*NEWS: Yellowstone Captures Wild Buffalo

23 of America’s Last Wild Bison Trapped at Stephens Creek for Royal Teton Ranch Land Lease Experiment

Bison calf being processed at the Stephens Creek Facility YNP
Bison calf being processed at the Stephens Creek Facility YNP

Mike Mease, Buffalo Field Campaign, 406-646-0070
Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign, 406-644-2499

GARDINER, MONTANA: Yellowstone National Park and Montana Department of Livestock officials captured twenty-three of America’s last wild bison yesterday afternoon at the Stephens Creek bison trap, located inside Yellowstone National Park.

This capture marks the onset of the highly controversial Royal Teton Ranch (RTR) land lease experiment, an endeavor opposed by wild bison advocates and one that Interagency Bison Management Plan agencies incongruously tout as “increased tolerance” for wild bison in Montana.

“This RTR scheme increases harm and disrespect to buffalo, not tolerance,” said Stephany Seay, a spokesperson with Buffalo Field Campaign.  “It’s a new phase in how Yellowstone and Montana aim to treat wild bison like livestock.”

The buffalo captured yesterday will be held for an unknown time period, until more than sixty buffalo are eventually captured.  According to Yellowstone National Park bison biologist Rick Wallen, confining wild buffalo at the Stephens Creek trap exacerbates the threat of brucellosis transmission between wild bison.  Such confinement can also cause injuries and death.  Brucellosis is the purported reason used by Montana livestock interests for the unjust and harsh treatment inflicted upon wild bison when they migrate into their native Montana.  There has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting the livestock disease to cattle.  Other wildlife, such as elk, also carry brucellosis and are known to have transmitted it, yet they are free to migrate, and even commingle with cattle with little or no consequence.

“These buffalo will suffer the torments of hazing, capture, squeeze chutes and blood tests,” said Seay.  “Of the approximately sixty to be captured, the chosen twenty-five buffalo will be forced to wear ear tags, radio collars, and – for pregnant females – vaginal telemetry devices.  They will then be pushed into this ill-thought Corridor to Nowhere surrounded by electric fencing and cattle guards, while the rest are forced back into Yellowstone.”

The RTR land lease is a $3 million agreement between the Church Universal & Triumphant (CUT), Yellowstone National Park, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and the National Parks Conservation Association.  CUT has been given private and taxpayer money in exchange for removing their cattle for 30 years and allowing twenty-five bison temporary access to small portions of public lands on Gallatin National Forest and CUT lands.

“This land scheme benefits CUT’s bank account, not wild buffalo, and will do nothing to stop the slaughter,” said BFC habitat coordinator Darrell Geist. “CUT already received $13 million tax dollars in 1998 that was supposed to benefit wild bison, yet more than 3,000 bison have since died for merely attempting to access this portion of their habitat.  Removing cattle from the bison’s range is the only sensible thing, but cows could return after thirty years, and then what?”

Year after year, Yellowstone and Montana officials executing the ill-conceived Interagency Bison Management Plan forcibly prevent wild bison’s natural migration with hazing, capture, slaughter, quarantine and hunting.  Millions of U.S. tax dollars are wasted annually under activities carried out under the IBMP.

“Montana and Yellowstone both know that wild bison pose no economic nor disease threat to the state,” Seay said.  “In fact, if protected, wild bison would enhance the ecological, economical and cultural health of the state, the nation, and Native American buffalo cultures.”

The wild bison of the Yellowstone region are America’s last continuously wild population. Like other migratory wildlife, bison cross Yellowstone’s ecologically insignificant boundaries in order to access the habitat they need for survival. During 2007-2008 more than 1,300 wild bison were captured in Yellowstone National Park and shipped to slaughter.  This winter’s already heavy weather portends a large migration of wild buffalo and other native species.   Nearly 3,800 wild bison have been eliminated from America’s last wild population since 2000. Bison once spanned the North American continent, but today, fewer than 3900 wild bison exist, confined to the man-made boundaries of Yellowstone National Park and consequently are ecologically extinct throughout their native range.

Buffalo Field Campaign is a non-profit public interest organization founded in 1997 to stop the slaughter of Yellowstone’s wild bison, protect the natural habitat of wild free-roaming bison and other native wildlife, and to work with people of all Nations to honor the sacredness of wild bison.  BFC has its headquarters in West Yellowstone, Montana, and is supported by volunteers and participants around the world who value America’s native wildlife and the ecosystems upon which they depend.

For more information visit Buffalo Field Campaign on the web http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org


  1. Virginia Avatar

    As hard as they work to preserve the last wild buffalo, it seems as though the BFC has not been able to make a lot of progress. I am not suggesting they stop what they are doing to preserve them, but what a discouraging situation for them. It as though no one is listening (and, obviously, they are not) or caring what happens to wildlife – they are just another stumbling block in the way of the ranchers, hunters and corporations taking over our country.

  2. Save bears Avatar

    DOL in Montana does not listen to anyone except ranchers, they are not a agency you want to try and work with, talk to or even be around…and they don’t care if your a citizen or a government employee, they basically tell you to fuck off and go to hell, I have experienced it more times than I want to remember in my life!

  3. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    What I don’t get is there was such an uproar in the late 60s about wild horses being rounded up and slaughtered, hunting for harp seal pups was banned, and so much attention has been given to whales, yet this has been going on for buffalo for how long? Are they not cute enough like the seal pups, majestic enough like whales, or pretty enough like horses?

  4. Ken Cole Avatar

    Actually, WWP and BFC have filed litigation against the US Forest Service and the National Park Service relating to their management of bison and their habitat. While we don’t expect a positive ruling from the lower court we hope for a positive ruling in the appeal stage to the Ninth Circuit.

    We also have filed litigation against the Montana FWP for handing over 75% of the expected offspring of the quarantined bison to Ted Turner who is now holding a large group of quarantined buffalo for the next several years. We oppose the privatization of publicly owned wildlife.

  5. vickif Avatar

    Good to know!

    Every year around this time, I get more and more disgusted! It makes me really doubt the rationale of man.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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Ken Cole