just imagine what developers could do with the Elk “Refuge” if it came up for sale!

  12. Bob Caesar Avatar
    Bob Caesar

    Oh Heck Don – can you imagine!? We’ve got to hold firm, speak up and keep the “human fox” from the our hen house. Our great, great grandchildren deserve it! What will be left for them. What will we say when they ask, “What did you know, What did you do?”? Damn you, Great, great grand father!

    “God bless Wyoming, And keep it wild”. The last entry by Helen Mettler, age 13 years, in her diary in 1925… No more can I say!

    By the way, I make a piece using that quote, which sold for $800 at the Wyoming Wilderness Society. I’d donate one to any Wyoming organization, which’ll keep the faith – so to speak!

    Contact me at: bobcaesar@aol. com

    Yes, “God bless Wyoming, AND keep it wild”!

  13. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Until bison hunts are ‘managed” with family herd infrastructure as top priority there is NO sustainability for either the environment or bison as a species. All existing “problems” will be magnified whenever matriarchal families are allowed to be fractured. The Masonic and Elks club structured bull groups are busted up and reduced to bunches of individuals. The cow groups will run from the tourists in the Tetons in the early part of the summer. After the dependents get back together with the nursery groups all will be traveling widely looking for safer new homes. Scout bulls will be “wandering” further than ever before …. And both cow groups and bulls soon will be ending up in previously bison unoccupied cattle grazing areas. The bulls will be going far enough away that ranchers and outfitters will be quietly killing them … both for the Wild West experience and because their bison inexperienced horses are getting gored. The only way this won’t repeat itself in future hunts is for Wyoming Fish and Game to set seasons with high enough “limits” that herds are fractured to such a point remnants of these families pack together in large panicked groups. Of course, each years hunt, even with limits set the same as this years, will each compound a little more fracturing until the end result, large panicked groups becomes a reality. No one will recognize this, however, for what it is and thus managers will brag of a successful program where bison once again have become “WILD”!!
    All sustainable grazing advantages of Teton’s previously functional extended family groups are now gone because this falls hunting followed misguided state game department guidelines focused on killing individuals. Panicked mothers mean the young do not take the lead as what happens in functional family grazing. Thus the plant selection for the various age groups changes and the speed of herd movement stagnates. This translates into less mass disturbances behind the herd. The small mammals do not get run out of their homes. Consequently there are not enough numbers of these little critters out in the open for coyotes and wolves to justify following the herd. In the air the flocks of birds do not get the numbers of insects, generated by fast herd movement, to sustain a flock. Since these flocks can no longer concentrate in tight densities the raptors disappear.
    Teton Park or Elk Refuge should have never allowed this hunt as structured to happen. Of course, nether has any biologists who know a single thing about herd social order or the consequences of fracturing an evolutionary system that all herd animals and their tag along species depended on for a very necessary mutual symbiotic interaction. The tourists and everybody else lost out a lot with what happened in the Jackson Hole Bison Hunt.

  14. dbaileyhill Avatar

    It is sickening that there is no one to take their place. I think it would be one helluva protest if everyone refused to vote until individuals worthy to hold office were found.

  15. Bob Caesar Avatar
    Bob Caesar

    Very interesting Bob! I need to pay closer attention!

    I live on a Forest Svc road right on the Teton Park boundary. Typically we get a dozen or so – VERY LARGE – bulls up here. In 17 years I have not seen a single cow or calf. The big bulls stick to themselves – mating season or not. They seem to care less about reproduction. They are tough customers and we need to show them respect!

    Starting last year or so the Wyoming Game & Fish bison hunt has begun to draw attention to these big, solitary bulls. Now several get plugged each fall. The biggest was killed last Fall in his 25th year! The hunter said he was going to give a large portion of the meat to clarity. Can you imagine eating the flesh of a twenty-five year old bull? Ugh!

    Now, this is serious hunting resplendent with danger and excitement. One needs to position their truck, SUV, or ATV within close range of the quarry– say twenty feet. Roll down the window (power windows really help) and blast away! Great sport – what?

    This past year the guy that runs the “You Tag ‘em, I drag ‘em” outfit during the Park elk hunt has been up here scouting out these old bulls from his fancy pickup or his all terrain vehicle. He rides up and down, back and forth. After he spots a big old harmless, non-reproducing bull his hunt has only begun. Now he has to line up a dude hunter, who I assume pay him a fee and guide the hunter (still in his truck) back to the hapless bull, who probably hasn’t moved twenty yards in three days. The “hunt” is such a joke! However, the really sad thing is these big, old bulls aren’t causing any bison population explosion. My guess is they don’t ever go to the Refuge feed lines as they just do not like company. Killing them doesn’t help the bison “problem”!

    However, as a Wyoming Game & Fish biologist told the newspaper a few years age, “Our purpose (Game & Fish) is to provide “hunting” opportunities”. Well, if you can call this hunting, I guess they do.

    Gad, people can be such animals!

  16. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    BC, You are very, very fortunate to be in close proximity to a bull group. There is so much to learn from them. The roles they play in herd expansion, training of young bulls, genetic diversity and grazing of coarser vegetation needs to be documented.

    If there is any way to interest any of the local conservation groups or a competent biologist and range scientist please do so. The bull group you describe looks like it is deep rooted in infrastructure and this will be gone in a few short years if hunting is allowed in this group. It will take many years to reestablish such a group. All potential to unlock the secrets of turf guarding for the entire herd, the secret of brucellosis control (scout bulls) and on and on will be gone if hunters are allowed to seek this herd out.

    Yes, they do keep to themselves….somewhat. Can you imagine any guy able to stand a whole day in a day care center? Males don’t have that kind of energy.

  17. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    Having spent much of my life as a professional soldier–Army–I came up with a phrase that explained much of the behavior of my fellow officers: “The Four C’s, or career, capitulation, cover-up, and cowardice.”

    The fact is, if you really believed in Duty, Honor, Country, you were in trouble. The pressures to survive in the bureaucratic morass almost always insured that officers ignored their Duty, compromised their Honor, and put the needs of the organization above that of the Country. Very few principled officers survive to retirement (I didn’t), and to see it in the higher ranks is almost unheard of. As in any organization, it isn’t the cream that rises to the top; it’s the sour milk. It was go along to get along to climb the career ladder. That helps to explain many military disasters, such as the ones we’re seeing in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, and why one author could entitle his book The Psychology of Military Incompetence without anyone being shocked by it.

    The same moral failings operate in the civilian world, except that usually, attendance to principle gets you fired and delegated to poverty, rather than killed. But the motives are the same. I see the same moral failings operating in the National Park Service and all the other agencies as they capitulate to the livestock industry and abuse bison and elk, and hand wolves and grizzly bears over to the states, even when a child could see the states are determined to bring these species under control and focus their “management” on the demands of private, commercial interests rather than the public interest.

    To call superindentants, directors, division chiefs, etc., leaders, is a mockery of what leadership truly is.

    Quite frankly, the same problems infect the various mainstream “brown” conservation groups, such as the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. GYC’s recent decision to support wolf delisting in the face of overwhelming evidence that delisting is illegal and is contrary to the best available science is just one more cowardly act in a long line of cowardly acts taken to ensure their impressive million dollar funding. What is the mission of the GYC? To keep the money coming and play the collaboration game. What has GYC done for bison lately? Well, for one, a couple of years ago it sabotaged a pro-bison bill in the Montana legislature that would have taken management authority from the Department of Livestock and returned it to Fish Wildlife & Parks. GYC’s partners in the livestock industry didn’t care for the bill, so there it went.

    GYC’s latest project was to publish a tourist map of the Cody, Wyoming area to encourage economic development–as if Cody, of all places, needs additional tourists.

    Way to go, GYC. Get the really important things done.

    The motives for the bison hunt in JH are more to get rid of bison rather than to provide hunting opportunities. I labored in the useless JH bison and elk planning process for seven years, from 2000 to 2007, and the prejudice against bison, especially from outfitters and right wing hunters, was almost as bad as their prejudice against wolves. This prejudice was expressed in the appallingly ignorant claim that the National “Elk” Refuge meant that it was no refuge for bison. I can’t tell you how many times I heard that. This prejudice of course derives from the rancher background and outlook of most outfitters, and from the unbelievable ignorance of most hunters.

    No game & fish department is capable of understanding the role of social cohesion in large ungulate species and implementing that understanding in how hunts are structured. (We’re seeing that in the claims from the FWS that mortality from intensive predator control has no lasting effects on wolf popultions, ignoring, of course, what we’re learning about pack stability and cohesion and the postive influence of such cohesion on low livestock depredations).

    However, I myself am unsure how one would structure a bison (or elk) hunt that attended to social cohesion in the way you’re describin it without treating the hunt as a targeted cull. If I understand your interviews with Todd Wilkinson correctly, that is your management approach to your bison herd–to cull on the social margins of the herd.

    I don’t object to hunting bison but I believe it has to be done right. I would appreciate your comments on how to structure a bison hunt that attended to bison social dynamics, while ensuring that it doesn’t become a canned hunt. Much of the enjoyment of hunting as a natural activity is the chance element, the random element, which emphasizes the hunter’s skill as a woodsman rather than as a target shooter. Skilled hunting also brings to bear the random element in animal mortality, which replicates natural conditions, that is, natural selection.

    In my view, the issue of habitat is just as important as attending to social structure, because as we expand habitat, we give big game more chances for survival under all conditions of potential mortality; we randomize their mortality more in accordance with natural selection. Without extensive habitat, mortality takes on the character of intent and artificial selection. It is here where the difference between wildness and domesticity becomes clear for me.


  18. Bob Caesar Avatar
    Bob Caesar

    WERE I THE KING – Knowing there are too many bison grazing on the vegetation in Grand Teton National Park.

    I’d restrict permits to take bison to only Native American Indian tribes (hopefully making it a cultural thing). The hunt to be held on the north end of the refuge under very close supervision. (A ranger with the party at all times).

    The total number of critters taken each year around thirty. The by products to be utilized by the tribes or sold for the benefit of the tribe.

    Wouldn’t bubba like that?

    No wonder I’m not the King, but I will keep applying…

    Seriously Bob & Bob – You’ve give us lots to think about and I am most grateful!

    Bob C

  19. Izabelam Avatar

    I am not sure if this is OK to post:
    On this date Yellowstone National Park was born.

    Forty-Second Congress. Session II Ch. 21-24. 1872. March 1, 1872. CHAP. XXIV. — An Act to set apart a certain Tract of Land lying near the Head-waters of the Yellowstone River as a public Park.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the tract of land in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming, lying near the head-waters of the Yellowstone river, and described as follows, to wit, commencing at the junction of Gardiner’s river with the Yellowstone river, and running east to the meridian passing ten miles to the eastward of the most eastern point of Yellowstone lake; thence south along said meridian to the parallel of latitude passing ten miles south of the most southern point of Yellowstone lake; thence west along said parallel to the meridian passing fifteen miles west of the most western point of Madison lake; thence north along said meridian to the latitude of the junction of the Yellowstone and Gardiner’s rivers; thence east to the place of beginning, is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale under the laws of the United States, and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people; and all persons who shall locate or settle upon or occupy the same, or any part thereof, except as hereinafter provided, shall be considered trespassers and removed therefrom.

    SECTION 2. That said public park shall be under the exclusive control of the Secretary of the Interior, whose duty it shall be, as soon as practicable, to make and publish such rules and regulations as he may deem necessary or proper for the care and management of the same. Such regulations shall provide for the preservation, from injury or spoliation, of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within said park, and their retention in their natural conditions. The secretary may in his discretion, grant leases for building purposes for terms not exceeding ten years, of small parcels or ground; at such places in said park as shall require the erection of buildings for the accommodation of visitors; all of the proceeds of said leases, and all other revenues that may be derived from any source connected with said park, to be expended under his direction in the management of the same, and the construction of roads and bridle-paths therein. He shall provide against the wanton destruction of the fish and game found within said park, and against their capture or destruction for the purposes of merchandise or profit. He shall also cause all persons trespassing upon the same after the passage of this act to be removed therefrom, and generally shall be authorized to take all such measures as shall be necessary or proper to fully carry out the objects and purposes of this act.

    APPROVED March 1st 1872
    U. S. Grant (Signed)

  20. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Robert, sorry I haven’t had time to answer your questions before this.

    Pertaining to your question on how to hunt and still maintain social structure of herd animals, I think the Native American, pre Whiteman, had the best sustainable herd hunting practices. This was because individuals hunted the individual “cull” and scout bison on the fringes of the family groups …. and groups of Indians hunted the groups of bison. The later was achieved by jumps, surrounds and impoundments. Since spin off satellite groups were most vulnerable, the core extended family infrastructure remained intact. The same for the bull groups hunted in spring and early summer. The intent was to kill all animals in that family or group. A parallel for today would be to ask the question, “Is it better to fracture the infrastructure of all three towns in a given area or is it more efficient to eliminate one town and have the remaining two intact towns absorb the resources of the wiped out town”? Maybe this will be easier if we apply it to companies. Ask a CEO and he chooses the later.

    As for “chance of the draw” encounters with wildlife and its associated buzz, seeing what I saw in Yellowstone and knowing the predictability of bison groups and individuals on the fringes, there wasn’t as much ‘luck” and chance” as one might think. Most success came from good planning. The rush of the hunt and subsequent satisfaction also was not limited to individual success as we see in hunting today. Group satisfaction and its rewards for everyone in people’s extended families meant for some very contagious feelings.

    What hinders peoples capability to understand the inner “rush” is technology, i.e. the gun.. In other words the same emotions, stirred and embedded from eons of hunter-gathers, extends unaltered to today. But we have skewed and distorted its deep roots within us. We then try to differentiate for the sake of hunting purity, abhorrence of “canned hunts” and approval of “fair chase”.

    Minus this understanding, we have “hunters” trying to psychologically justify their harvest by having pictures taken of them standing over “trophies” with a magnum rifle leaning against the dead animal. It is all mental illusion (or should I say delusion) accompanying today’s hunting environment. I spent thirty years dealing with this misplaced application of emotions while on hunting patrol. If hunters could have only looked at themselves from afar they would have had to laugh at themselves. Of course, the animals being shot can not share in an insightful laugh gained from self revelation.

    As for habitat, I think it is high on my priority list. But everyone must consider the value of habitat to herd animals, with today’s game management, is compromised to the point …. where all that is hoped for is limiting access to people. It means less chancefor screwing up development of infrastructure which animals are continually trying to regain.

    The holly Grail of habitat has to be buffered with the fact that 95 out of every 100 breeding age bull elk are shot each year …..and this happens in the largest and most remote habitat area in the lower US of A (next to the area I patrolled in SE Yellowstone each and every year). I see no ‘wildness” under these kinds of hunting conditions. All I see is panicked animals. My interpretation of wild has to include vibrancy as part of the herds I hunt. How can I justify hunting when every one of the elk in my area of boundary patrol would qualify as candidates for the psychiatrist couch. Thus, the primordial “buzz” in me has been replaced with sadness. I do not hunt “wild” elk anymore.

  21. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    Thanks. I’ve copied this and will consider it carefully. There’s much I agree with here. I would simply add that the “hunt” you witnessed in the Thoroughfare over 30 years, with its multiple huntin camps and laid out firing lines and trophy bull mentality and salt bait pits–some of which I’ve helped the Taylors to reclaim–doesn’t bear much relationship to what I consider hunting at all. I’ve worked for hunting outfitters myself but can’t do it anymore. The take of mature bulls, as you note, is excessive to the point that we’ve now degenerated to taking young five-points at an alarming rate, because there are few six points. We are wiping out male cohorts faster than they can grow up; our bull-cow ratios are absurdly out of balance.

    I myself hunt elk cows, for the meat, which is healthier and tastier than beef, in the late season when there are few to no hunters in the field, to avoid another problem of hunting–that hunters might think my horses are elk too. I’ve grown too attached to my horses to put them in the firing line in September and early October. That’s when I cut firewood for the winter.

    Modern hunting has degenerated to a barroom brawl, and all the orange in the world won’t necessarily keep the bullets at bay. We could do worse than to eliminate trophy hunting altogether and go back to subsistence hunting. Either that, or adopt a German-style Jaegermeister system, which I observed when I was stationed in Germany 20 years ago. It works better than what we’ve got.


  22. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    Bob and Robert,

    What I think I’m hearing here is that outfitters are a special interest group and that Wyoming Game & Fish is managing many of *our* elk herds for the benefit of this special interest group.

    Seems to me that this is in direct violation of the Public Trust Doctrine.

    How much dO outfitters charge suckers, er, ah, “clients” per week? $5,000-$7,000 per head?

    Mack P. Bray
    My opinions are my own


  23. Buffaloed Avatar

    From BFC’s weekly update at: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/media/update0708/030608.html

    “Including those killed in this year’s hunt and those being held in
    the trap, 990 bison have been removed from the Yellowstone
    population since November 15.”

  24. Buffaloed Avatar

    From: http://www.billingsgazette.net/articles/2008/03/08/news/local/28-bison.txt
    “The number of Yellowstone National Park bison killed through
    disease management and hunting is on track to hit an all-time
    high this winter after another 87 animals were captured Friday.

    The planned slaughter of those animals would bring to 1,090
    the number of bison killed by government agencies and hunters
    this winter. The prior high mark was 1,084, in 1997.”


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.

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Ralph Maughan