The plight of Yellowstone bison

I was recently in the Park. The snow is incredibly deep in mid-April (deep even for winter). It is snowfree, however, at Gardiner (typical — strong rainshadow). That is where the wintering wildlife migrate to and then north out of the Park. They all do it, except for bison it is an almost certain death sentence courtesy of the Montana Department of wildlife.

Here are some photos from my trip. Copyrighted by Ralph Maughan

Bison move out of Yellowstone Park
© These bison have just left Yellowstone Park (April 10, 2008). Like the deer and elk, they move out of the deep snow to the generally snow free area north of the Park (it’s in a strong rain shadow). But for bison, it is a capital offense.

About 75 left in a single file as I watched. They next morning, Montana Department of Livestock had all of them loaded into trucks to take to slaughter. This happens day after day. I was so sick that I almost went home.

Deep April Snow in the Lamar Valley
© Deep snow in the Lamar Valley (April 13, 2008). There is no place for elk or bison. The snow is deep and hard, and there are few tracks of large animals crossing it. The few elk and bison hang out on marginal bare spots on the south-facing slopes. Many bison just stagger down the road looking for a new blade of grass.

Spring does seem to be coming, however. Bare spots are getting a little bit green.

© One of the first bison calves of 2008. April 12, near the Yellowstone River bridge at Tower Junction.

© This elk calf (born 2007) made it to Gardiner and has found a little bit of greening grass. April 12, 2008.

© Bison search for something to eat on the margins of US 191 north of West Yellowstone. These bison west of the Park are expected to be the next herd to be slaughtered by Montana Department of Livestock.

Dead bison. April 2008

© This bison didn’t make it.

At first I thought it was just resting, but I came back several hours later and looked more closely.

It is thought that many dead bison (and elk) are buried under the snow.


  1. Matt Avatar

    I was in Yellowstone back in February, and watched some of this migration – right through the Roosevelt Arch and into groups of DOL cowboys herding them up for slaughter. For the first time, I stayed in a cabin along the Yellowstone River, on the gravel road (Old Yellowstone Trail) that accesses both the now-famous bison trap and Church Universal and Triumphant’s Royal Teton Ranch. Each day, I was sickened by this awful waste of Yellowstone’s bison herd. It seems difficult to understand why DOL is killing all these bison to support a religious group? I want this slaughter stopped altogether, but next time I visit Yellowstone in winter, I’ll be sure to endure the buzzing of snowmobiles in Cooke City rather than be sickened by the daily sight of bison being sent off to an artificial doom.

    While there, I did hear one interesting comment about the bison situation that I’m hoping someone knows more about. I heard there is a retired female biologist living near Yellowstone (I didn’t catch her name) who contends the park’s bison population is artificially high due to the paved roads that allow them easy migration in the winter. Does anyone know if this has any scientific merit?

  2. Denise Johnson Avatar
    Denise Johnson

    Now people will understand why the folks with the BFC are being arrested….Know this is really tuff to wittness.
    What a helpless feeling……envokes great emotions!
    Really great images Ralph!
    You tell the story here.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. vicki Avatar

    Does anyone who posts here work in the public schools? I have a project in mind, to aid the bison, and BFC.

  4. Cynthia Avatar

    Thanks for the story and pics Ralph. I’m sure that was a difficult thing to witness. The picture of the bison looking for food along 191 is sad. They are definitely looking worse for the wear after the hard winter. It’s a shame they are being slaughtered just because they are trying to find food to survive!

  5. jjordan Avatar

    This is so hart breaking, my wife and I visited the park two or three times last summer and really enjoyed watching the Buffalo, They are an awesome animal to see and hear up close. I would give any thing to ditch work and attend the Prayer vigil on Tuesday however I will have to settle for saying some private prayers at noon. I just can’t believe that MSA is allowed to bully the Government into takeing part in this unlawful killing spree. It seems to me that a major class action lawsuit should be started on the grounds that both Native and non native Americas have been robbed by these blood thirty criminals.

  6. bozemanactivist Avatar


    Share your project. I don’t know anyone who works in the public schools, but I bet with a little effort and some connections, we can find them here. Some of us are meeting with some folks in Gardiner tomorrow concerned about the issue (at the prayer gathering); we’re having another meeting Wednesday at 7 PM in Bozeman on buffalo (at MSU’s student union, 2nd floor cafeteria, NW corner). I’ll check with Mike Mease tomorrow as well to see if he knows anyone.

    So, your idea would be helpful. If you want to reach our group, you can send an email to our information listserve at . I can make sure that it is brought up on our agenda, at least to see if anyone has some public school contacts who might be sympathetic.

    I am personally putting all my efforts in grassroots organizing here in Montana; the more we work together in solidarity, the better our chances to push through projects. BFC has to devote a lot of time to the field; they really need our help locally to do a lot of the other interesting and creative things that will help force the policy makers to make the changes.

    As an aside (but related to the snow plowing)
    Some of us were in West Yellowstone area yesterday. Inside the park about a mile in, there was a mother with a calf (you can see a picture on BFC’s blog – I was with a baby, so my own picture is from pretty far away). That picture was Friday. On Sunday, the buffalo were still there. By 7 PM, a couple friends report the two bison still there, famished, unable to move, and unable to get over the snow banks. There is no forage available there. Is this a natural process? Sure, they are dying from winter in the park, but they are on plowed roads with nowhere to go. It was freaking 60 degrees outside! But, the snow is so high. Studies, they say, have been inconclusive, on the effect plowing has on migrating bison, but this scene certainly called into question something about it.

    Anyhow, those in the area should consider coming out to Stephens Creek for the prayer ceremony tomorrow. Those who are not should definitely send along very concrete organizing ideas.


  7. vicki Avatar

    I will send you an email today…

  8. jjordan Avatar

    For those that are interested, Here is a link to the IBMP plan, if you scroll to the bottom you can see for your self how many agencies have signed off on this death warrant.

  9. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    just another comment on how truly insane this whole thing is, this is the worst time of year to slaughter for food. All the fat reserves are gone, the cows are pregnant so even more reserves (if any are left), the meat itself is at it’s toughest and more ‘gamey’ because of the available food sources. But ya know lets give it to the Indians. All that’s missing are the weevils, whiskey with a helping of gunpowder for oommph, and by the way could i interest you in one slightly used blanket. (sarcasm intended)

  10. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    and what do they do with the about to be born calves, veal? (that would be some video to put on youtube)

  11. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    I can see it now, an eviscerated cow with the near to term calf spilled out on the kill room floor amongst its mothers intestines, kicking but not really consciouses then her comes the nail gun……

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    If someone could get into one of these slaugherhouses, the video would bring this little empire of death down.

  13. vicki Avatar

    But how? I am sure that they have very tight security. It’d be so instrumental..dare to dream of the day when it will end.

    I sent the email. I hope you got it. Thanks.

  14. Brian Ertz Avatar

    But how?

    Resolve ~

  15. vicki Avatar

    Don’t they have to have inspections? Who does them? If it is a public facility, shouldn’t the public be allowed access? Maybe that would be a good start, pass something allowing public access? Submit petitions demanding that they allow it. Ask the NYT to try to access it. Anything, anything to do something…

  16. Carl Avatar

    Thanks for this info Ralph. A few years ago, I was told by a couple of USFS biologist that they didn’t have any money to do there normal wildlife work because all their funds went to the cover their law enforcement people who were helping out with the buffalo protesters in the Yellowstone area. What an irony!!!!!

  17. Russell Williams Avatar
    Russell Williams

    I find it disturbing that only 2 of the 6 signatures where by the required official. Were they trying to distance themselves from the plan or were they too busy to deal with a trivial matter such as a bison slaughter?

  18. izabelam Avatar

    On topic but..out of topics?

    I find very disturbing that so many people lack compassion.
    I feel like when I am trying to spread the word, show the people, help them tounderstand, I hit the wall.
    What bothers me the most is that so many people come to YSNP and go ‘wow’ about animals,. run like crazy to take pictures of little babies or the wolves and then turn back on them saying who cares…we dont’ care, we take pictures but we dont’ want to is all politics and we dont’ do politcs…
    I guess, I just got my butt kicked by trying to show people Ralph’s posts and pcitures.

    Gosh..I am so upset…

  19. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    a % of those people will go home get on there computer and look here and other places, and then a percentage of those will add there voices and hopefully actions and so it goes.

  20. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    damn spell check

  21. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    as far as getting a video camera inside I’m thinking a couple hundred dollars to one of the people that work on the kill floor should do the trick.

  22. vicki Avatar

    If I were so simple…I’d try it. Got bucks????

  23. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    We tried following the trucks to the slaughter houses in 2001 and hit a road block at every turn, were threatened with jail over trespassing, which were Federal tickets at that time, and could still be, they don’t always use the same facility, normally the trucks are escorted by either State Patrol, or Federal agents…and often times, they are not located in Montana…you might be able to get in one, but I highly doubt it, and I am not trying to be a downer, just adding what bunch of us experienced in the past, I see a lot of ideas pop up on the various blogs and chat systems, but I can tell you, unfortunately I have not seen many new ideas the last couple of years, even with the better awareness…

  24. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Tell me where one of the slaughterhouses are. that’s where to start. getting to know an employee is the tough part but having known some from different slaughter houses here and there I can tell you that it is not the most glamorous of jobs and tends to be lower paying so a couple hundred under the table can be pretty tempting, especially when the gas tank is kissing empty. Where are are investigative reporter and major (or minor) news outlets.

  25. bozemanactivist Avatar

    I’d suggest if you are serious, given my own experience in organizing these sorts of things, that you perhaps take the discussion offline (or at least off of a public blog). Though, just the discussion that you might consider something like this might add additional cost to their operation just trying to prevent it.


    Vicki, we got it. I just sent you a personal email on your very creative idea.

  26. Elli Avatar

    Hi Matt.
    I felt the same this winter. It was heart breaking to see the bison move out of the park and right into death. I just felt like jumping into their way calling: “Go back”. What is going on with your beautiful country? Maybe with a new government things will change. …?
    Like you I will stay in Cooke City next time and suffer through the noise of the snow mobilers, just because I cannot stand this bison situation in Gardiner anymore.
    I will be back to Yellowstone next week and I must admit – for the first time in 30 years I’m somehow afraid of going and afraid of what I might see – or NOT see …

  27. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    Are there any reactions from the Gardiner citizens, officials, local churches, businesses? Or is it (silent) acceptance?

  28. bozemanactivist Avatar


    Gardiner has an environmental grassroots group of locals called the Bear Creek Council. They are co-sponsoring the prayer ceremony today with Chief Arvol Looking Horse.

    From what I hear from the Bear Creek Council is that they have a buffalo committee and are looking to be more re-engaged on that particular issue (they have a range of issues they work on). I’m going to meet with some of the Bear Creek Council people – who reached out to us – today for a few minutes and see what kind of events and actions they might have in mind.

  29. bdighello Avatar

    we as americans should be ashamed to let this happen there has to be something we can do /can we contact the president or those running for office my heart is heavy with this sadness please advice us on what we could. do lets contact the major papers in the us and t v it is worth a try let the rest of the country see what is going on

  30. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    boz activist,

    If you want any of my startegy thoughts feel free to give me a call. 641-874-5794. I would be glad to help.

    Also you may already know this but I am sure the govt. either has a “plant” in the BFC or any group associated with activism …anywhere people even have a chance of getting arrested.

    When the salting issue and gag order was illegally placed on me back in 2001 my phone was tapped and my mail was opened. For a long time I had to make all phone calls to any group or reporter by pay phone. Thus, consider your phone tapped and all e mails being read by big brother at this stage of the game. Hi you guys from the Justice Dept. Remember me, your old buddy from Salt Licker days? Bet you are still sore losers… and you never got that promotion from Dick because you didn’t come up with any dirt, did you? No dirt, no career advancement for you boys. It will be the same for this group.

    As for getting into slaugther houses every citizen has the right to know what is happening to their public property (bison). The courts have to side with you. Rest assured every time a pot belly semi pulls up to that slaughter house with mixed age or adult animals, especially mature bulls, the employees are winching dead buffalo across those sloppy manure confines.

    Very few knowledgeable bison ranchers will allow pot bellies to haul mature animals if they have monetary responsibility in what comes out of these semis at the other end.

    Then there are all the crippled and downed ones injured from Yellowstone corrals in these hell hole pot bellies. Are they shooting and dragging these out also at the plant? If this slaughter facility is within city limits it is illegal to discharge a firearm. So if they are following the law, which I doubt they are, are they euthanizing them, which then means the meat can not be used. Or are they inhumanely dragging these animals out of the semi and then “assisting them to the kill floor? Bet it is the later because who wants to pay for disposal of carcasses?

    And at the Yellowstone side of things at the Steven’s Ck. Corrals do you think the Rangers want to show what their inhumane designed corrals are doing to these animals? No sir!! They load every crushed and crippled one on to keep them out of their death stats. Forget about the ride these injured animals are subjected to. Instead think about WW11 concentration camp shipment of Jews where lots of them were beat before being loaded onto these death trains and you get an idea of what every bison on these pot bellies is subjected to. It is one with the smell of blood and bulging, paniced eyes.

    I guess what I am trying to show is there are a LOT OF VERY COMPELLING REASONS FOR A JUDGE TO RULE FOR ACCESS TO THESE FACILITIES. Plus, by the very fact none of these members of the Bison Management team, especially the Park Service whose these animals belong, have initiated public disclosers of these activities, means a judge has even more reason to rule in your favor. By ruling in your favor, I don’t mean simply having an impartial observer on hand for next years slaughter but also going retroactively and having investigators interview former and present truck transport and slaughter house employees… to see if a larger investigation is needed. Plus a facility like this will have USDA inspectors on hand ,whether these animals need to be stamped or not. FDA is also involved in this because of where the meat ends up. All these people have the public servant responsibility to be interviewed as part of a judges decision.

    Have at em boys and girls. Every member of the Interagency Bison team is culpable in the treatment of these bison. Then after you “have your way with them” on this maybe a closer look at where all that hard money appropriated by Congress is going as soft money budgeting? All those totally inadequate for bison horse training corral panels bought with Bison money, the front wheel assist John Deere tractor used for haying Park horses year round, the horses purchased by rangers for the districts, the biologist staff money where all they have to do is make a token show up at these corrals (the corral and ranger staff don’t even want them there) to justify hiring staff for other functions…it goes on and on. And since few of these Interagency Bison teams morally believes in what they are doing there is a lot of illegal stuff and no one with the deeper conviction to squeal.

    All of us need to do this for the bison of Yellowstone Park. No animal, whether it is a cow, pig or bison deserves to be treated with so little respect.

  31. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    I just spoke with Barbara Boxer’s office in Wash.DC (chairs Environment and Public Works).
    They are beginning to receive calls about this issue…
    Phone # 202-224-3553
    Also ask to be transferred to the EPW Committee office and leave a message with them. You may want to mention Ralph’s site and BFC to get them up to date.

  32. jimbob Avatar

    Has anybody ever tried bringing up the fact that the removal of all of these bison is removing an unbelivable amount of biomass from the Yellowstone park ecosystem. Predators and scavengers which would eventually benefit from the death of these bison are being artificially deprived by the state of Montana. By what right do they have to do any of this, much less impact EVERY animal in Yellowstone? I would think any biologist worth his salt could prove this to a judge, don’t you think? Can anybody explain what the official response is?

  33. Matt Avatar

    If any of the packing houses thought they were going to be scrutinized about this, they would likely refuse to accept the bison. Many of the plants that have received media attention the last few years over meat contamination and animal cruelty have since closed their doors. The packing industry is very nervous about this kind of negative attention. This bison killing program might just stop itself if the slaughter facilities refused shipment of live bison because of potential financial repercussions. Food for thought, anyway.

  34. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I have certainly thought about it. It is truly a huge loss of biomass from the Park.

    Yes, does anyone know of a study?

  35. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    here is a list of federally inspected slaughter houses in Montana. They may also have websites.There may be others not on this list.
    Lets tell them what we think. I do not know if any or all are involved but Ya got to start somewhere, and if some are not involved, well an oz. of prevention………..


    Stillwater Packing
    42 Hersrud Road
    Columbus, MT 59019
    Phone: (406) 322-5666
    M P

    Stratton’s Butcher Block
    37 Meathouse Road
    Roundup, MT 59072
    Phone: (406) 323-1810
    M P

    Quality Meats of Montana (dba Miles City Packing, Montana Quality Food)
    VDE 55 Wyttenhove Lane
    Miles City, MT 59301
    Phone: (406) 232-0689
    M P

    Mickey’s Packing Plant
    55 Gibson Flats Road
    Great Falls, MT 59405
    Phone: (406) 727-7900
    M P

    Crossroads Meats (dba Marias Packing Company)
    1316 SE Front Street
    Shelby, MT 59474
    Phone: (406) 434-3389
    M P

    Little Rockies Meat Packing
    1 & 1/4 Milles East of Malta
    Malta, MT 59538
    Phone: (406) 654-5538
    M P

    Ranchland Pack
    1201 Centennial Avenue
    Butte, MT 59701
    Phone: (406) 782-6371
    M P

    White’s Wholesale Meats
    1208 Terrace Lake Road
    Ronan, MT 59864
    Phone: (406) 676-0082
    M P

  36. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    Lets tell them what we think, even if they are not involved! I would suggest that perhaps, verification, could be a good thing, BEFORE you start calling or sending derogatory messages and phone calls! Having an friend, it always better than having an enemy! Without knowing if any of these houses are involved, there is not way to condemn them..and I know for a fact, some of the slaughter houses are not in Montana

  37. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I would like to add, for those who are old enough, do you remember how effective “Carpet bombing was”?

  38. Buffaloed Avatar

    Here’s another one that accepted bison in spring of 2006. Gee, only 9 hours away.

    Northwest Premium Meats
    137 N Happy Valley Rd
    Nampa, ID 83687
    (208) 466-9413‎

  39. Buffaloed Avatar

    That’s 208-466-9413 not with a smiley face.

  40. jt Avatar

    I too have thought about all the biomass leaving a park where it is illegal to remove even a blade of grass. Has this issue been addressed in any NEPA process? I can’t imagine it would fall under a categorical exclusion.

  41. davej Avatar

    If you talk to anyone in Congress, consider asking that the GAO initate an immediate investigation of the treatment of bison during capture, transport, and at the slaughter house.

  42. vicki Avatar

    What if everyone who saw bison being hazed or loaded up, called the police, the DOW, the state troopers, who ever, and reported seeing animals being treated cruely? Eventually they’d get tired of handling the calls. I am also pretty sure that you could demand to file a report about what you had seen.
    If they are on public land when gathered, therefore being public property, could you not report the loss as vandalism of public property? I know I am grasping at straws… but I am feeling quite desperate today.

  43. Buffaloed Avatar

    The problem with your premise Vicki, is that FWP (Fish Wildlife and Parks), the state troopers and whoever are more than complicit in these actions, they actually participate. They don’t give a shit other than it’s fun to beat up the protesters.

    I’m assuming you meant Department of Wildlife rather than Defenders of Wildlife, who did, finally, put out an action alert last week. Better a little late than never but a little wishy washy if you ask me.

    I’m a little more than concerned that this years slaughter is having a serious detrimental impact on the genetic integrity of the herd, which is turning out to be more and more important because these are actually one of very very few genetically pure buffalo herds. The 500,000 “buffalo” in North America are actually hybrids with cattle and the conservation herds once considered to be genetically pure are now known to be hybrids too. Essentially these are the LAST BUFFALO!

    I hate to say this again but if you want no-nonsense work done for buffalo then give it to the Buffalo Field Campaign. If you want to give money to ranchers who hold our values ransom and kill massive amounts of the PUBLIC’s wildlife then give it to GYC or a few other groups who do nothing but raise money on the issue.

    You can’t negotiate with thieves so BFC along with other organizations need to LITIGATE! If you negotiate then this will occur over and over and over again until we have a few buffalo which can’t reproduce without genetic problems.

    Who was there leading the charge this year before the slaughter? Was it GYC, Defenders, Bear Creek Council? No, it was BFC! Got it everyone?

  44. Buffaloed Avatar

    None of that was intended to be pointed just at Vicki. I was speaking to everyone who reads this post.

  45. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I agree with Buffaloed,

    There is only one way that this is going to stop, and it is in the courts…period, end of story, most groups give lip service to the plight of the bison and have always given lip service, with very little action, there is ONLY 1 group that is there day in and day out, 24/7 365 that has fought 100% for the Bison…you NEED to write and keep writing to the people in charge and that is the people we hired to do our bidding, we outnumber the assholes who continue to rape our lands, this issue is NOT about cows getting sick, but it is the same issue that killed hundreds of thousands of native Americans, it killed millions of Bison, this is the last herd that is genetically pure, period, when they are gone, there is no more…as I said earlier, I hear a lot of ideas, but not much new, get mad, get even and most of all, get it right!

  46. Buffaloed Avatar

    You can sign on to the Emergency Rulemaking Petition here:

    Here is the Emergency Rulemaking Petition in full. I encourage you to read through it as there is a lot of good information in it.

    This is just a start but there is a strategy involved here that could turn into real litigation since they won’t negotiate we have to litigate.

  47. Brian Ertz Avatar

    i agree with buffaloed as well.

    well put.

  48. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    Billings Gazette has a few pics and a video of the ceremony this morning. and – fortunately – no readers comments so far!
    Bozeman Chronicle got an article, no pics.

  49. vicki Avatar

    I know guys, I agree too. I just wish there were more we could do. It is really a gross perversion of democracy that ranchers have such dominion over our legal system. It makes me want to vomit!
    I am Aa supporter of BFC. They are an inspiration. I don’t diminish attempts by smaller groups to help. Perhaps if the little guys unite to give support to BFC, that’d help too.
    I know fund raising is huge, so I will do what I can to help BFC.
    I do think litigation will be the only end to this. I also wonder if anyone knows the number that is given to the bison, to be sustainable and gentically viable? Given the large numbers lost as winter kill, and the record number slaughtered this year, I’d guess the herd will be drastically smaller.
    That will create ripple effect, I fear.

  50. Buffaloed Avatar

    The last official population estimate was 3000 from about a month ago. That doesn’t take into account the winter kill that is occurring in those who remain in the Park which is happening right now. Essentially they killed all of the animals smart enough to leave the Park to lower elevations and left the remaining animals to starve. The whole population is affected by this and their genetic integrity is at risk. Does the Park Service even care? Hell no! Does the MDoL care? Hell no!

    This is illegal! The Park Service is ignoring its legal responsibility to protect the integrity of the herd and not do permanent damage which is being done again for the 3rd time in 11 years. These animals should be listed under the ESA not treated worse than livestock. They are breaking the law under the Organic Act.

  51. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    They might feel their time is up and want as many dead as possible, so “the problem” does not reoccur until quite a few years down the line.

    With perhaps 400 bison left in the entire Park, maybe they’d be happy.

  52. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Sustainable populations of herd animals has little to do with population densities and everything to do with family structure … and the anchoring culture these composites of families produces. There is no ecological balance and no bison restoration when bison, each as an individual animal and expanded in numbers to a “population density”, is used as THE guide… such as narrow based science does today.

    Bison are herbivores. Instinctively they can eat grass but it takes training by ancestors to eat the broad leaves. This is no different than omnivores such as bears and humans, who can eat flesh with no training but need lots of instruction on what plants or which parts of those plants are edible…and what time of year it can be eaten. Do we eat the bark of an oak tree, the leaves or acorns? What condition do the acorns have to be in to be edible?

    Thus, the less structure bison have the less they know what to eat. Ted Turners 1000’s of bison on hundreds of thousands of acres have not one chance of attaining ecological balance with the land because the calves are weaned. Thus all learning stops. In Yellowstone, as bison families are becoming more and more fractured there will be more and more overgrazing of grass type plants. Thus numbers of bison this land can support goes down.

    But it doesn’t end here. Embattled populations, no matter what the species, entrenches itself. Yellowstone’s Lamar rangers reinforce what I have observed by telling me the herd there does not spread out of the Valley in the summer like they use to. This is because the bison families are scared. Indiscriminate herd reductions means families no longer have the roles needed to make them feel secure. Steven’s Creek Corrals have taken care of that. The remnants of these extended families feel under siege because of what the rangers are subjecting them to during the winter. Thus with the fear coming from hazing any back country user on horse back scares these moms and little ones in their back country home (home is not the roadside) into retreating to the invisible walled city of the Valley.

    When we combine loss of protective roles and disruption of home (think of a human family where everything is great but then strangers come in to the house for a drink of water every hour of the day and night. That mother would be moving out fast.), we end up with a whole bunch of dysfunctional bison families in Lamar Valley refuge camps.

    Additionally, structured herd animals graze entirely differently than dysfunctional “population densities”. In Yellowstone I always saw the young out front, keeping the family moving during speed grazing (there are two types of grazing in functional herds; static, where learning is conveyed and young can eat while mature animals rest, and the second of what I call speed grazing). Plus, families like to stay close together as compared to fearful dysfunctional individuals. Families solve range sciences perpetual problem with dysfunctional animals “eating the best and leaving the rest”. Staying close together grazing loosely translates into human families eating all of what mother puts on your plate.

    Finally, dysfunctional populations propagate much faster than functional families. All are trying to form up families for survival and this means all haste in doing so, whether there is graze available or not.

    State Game and Fish unknowingly uses this management tool with their hunting regulations. Core dysfunctional herds means more animals are available for hunters each fall. The environment may be going to hell but the numbers are there.

    In Yellowstone the more the herd is artificially reduced the more animals are produced and the ones produced no less and less what to eat. It is a no win situation that Yellowstone politics and short sighted science has got them selves into. It will not be long before all bison will be leaving every winter if present “management” continues. Winter range in Yellowstone will become summer pastures for these scared bison. And with continued harassment bison’s original summer homes will be void of buffalo.

    So what is the bison carrying capacity in Yellowstone? The answer is less each year.

  53. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    You should submit this to a number of newspapers as a LTE, or ask for a guest editorial.

    The “main stream media’ never sees this kind of information

  54. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    “Main stream science” does not “see this kind of info” either. Nor does traditional “cutting edge” science. It is all so easy to figure out, however. Take out sense of superiority and the world opens up. Also, what is a LTE?

    As for submitting I did do one for the Bozeman Chronicle (why is yellowstone slaughtering its bison?) but they allow no more than one in three months. I do not know enough about submitting to others. Any suggestions.of who would accept it or where it might get the most impact…. also feel free to send it on to others.

  55. jimbob Avatar

    JT I forgot about it being illegal to remove anything and everything from Yellowstone. THAT is another reason this should be addressed in a lawsuit. I know the defense will be that the bison are not in the park anymore, but it still affects the park’s wildlife population adversely. Teddy Roosevelt is rolling in his grave!

  56. bozemanactivist Avatar


    I was at your presentation in Bozeman and was very impressed with what I learned about the familiar structures of herds; that jived very well with what I suspected and the sense of dysfunction I have noticed in human relationships and society.

    It is very important work. While I certainly, for instance, support a diversity of tactics – including showing the slaughter houses – I do think there’s a lot more potential in real cultural change if we continue to focus on some of the concepts you so eloquently have talked about. The more we can get the basis for some of those ideas out there, the better off we are.

    Anyhow, at some point, let’s definitely talk about strategies. I’m a nervous nellie on the telephone, but at some point, I need to get over that.

  57. jjordan Avatar

    Lots of us wish we could be in the field fighting with BFC for the survival of the Buffalo however for those of us that have to keep working the regular 9-5 grind you can make a contribution by purchasing the new Let The Buffalo Roam license Plate, $.20.00 of the $35.00 dollar cost will go directly to BFC to keep them fighting on our behalf. I just purchased them my self and they still have plenty of plates left at the Billings motor vehicle office downtown. As a ironic side note, the plates they randomly gave me started with AKT followed by a number. Those just happen to be my mother initials. Guess it was meant to be.

  58. rancher Avatar

    Before writing such an emotionally appealing article, it might be worthwhile to learn a thing or two about bison and about wildlife management in general. Thanks to various state and federal departments, along with ranchers who actually care about this species, the United States now has a healthy population of bison. Trying to be a caretaker of nature based on your own emotional feelings rather than science, data, and common sense really just exposes your own ignorance.

  59. JB Avatar


    Are you referring to the same “various state and federal departments” who actually killed 1,613 Yellowstone bison this past year for having the audacity to leave the park? Not sure about your idea of what constitutes care-taking, but let me be the first to suggest that killing roughly half the herd isn’t really a great way to go about protecting them. Just my opinion!

  60. Peter Kiermeir Avatar

    Healthy population of bison? Where? Daydreaming America!
    Wildlife management basics? Good, let us know more about it! (Is it suddenly more than a synonym for “killing”?)


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