News release: Elusive Mountain Bison Fear Humans but Face More Intrusion on Shrinking Range

This is a new twist on the bison controversy most folks are probably not aware of.

Ralph Maughan

Update April 24, 2008: the news release became a story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. Does mountain bison still roam Yellowstone? By Cory Hatch.
– – – – –
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Contact: Bob Jackson (641) 874-5794;
Carol Goldberg (202) 265-7337

Elusive Mountain Bison Fear Humans but Face More Intrusion on Shrinking Range

Washington, DC – The original, native bison in Yellowstone National Park shun human contact and never migrate beyond their remote backcountry range. As record numbers of their introduced Plains Bison cousins are slaughtered this year for leaving park boundaries, the Mountain Bison face a quieter threat of human incursion deep into their sanctuaries, according to an analysis released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Despite recognition in the historic annals of Yellowstone that Mountain Bison are distinct, the park itself recognizes no such difference. Bob Jackson, a 30-year backcountry ranger at Yellowstone National Park and a recognized bison behavioral expert, argues that the park’s “all buffaloes are alike” attitude is endangering the park’s original bison population, now numbering around 300 animals:

  • The range of the Mountain Bison between Pelican Valley in winter and Mirror Plateau in summer has been cut in half by human encroachment;
  • The Mountain Bison run from human contact yet the park has placed horse camps inside their summer range;
  • The park does not put any lands off-limits to shelter Mountain Bison from unwanted human intrusion.

“Yellowstone Park shows no curiosity about why and how the Mountain Bison are different,” Jackson said, noting that park fears the legal consequences of recognizing differences. “Yellowstone’s Mountain Bison of Pelican Valley need to be recognized for what they are – a unique herd that is worth saving.”

The Mountain Bison are thought to be the direct descendants of Yellowstone’s prehistoric buffalo. Unlike the Plains Bison, the Mountain Bison do not tolerate the presence of humans and stay deep within their forested haunts in the park’s rugged upper elevations.

This year, Yellowstone has sent a record number of the park’s Plains Bison, almost one-third of the park’s total buffalo population, to slaughter. Overall, more than half of Yellowstone’s bison have perished in the just the past several months. In late March, a highly critical Government Accountability Office report blasted Yellowstone’s failure to monitor the consequences of its management actions on the park’s bison. On April 7, PEER called on National Park Service Director Mary Bomar to convene a panel of outside experts to evaluate the park’s bison management program but has yet to hear a reply.

“Yellowstone’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ myopia about the Mountain Bison is symptomatic of a leaderless wildlife management program,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Yellowstone has lost sight of the fact that the park is supposed to serve the wildlife, not vice versa.”



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  1. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Could you elaborate about the mountain bison?

  2. bozemanactivist Avatar

    Is the difference between the populations of bison cultural or genetic? I raised this before; I’m not convinced there are sub-species of buffalo (I need to find the recent source that questions that whole long-held belief), but I can easily be convinced that there are behavioral and cultural differences between different populations of buffalo.

    I do get wary of the kind of “eugenics” values we place on buffalo. We often talk about the only genetically pure bison herd (meaning no cow genes). While genetic diversity of a herd may be a herd integrity question, I’m still wary of value judgments placed on animals based on the genes they have. We don’t tolerate such distinctions in humans; I wonder why we do with animals.

    I don’t think we need to resort to such gene-type sub-species arguments to recognize that these animals in Yellowstone have had a particularly special history where they’ve faced a lot of abuse.

    However, I think this press release is interesting because if we take these populations as distinct for other reasons – namely how they behave – it lets us in on the particular characteristics of buffalo and helps us better respect the different animals – whether at the herd level or at the individual level. But, that’s organic and not based on an artificially trumped up gene-type value.

    I am not approaching this from a scientific perspective – I couldn’t tell you much about what kind of genetic diversity buffalo herds need to survive, just an ethical one. It will be interesting to read different perspectives on this.

  3. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Ralph, the paper I wrote is “attached” to the press release PEER released today.

  4. bozemanactivist Avatar

    Okay, I’ve been reading the paper, and I like where this is going.

    It answers a lot of my concerns. People should read it:

    This is definitely a much better approach to the question of different populations than the typical gene-based approach.

  5. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    I just e mailed the word doc file in case you can’t open it as is.

  6. Brian Ertz Avatar


    the gene and sub-species question is important because it has the potential to afford robust legal protections for buffalo as established by already existing law.

    while i agree that we need to explore new ethical ideas relating to how we interact with species, and protect species, the question of where we found moral or ethical ‘agency’ (why we should protect species) is one that all of us will have different ideas about. some of us value species because we believe they ought be afforded moral consideration as a function of their individual sentience, others are more apt to suggest that it’s teleological, utilitarian, bio-centric, eco-centric, even ascending into deep ecology. but for whatever reason we value buffalo, we can all agree that they are deserving of protection.

    this lends itself to pragmatism and the recognition that existing law affords protection based on conditions that may conflict with the consistency of the values that inform our regard for a species, but that we will never all agree – and so we must submit our subjectivities to a general common vehicle for protection for bison. the best vehicle that i know of in this particular environment is for bison to be protected as a function of the rule of law. that’s a generality that we all must submit to whether we like it or not and that enjoys a level of legitimacy not found with other remedy, thus it is a particularly effective protection.

    as a side note – i see no moral or ethical qualm with the recognition and value for the diversity of life that ‘sub-species’ or genetic inquiry affords, nor the legal protection of such that follows. Why do you believe this is the wrong approach ?

  7. dbaileyhill Avatar

    Here is a link to Canada’s take on the two species. They have kept the two bison types separate. Check this out—

    I visited the refuge in Oct 2006. I spent the day just observing and trying to stay warm.
    Canada has studied both species and have kept records for many years.

    Note: this link has now been fixed. Webmaster

  8. bozemanactivist Avatar


    I’m pretty sure I disagree with what you wrote on several levels; I don’t have a great deal of time right now to go into it, but I do talk about the values question in the essay that Ralph linked to recently that I wrote. Arbitrary values based on arbitrary standards are what got the buffalo in this mess to begin with; I think we should be not be assigning artificial values to artificial ways of making distinctions. And, I would argue that there’s nothing pragmatic in it, either. But, I think it would take me too long to hash out my entire worldview right now.

    I do agree that a lot of us will be allies with different approaches to this question, not all of them consistent with each other, and that we should work together and respect our different approaches. At the same time, these are important questions for us to work out internally. Since we all care for doing right by buffalo, other wildlife, the land, and each other, it’s especially important. Because if we succeed doing it the wrong way, we’re likely to become enemies again over something else in the future. So, while we must respect – it would be self-contradictory not to respect – as friends and allies, we should also be careful how we go about it and why.

  9. Brian Ertz Avatar


    i am glad that you disagree with me on many levels – fosters the amelioration of the inquiry. I have read your essay and support your question – it needs qualification for me to understand what you’re trying to get at, perhaps I am dense. I hope that it is subject to inquiry. Let me know when you have time/interest, I think the conversation is important and am thankful for your willingness to kick it off.

  10. dbaileyhill Avatar

    I believe that studying or asking questions about a bison’s genetic make-up is important, as we are not talking about enhancing or improving certain qualities through breeding to create a “super-bison”, but to determine how best to help these animals to continue to exist. In order to appreciate the different qualities and understand these two unique groups of animals, and why they have different characteristics, studying their genetic makeup, physiological differences, specific adaptations–if relevant, etc., one must compare and contrast objectively. For example, bactrian and dromedary camels, black and white rhinos and why does one have a prehensile lip. Why do some zebras have white stripes on black and others black stripes on white? Why does one zebra have stripes that cover their abdomens, while the other has no stripes on the belly? Finally why is the plains bison hump directly over the front legs, while the wood bison’s hump is forward from the legs, why is the plains bison extremely hairy and the wood bison not, and why does the wood bison weigh considerably more than a plains bison? I believe it is a necessary and critical to fully understand each species, not to assess value, but for one reason, so we humans can keep from harming these unique creatures any further.

    I do not believe that one is no less or more important or valuable than the other. But, in order to protect their unique qualities they should be recognized as two distinct herds, both worthy of equal attention and both worthy, (as with ever living creature), of protection and preservation. From my own observations, when the argument of value is raised, it is most likely due to some like or hatred towards a particular animal.
    I think that we need to keep in mind that in this current world we must work in the system to make progress, give justice in something that is long overdue. If we wait for our current system to change and adapt nothing will ever be accomplished and two species found nowhere else in the world will be forever lost.

    First, we should do everything possible to get protection in place for all bison. Then all the other details follow. Let the horses pull the cart and get back in the wagon.

    If the slaughter doesn’t end, the discussion will never begin.

    Speaking only for myself, being able to detach myself from an issue and look at it is a gift that i am very thankful for, but it can also be a curse when or if it leads to inaction and/or indecision. (or becomes a distraction from the issue at hand.) That is the danger. And for those who know me well, if it were possible to think one-self to death, it would be me.

  11. dbaileyhill Avatar

    oops…”and look at it objectively is a gift…

  12. dbaileyhill Avatar

    BE and Bozeman’, if you do not object, please count me in on this discussion.

  13. dave smith Avatar
    dave smith

    Thoughtful ideas, but strikes me as a bit of a stretch. I spent 6 winters at Lake, and visited Pelican Valley on x-c skis occassion. Can’t say that I saw any behavioral differeneces between buffalo in the upper end of the valley and the lower end of the valley. Or Pelican Valley and Mary Bay or Hayden Valley for that matter.

    Visited the fire lookout Bob J. mentioned at least a dozen times the summer of 1982–no buffalo encounters once I got out of the sagebrush hills in Pelican Valley and started climbing uphill through the timber to the lookout. More snow at higher elevations, more trees to shade the snow, ain’t gonna be no buffalo, mountain buffalo or otherwise, until the snow melts and there’s food available.

    People often misinterpret wildlife behavior. Bob J. might have encountered ordinary buffalo in the mountains that fled on sight. That hardly proves they’re a distinct sub-species of mountain buffalo.

  14. dbaileyhill Avatar

    I have photographed out in the area and will look at the shots for the physiological differences I have spent time in that area in early May and October. It was my husband that called attention to their different behavior as i was engrossed in taking pictures. Then I started watching and noticed too. Of course i haven’t spent the time out there that Bob has, but from what i saw, it was different. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the info. I am going to be in that area, and plan on spending time observing. There is barely anyone in the park in early May and October and i have never seen another person. And if the Pass is closed no traffic either.

  15. dbaileyhill Avatar

    Forgot to add–scroll up the page and check out the link i posted.

  16. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    Please read the first account in this story again. For one it says very few people see them in mid summer and second it says only in winter do they occupy the open meadows.

    I am sorry you never saw any of these buffalo on your trips. I’m sure it would have been a thrilling sight. You did probably see the older male population of Mt. Bison if you went up Astringent Creek in the summer. They are the guards to keep intruders (Hayden Valley bison) out in order for the cow calf herd to have graze in the winter. Everybody thinks of bull buffalo as slow and lazy. It appears this way because no guard can leave his post. You will see Mt. Bison on the South slopes of Pelican Cone only on the bisons way up and then back down to Pelican Valley for the late fall and winter. Their main trail up is about half way up Pelican Ck after it leaves the Valley and one heads to Fern Lake Cabin. This is a heavily used Mt. Bison bison path and also was used by Indians a lot to access the Mirror.

    From the Cone I saw Mt. bison on the North side small meadows. The fire lookouts and I glassed them from the Look out back then. The main place one would see them was upper Raven Ck. in the summer. Come off the top of the Cone and go down the East ridge. narrow meadows but dry until one gets into lower Raven. Lots of bogs there.

    The Lamar rangers hardly ever see them on the East slopes of the Mirror (upper Timothy CK. ) anymore. They only hear them crashing through the woods. It has gotten that bad for these buffalo lately.

  17. dave smith Avatar
    dave smith

    Bob–I confess I’m still skeptical–have you run this past retired Yellowstone buffalo guru Mary Meagher and other experts? I do bears, and when I challenge conventional wisdom about bears–never make eye contact with a bear, all bears are unpredictable, most charges are bluffs–the 1st thing I do is run my ideas past the people/experts I think know the most about the subject. I don’t care what Ph.D. Chris Servheen, the US Fish & Wildlife Service Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator thinks about “never make eye contact with a bear,” because I doubt if he gets out of the office enough to have much eye contact with bears, or watch how bears interact with eachother. I do care what Larry Aumiller thinks because he spent more than 25 years as manager of the Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game Dept. McNeil River Sancturay for Brown Bears. He’s had lots of eyeball to eyeball contact with bears, and watched lots of bears have eye to eye contact.

    Any buffalo experts on your side of this mountain buffalo issue? Not that Ph.Ds or agency affiliations trump on-the- ground observations and experience. Dave S.

  18. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel


    Has anyone done a DNA test on the Mountain Buffalo? I think that should answer the question. Then PEER can go armed that these animals are distinct and should be listed as endangered, or at least get the attention of NPS.

    If the Plains herd is pure, what about the other herds in the West. If they are pure, according to their DNA profile, then listing may be a problem. Or are they genetically distinct?

    I have a lot of questions in my mind as to why not these animals are not listed. I have not given a lot of attention to bison in the past, except to photograph them. I think that is about to change.

    I have been around the Endangered Species Act since before the desert tortoise had an emergancy listing in the mid-1980s. I was a member of a BLM technical review team (TRT) developing a management plan for all of the uses in the Rand Mountains in the California Desert. The Rands is the genetic birthplace of the tortoise and had a great variety of uses from intensive ORV use to grazing to mining. Then the tortoise was listed and we had to start over.


  19. dbaileyhill Avatar

    RICK and DAVE,

    “IN THE EARLY 1990’S…RESEARCH BY THE UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA HAS CONCLUSIVELY PROVEN A GENETIC DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO….” , PLAINS AND WOOD/MOUNTAIN BISON. A very brief summary can be found at the Elk Island National Park web-site. The above info came from that site.

  20. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Sorry I didn’t respond sooner but I just got back from the photo shoots. And to answer your questions I really think it comes down to whether it is a duck or a witch.

    As far as whom I consulted with, it is I and a bunch of historical narratives I read.

    Really who was I going to consult with, guys? I suppose one should never speak badly of the dead, as the French say, but the fact is herd animals are freak shows for most traditionalist scientists. Mary Meagher didn’t even believe bison had social family order. She liked to fly in the planes and record population densities. On her horse she saw a lot of Dances of Wolves bison images, I’m sure. She was a great historian, however, and I have gleaned a lot of info she documented from historical observations and accounts. To her credit she did more for bison in Yellowstone than all before her. In the end, however, she was not alone in not understanding bison.

    Poor Dale Lott, rest his soul, grew up on the National Bison Range, got his PHD in bison behavior, taught college and wrote a couple books on bison behavior. He thought bison bulls sole purpose was to procreate. The American Prairie Foundation worshipped a guy who didn’t know the foggiest about how bison lived. He did know that when a bison bull put his tail in the air you better watch out.

    The American Prairie foundation gets lots of donations by putting Aryan race yearling bison from Wind Cave onto large tracts of land …and proclaims restoration is in progress. Then they bring in more yearlings the next year to tax out already very scared and dysfunctional two year olds. Does anyone understand how much a 6 year old girl can pass on to others? How much communication skills does she have to pass on to her offspring? I guess APF is better than Ted Turners organization where he has to tolerate ranch managers weaning calves from their mothers.

    As for the bison biologists in Yellowstone, they can’t tell the difference between a two year old female and a two year old male…at least that is how it was a few years ago. They have a PHD on staff that…..what’s the use?

    As for genetics and all that purity stuff, classification comes down to what is the rage of the day. Look at the endangered Red Wolf. The Fish and Wildlife recently had to lower their standards for entry in this special club by saying a certain percent coyote could now be in them and they still would look like a wolf…and therefore still be honored as royalty. The duck still not a witch but politics logic it closer all the time.

    So the question is…do we have a Mt. Bison in the Mountains or a Plains bison in the Mountains? More questions. Where do the plains end and where do the mountains begin? Then there are the foot hills and the Front Range. With millions of bison on the Plains surrounding these Rocky Mountains of ours where did encroachment of the Plains stop so we can have purity of Mt. bison? How far out on the Plains does Mt. Bison markers end and Plains purity commence? Just what is the superior Nordic race anyway? Hitler spent millions trying to figure this out. To bad he couldn’t dye his hair blond to become one.

    Well I guess the answer for Yellowstone’s Mt. Bison question is if it quacks like a duck it is a duck….that is unless you believe in the logic from “someone who is so wise in the way of science” as exclaimed with lauding on Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

    Yellowstone’s Mt. Bison, guys, quacks like a duck, I mean runs like a Mt. Bison does away from people. End of sentence.

    As for the Aryan race DNA test, if scientists don’t know what they are looking for they can not choose the right markers for determination. For example, the fund raising arm of the American Prairie Foundation wanted part of Tom Brokaw’s to be donated bison herd on their lands real bad. Wanted him as a director, that is. The herd could come also, by the way. But 3 or so of the 12 sampled had those bad cattle genes. Real bad blood I guess. There were 12 markers used out of lets say thousands. My question to them was, “what would have happened if the luck of the draw showed none with those real nasty markers”? The answer was all thirty would have been accepted. But I ask shouldn’t all be tested? Then the answer in hind sight was, yes, they probably should have (I imagine if it had been a herd from common folk all for sure would be tested). Folks this herd had its start and procreated in house on a ranch in N. Montana and then did the same for years on the Brokaw ranch. It was all the same bunch but some tested positive and others didn’t. In the end Tom’s social beginnings herd would have been a lot better ecologically sustainable than Wind Cave’s coke whore ancestry yearlings ever would have been. DNA is not all cut and dried. And Tom never did become a director.

    Yes, Yellowstone did a “test” on these bison three or four years ago …after I alerted them of the Mt. Bison characteristics. But of course it would be a lot of egg on the faces of those past and present “experts” in house if they were to acknowledge what I said. No way. Yellowstone now says there are two general populations. Some day an esteemed in house favorite would announce to the world, yes, there are Mt. Bison. I can’t wait that long guys. The tide of politics means these animals unique to Yellowstone for thousands of years will be subjected to experimental vaccines … and loses their identity in the process.

    DNA is all in the interpretation… and Park politics, of course.

    I am not saying the introduced Plains bison are the sub human Jewish people of Hitler’s era either. They have 80 years of, undisturbed by man, culture and build up of social herd infrastructure under their belts…something no other big game animal in Africa or the US of A has. There is a lot these animals can teach us if only we recognized them as mirror social images of our selves. P.S My photo shoot today consisted of my son taking a picture of me for our bison newsletter. You see I was chain sawing points on split RR ties so I could drive them in the ground as part of our farms buffalo farm. Really creosote nasty face burning sensations out of all this work. More photo sessions tomorrow.

  21. dbaileyhill Avatar

    Alaska has been working with Canada since 2002 or 2003. Canada is helping AK preserve and increase the wood bison herds. All related documents and official agreements can be on the web. Canada and Alaska has it figured out. It’s not nuclear physics.
    You will find pages and pages to study at–

  22. vicki Avatar

    When animals behave like a family unit, do you feel it will be harder to get them protected? I ask because of the amount of negativity that we get when we speak of wolves behaving like families. People seem threatened by animals they behave with the same instincts that they do.
    I have also read about the wood bison in AK. I hope more is done to protect this animal in the lower 48.

  23. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    My thoughts are: anytime there is abuse the abusers have to justify their actions by “sub humanizing” the abused.

    Since there is little thought left of our relationship with the land, as noted by most all aborigine hunter gatherer cultures, then all life below us has to be subordinate to our own, right? But of course being “lower” forms of life is not limited to other species. War means dehumanizing is essential because we don’t know why we kill other people.. Thus, the Chinese were subhuman to the Japanese and the Russians were sub humans to the Germans.

    It is no different when scientists enter the picture. In fact it is worse. Herds are limited to “population densities” to many of them because these are life forms lower than us, right? Very few wolf biologists have enough confidence in themselves to keep talking about families of wolves. Rather, it is a “pack” of wolves just like it is a pack of dogs. Ed Bangs isn’t going to say they had to shoot the father of the family. He can say he had to shoot the alpha male, as many times as he wants, however.

    It all has to do with superiority. And too many scientists have gotten through supposed “higher” education with the grades that perpetuated the illusion they are the best of the best. What chance does an “animal” have, let alone another human being, to be allowed into this sacred ivy walls of equalit? So not only do we have abusive people not able to acknowledge families in wolves and bison but we have the researchers who can never get a grasp on what makes “animals” tick.

    My thoughts are to go full power ahead with what is obvious, all species got to where they are today because they have the same ways to improve themselves as a species, the same make up as we as humans do. If saying a wolf has family will make science and the public pull back so be it. The alternative is stay in the closet. …And life is too short for that. At least that is my feelings on this subject.

  24. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    I agree a great deal with Bob Jackson has been saying here. That I think goes to the heart of what I was saying earlier to Brian.

    Whatever the scientists say about what makes a population a population, we should be able to recognize and value difference when we see it. Even if there is no essential genetic difference between a mountain and a plains buffalo (or even if there is), the value placed on a certain kind of genetic make-up for a creature is not the most relevant consideration. Difference and sameness start already as categories of exploration; we don’t need an essential prejudice toward one kind to come to that determination.

    So, what reason is there not to recognize the reality of difference between different populations of buffalo and have different criteria for determining those populations? Why not recognize, simply based on the unique behavioral differences observed by many, a reason for studying these animals?

    That there is a legal prejudice toward determining populations based on genetics is unfortunate, I think. If we insist on trying to fight these battles on genetics grounds, those same grounds will be used against us in the future. It’s a value to struggle against – not for.

    The animals in Yellowstone and in our country are not served well by the laws and systems in place, including those often celebrated by wildlife advocates. Even if the laws accidentally supported us, all it would speak to is a tactical course of action, but only a tactical course. The shortcomings are too apparent.

    I mean, look at it this way. Even if some scientists are wrong, who argue that if you put a population of wood buffalo in the plains, their general characteristics will adapt to their environment, and the scientists who think there is “enough” difference in DNA to classify the one population as a sub-species, we will be restricted in other ways by insisting on it in this instance. Somewhere, there will be a unique population, a unique grouping that will be worth saving for some reason – usually due to someone else’s unjust imposition of value – but they may not be unique in the eyes of the geneticist. It would be impractical over the long run to insist on a value one cannot defend, enforce it when it works for our particular cause, and then be unable to say anything in the future. We would be stuck in a self-contradiction.

    So, the short of it is that I agree with Bob and think we are worth studying differences here in terms of the buffalo because there seems to be something different that can shape our understanding and respect for these animals. We are barking up the wrong tree if we have to play the game of determining that a group is more special because it has a particular genetic code. We already do that way too much in the human world (assign these values for no good reason); it’s too bad we codify that in the world of animals as wells.

    Gandhi said that the cow was also sacred. That might have a particularly unique twist for us who are “wildlife” advocates. If we recognize the integrity of all beings, and myriad ways of grasping the similarities and differences of beings, then the reason we are advocates changes. We don’t support wildlife because a certain kind of animal is necessarily better; we support them for some other reason. Doing so because others oppress them based on their own arbitrary enforcement of values is as good a reason as I can come up with. Certainly, the buffalo in the Pelican Valley, based on Bob’s observations, seem to fit that. We have disrespected what they are, so we don’t think twice about how we behave toward them (figuring the way we behave toward the buffalo in other parts of the park will be good enough). We need to respect them as well as we can, and so study is always a good idea.


    PS Oh, by the way, for those interested and in Bozeman, we came up with a name for our group – Buffalo Allies of Bozeman. Our mission statement is posted at:

  25. vicki Avatar

    Thanks for the info. I see what you mean. It’s a sad day when science is afraid to be science based on political resistence.

  26. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    Thanks for the elk island link. I really liked the historical aborigine accounts (“no buffalo- no power” was a good one). As for the science talk I don’t think they have the foggest idea of what the way is to reestablish bison. They still are talking population densities and they talk of needing 400 animals for minimal numbers for genetic viability. I guess they forgot how Adam and Eve did it to produce the people we have today, if one wants to believe that stuff. Actually those two could have done this human population from scratch as long as their offspring and increase of those offspring lived in extended families, something Canadian and Alaska “scientists’ haven’t an inkling about. They didn’t even know what they saw in discribing Wood Bison composition. …Talked of matriarchal units of mature cows and dependents but also threw in the observation of different herds of of cows and little calves. They didn’t know the dry cows and grandmothers were taking care of dependents while mommies were occupied with little ones and all of these animals were part of the same group. Gee, isn’t this behavior dupicated when human mothers have babies and the grandmas and aunts come stay for a bit with the rest of the kids? Sorry, but animals are still a freak show for our neighbors up North. It is a good thing they have lots of sparsely populated lands to throw a bunch of buffalo into. It will probably work but only because the buffs will have the time to form up.

  27. Kevin Van Tighem Avatar
    Kevin Van Tighem

    Bob, after all those good postings I wish you would have restrained yourself from going over the top on this last one. It’s pretty easy to throw barbs at people you’ve never met and know nothing about, but it doesn’t show you up in a very good light.
    I know the bison biologists at Elk Island National Park and their colleagues at the University of Alberta and with the Canadian Wildlife Service. You don’t. So I don’t know how you can so blithely wade in and accuse them of being ignorant simply because their experience and observation leads them to tell a tale different than the one you tell. We’re talking here about people who have been working in the field dy after day with both plains and wood bison for, in a couple cases, more than 25 years. Thousands and thousands of hours of observation and study. We’re talking about another person who actively manages not just the park’s bison populations, but his own captive plains bison herd on the farm that he goes home to after work. He knows a bit about bison – that’s why he gets consulted by so many parks and agencies on how to help with their bison conservation programs. These guys have helped Yukon, Northwest Territories, Alaska and, most recently, Siberia re-establish wild herds of wood bison based on their intimate knowledge of these animals’ biology and behaviour. I think they deserve a bit of respect.
    Insulting someone you know can sometimes be justified because, knowing them, you can be sure they deserve it. But insulting someone you don’t know, just because you can type fast, weakens your credibility on other matters; you aren’t speaking from knowledge in that case, just from attitude. Let’s show folks the kind of respect we demand for ourselves, at least until you can see the whites of their eyes.

  28. dbaileyhill Avatar

    bob j.,
    Yeah, they really haven’t the foggiest. I was disappointed. I had hoped to find some something useful in the agreement. Something that could help with the situation in YNP.
    I agree the aborigine history, i really liked.
    Also, at the park, no one else was there, probably because it was darn cold, but watching the family group, (the one that can usually be seen a good portion of the time) and their interactions for a few hours was great. The bull “in-charge” was huge!

  29. bozemanactivist Avatar

    I know that the area near Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada is one of the most exploited areas by the energy industry. Despite the few people in that area, it’s no picnic. And, those buffalo also have a huge tuberculosis problem.

  30. dbaileyhill Avatar

    Wood Buff. NP has no roads and can only be accessed on foot. It is a very remote area.

  31. Brian Ertz Avatar

    dbaileyhill says:

    BE and Bozeman’, if you do not object, please count me in on this discussion.

    should we start an open thread on enviro ethics ?

  32. Buffaloed Avatar

    Duh! Yes Brian 😉

  33. bozemanactivist Avatar

    I’m definitely open to that. I’d even put a blurb about it on my blog and in the Yellowstone Newspaper.


  34. dbaileyhill Avatar


  35. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    Sorry I didn’t respond to your comments sooner. I was gone for a couple nights. As for going “over the top” I have to confess I do every time I advocate something going against status quo…and this seems to be a lot. And as for the blanket statement that the boys up North don’t know what they are doing, I based that on what I read on the Elk Island link posted on this comment section. If your friends and associates don’t agree with what was written in the papers I judged them by, then I suggest they ask for their dissenting view to be posted with this information. This is how the Supreme Court does it so every ones opinion can be expressed. Or they could ask for their names (if they are listed)) be struck from the extensive references at the end.

    I, of course, based my opinion on more than my reasons listed in the earlier posting. In their website pages was mention of hunting and how it would help out the economy if bison were again to occupy these lands. This, I inferred, was used as a carrot to the locals in order to gain support for reintroduction of these Woods Bison. Since there was no mention of any other way of harvesting I have to deduce your buddies thought of hunting the good ole traditional way.

    This means using species “population numbers” for bag quotas and season duration …A system used by every game decision maker, whether that biologist flies the Flags and Stripes or the Acer leaf in front of his Govt. office building. Thus, if your buddies have traditional thoughts on herd animal management, then it shows me they do not understand bison … no matter how many thousands of hours of watching and studying them are under their belts. My assessment of them was based on the assumption they are not aware depth of extended family infrastructure is what counts in any herd management or “harvest” decision.

    If they did understand how herd animals are made up they would be heading across the permafrost, going to the Territories Game badge wearers, and saying they have it all wrong… and please stop the music now.

    I shouldn’t pick on your buds (all inclusive as part of “normal” biologists, not the “greater we” as the Dude stated in the movie “the Big Leboski”) as the only ones being insensitive just because they are part of a profession that generally views animals as freak shows. We can go a lot closer to home to find parallels. Do you think slave owners understood their long suffering house servant? Or wanted their slaves to be Christians, but at the same time made them go to their separate church? Do you think they understood this maid of theirs when every night they let her go home to a bunch of shacks, which because of how the Master had then bunched together to save land made for squalid conditions? Did they give her a “raise” because the lady of the house had noticed this servant crying a lot when she was by herself… procured from money from the sale of two of this woman’s offspring? How can biologists understand the animals they feel superior to if they can not understand those of their own species?

    I do understand you wanting to stick up for their buddies. You and your friends, as a quasi bonded group, are a substitute for nature’s animal bull groups. The only thing is we, as part of human dysfunctional families must realize we will always experience the same emotions used to guide long term extended family hunter-gatherer families. However, if we don’t understand where our emotions come from evolutionary the outcomes of these emotions can not be controlled.

    Emotions take on a “mind of their own” when applied outside of these family bonds. Thus we see corporate heads promoting one of their bull group members, thinking this person is the greatest, while every rank and file employee in that company knows this person is a real zero. Evolutionary emotions such as loyalty, are a given in extended families and should not be expected or demanded in dysfunctional human organizational structures. Loyalty in extended families is pure. There is no right or wrong. But applied to such things as corporations and government structures (such as today’s executive branch demands … and his followers expect back from him) President Bush will always see its Judas. Common cause, yes, loyalty no.

    If your buds really are cognizant of family structure in bison and can extrapolate and expand on what this means to applications on the ground (such as reintroducing bison families identified with possessing all the roles needed of bison to colonize new lands) …. And they are idiosyncratically unique, as biologists, in their own individual way, then I truly apologize for lumping them as one of the masses. I do have a question. Does your expert friend, the one that also raises bison, use social behavior as the basis for advice given to govt. agencies intent on reintroducing bison? Also, if this is so does he apply this to his own private herd?

    As a litmus, does he know bulls from that particular family group have to be a part of any “enlightened” family unit for bison to be assured of successful reintroduction in new habitat? If he knows this, can he pick out which bulls are part of a particular matriarchal unit even when they are normally miles apart guarding turf for winter graze? Does he know the time to watch for this relationship is when the young bulls are deciding to leave the nest and go to daddy (who by this time of year is within a mile of mommy)? Then and only then, will he know which adult males belong to which matriarchal unit. No I doubt this expert friend of yours knows or even considers any of this.

    I also believe your bison expert raises his bison like every other bison rancher. He will feel he has to in order to stay viable in a business that believes in dividing all ages and segments of a population. He could search for answers different than agribusiness puts forth, but search for truth leads to a sense of conscious. Can’t have that, can we, because it leads to feeling guilty if we don’t follow through with that knowledge? Bad science is worse than no science and it becomes a double whammy when practices on the ground are used and advocated in conjunction with this bad science. The fact of the matter is I have never seen another bison rancher (besides myself) manage for social order. Thus my assessment of those in Elk Island et al goes down even more as you fill me in with more info.

    And as for herd animal reintroduction by our govts., I have yet to see a program of this nature that calls for identifying the roles, and those individuals as part of that particular social group, being captured as a unit. Do they recognize a satellite spin off group from a power group and focus on the former for capture? Even if they ever got to this step of reintroduction knowledge would they understand the next step means release of males first because this is the component which has to be anchored for the matriarchal components to stay in around. Do they know which ages of males have to go as these forerunners and which ones need to stay with the matriarchal units? Or do we do now as the “best” reintroduction programs do and go with expensive “soft release”. No, as it is now in the world of wildlife management it will always be conjecture as to whether certain herds “stick” and others does not.

    I don’t think your friends should be singled out as incompetent, however. If they read the United States history books those in charge of setting up the original 13 colonies did not understand it either. If it wasn’t for human aborigine infrastructure on the ground already they would have not have made it.

    As for you asking to see the whites of their eyes, if I looked I would be blinded by the brilliance of multiples of those same eyes. It wouldn’t allow me to think. Yes, it gets a bit lonely and no different than it was for all those years patrolling for poachers in the SW corner of Yellowstone. To catch those poachers I could not allow myself to get caught up and bonded in the horse culture that was all around me. I suggest your friends do the same if they value knowledge vocationally more than the dysfunctional system they are now a part of. There is always room for family in their lives, however. It is just not to be found in an organization that has no way of carrying out the emotions evolution gave us to survive and improve ourselves as a species.

    If your friends are truly of a different skin have them give me a call. My number is 641-874-5794. I would be glad to talk with them. But I must say I have offered this in the past and the infrastructure these people are a part of is a stronger pull than any of them realize. If their peers and supervisors see them straying too far the threat of becoming a professional outcast wins out.