300 Buffalo Captured at Yellowstone National Park's Northern Boundary

Those that test positive for brucellosis exposure to be slaughtered

The slaughter of bison in Yellowstone has begun in earnest. Today Buffalo Field Campaign volunteers witnessed the capture of at least 300 buffalo in the Stephens Creek capture facility.

It appears that 13 of the bison captured were from the group of 25 allowed to leave the Park under a $3.3 million deal between conservation groups, the government, and the Church Universal and Triumphant. Those bison were captured and taken back to the Park on Friday and another one was shot because agents said she refused to go where they wanted her to. This leaves 10 out of the Park on those lands with another one whose whereabouts are unknown. The captured bison also probably include the 62 which were released from the Stephens Creek trap on Thursday.

This deal was touted as a “major breakthrough” by the groups who supported it but so far it has been an expensive fiasco.

Generally around 50% of bison test positive for exposure to brucellosis and Al Nash, spokesman for Yellowstone National Park, told the Buffalo Field Campaign that all of the bison that test positive for brucellosis exposure will be slaughtered. The test does not conclusively show that the bison actually have brucellosis and culture tests done in the past, which look for the actual bacteria rather than antibodies expressed by the buffalo, show that the rate of infection is actually much lower.


  1. Save bears Avatar

    It was unfortunately not if, but when, I am so tired of this…

  2. Mtn Mama Avatar
    Mtn Mama

    This is heart breaking news to me. If more of the general public knew about this, do you think it would make a difference in policy? I feel like the bison/brucellosis situation is like Wildlife Services killing machine- a dirty little secret.

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      Unfortunately I don’t think that greater exposure would have much sway over this. It does play a role but I think this is going to need more in the way of litigation and a petition to the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list them as threatened or endangered. There is currently a petition that is being considered by them that was submitted about a year ago that I doubt will be successful, but I think that efforts will continue on that front.

      As it stands now the agencies just ignore anything other than litigation so that is the direction that will be followed.

      1. wolf moderate Avatar
        wolf moderate

        Isn’t it impossible to get genetic exchange when it comes to buffalo? What’s the point of listing them?

        I think many people view buffalo as domesticated or at the very least zoo animals. Possibly, people are more interested in majestic looking animals like the wolf, dolphins elk etc…That is what seems to get the general public’s notice anyhow. Most do not get up in arms over say the Springsnail, Bruneau Hot (Pyrgulopsis bruneauensis). But bring up baby seals and all hell breaks loose…

      2. Save bears Avatar

        I must be the odd ball(I know) but when I visit Yellowstone, I would say 80% my time is spent watching and photographing Bison, to me, they are such a fascinating animal and not because they are an American Icon, they are simply fascinating to watch and learn about. We all read and hear about how a wolf pack works, but most don’t realize the same type of dynamic exists within the Bison herd…

      3. wolf moderate Avatar
        wolf moderate


        Do you know about the “genetic exchange” situation. Are the buffalo able to mate w/ other herds? If not, does it make sense to list them under the ESA and utilize funds that could be better spent on animals that are capable of expanding there range and recovering(Kinda a leading question lol)? Just curious. Don’t know and just wanted to find out from someone that has dealt w/ them.

      4. Save bears Avatar

        There is virtually no possibility of genetic exchange unless there is human intervention, and, or bison are trucked and relocated to the National Bison Range. I would like to see them follow the mandates that were written in the early 1900’s where Bison were considered a threatened species worthy of extra caution, if I remember right, it was written in about 1919. That said, if we are to follow the mandates of the ESA as it is currently wrote, then they have no possibility of genetic exchange, which of course is part of the ESA.

        Now once again, there are other herds in Canada, that could supply genetic exchange, but not without human intervention..

        It would take a lot of effort, time and money to ensure that wild bison are interbreeding…

        I do think they require protection from what is currently going on..and I don’t think it is a waste of money.

      5. JB Avatar

        wolf moderate:

        There is likely adequate existing genetic diversity in the population; thus, genetic exchange is a non-issue. Rather, what is needed is “room” for the bison to expand into other areas without being shot or relocated back to the park. Listing would accomplish this via the ban on “taking” (i.e., killing, harassing, harming) bison. It would be an especially powerful tool were critical habitat to be designated outside of Yellowstone National Park (not likely without additional law suits).

    2. dailyjacksonhole Avatar


      Read the summary for more on Bison genetics, its pretty complicated.

      1. wolf moderate Avatar
        wolf moderate

        Thanks SB and Daily,

        It is pretty complicated. Pretty much what I expected, which is sad. They are going to have to be “managed” extensively forever. There is no chances of natural mating between populations. Only YNP is capable of the 1,000 minimum requirement? That doesn’t seem right. You’d think that they could create a few more areas where they could live as naturally as possible (1,000 buffalo x “X” # of acres=couldn’t be more than 50,000 acres? one would think). Well thanks for the info. Does seem to be a tough road to hoe. GL.

      2. Save bears Avatar

        Currently Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, is working in the direction of moving Bison to several areas that have been acquired by the agency over the last few years, but it also looks as if the legislature is going to try and pass laws to prevent that action from happening…it is indeed very complicated and difficult.

  3. petticoat rebellion Avatar
    petticoat rebellion

    This is really disheartening…especially in light of all the anti-bison bills that have been introduced during this 2011 Montana legislative session…the war against the buffalo marches on. Let’s pray these poor animals get a much deserved reprieve!

  4. Save bears Avatar

    Public exposure has unfortunately been unsuccessful over the last 20+ years..

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      Oh, and in their press relase, the Park says that “they endeavor to hold seronegative bison for spring release back into the park.”. That means that all of the buffalo could be sent to slaughter.


  5. Jane Avatar

    Oh my God, this needs to be stopped. The buffalo need to roam. If officials(???) don’t want them on “their” (questionable) property then put up a fence. Killing bison because they cross an invisible demarcation line or because they (wild animal) won’t be herded is draconian.

  6. Kayla Avatar

    Now I read about this in the morning’s paper. This sooooo saddens me!!! This is sooooo disheartening. When will we
    Human Two Leggeds stop our present slaughter of the Bison Nation. We still have NOT learned from the Bison Slaughter of the 1800’s with we still having the same desires. I say let the Bison recolonize the plains. Let the Bison recolonize the whole west like it used to be. Now I would say, the officials in Montana’s Livestock Agency should be put in jail and the key thrown away. GO BISON GO!!!

    1. Jim Macdonald Avatar

      Indeed, Kayla. Unfortunately, another 75 or more have been captured since … it’s now approaching 400 (I know because I’m in Gardiner right now witnessing this).

      I’ve seen the buffalo do inspiring things this week, too. Many have evaded capture; a lot are not going where they want. They sense horses now, and many run.

      Thanks for your support.

  7. Mike Avatar

    The problem is solved by kicking the welfare ranchers off public land and making certain ranches offers they can’t refuse.

    If that fails, eminent domain is appropriate. The continuation of an important species supercedes a few ranches.

    1. Save bears Avatar

      I wish it were that easy Mike, a good amount of the surrounding lands adjacent to Yellowstone are private ranches, not public lands ranches..

      1. Save bears Avatar

        And the recent Supreme Count ruling on eminent domain does not fit into this category , that was a improvement in towns and cities ruling..trying to force and eminent domain seizure for the benefit of wild animals would be tied up in every court for years..

      2. JB Avatar

        save bears:

        I disagree about eminent domain–the Supreme Court rarely questions the government’s use of eminent domain. The harder part would be getting the government to actually use eminent domain to benefit wildlife.

      3. Save bears Avatar


        I can guarantee you, the state of Montana will never use eminent domain in this type of situation. The Supreme court did rule on eminent domain a couple of years ago, when it comes to seizing property in the best interest of the city, I don’t remember the exact case name, but it did create quite an uproar around the country with many states and towns coming up with laws to prevent the implementation of it.

        But again, the state of Montana is not going to try and seize lands to benefit wildlife. Now FWP has made steps to purchase large parcels to relocate bison to, but that is now coming under fire as well.

        What is really needed is to restructure Montana’s Department of Livestock as well as a determination that bison from Yellowstone are in fact wildlife and they need to be managed as such..

      4. JB Avatar


        The power of eminent domain is not limited to the state of Montana–the federal government has this power as well.

      5. Save bears Avatar


        Your going to see a real fight, if the Fed’s decide they are going to seize private lands, I would suspect you would see people on their property lines with guns, it ain’t going to happen..

      6. Save bears Avatar


        What can happen and what will happen is two entirely different situations…with the way people feel about the Feds in Montana right now..I don’t think they would try and take land…

      7. JB Avatar

        Actually, on that much we agree. Perhaps you missed the second part of my original comment:

        “The harder part would be getting the government to actually use eminent domain to benefit wildlife.”

      8. JB Avatar

        Though I find your continued insistence that Montanans will rise up with their guns against the federal government should the government take any action they disagree with…troubling. You are not painting a very pretty picture of your fellow citizens.

      9. Save bears Avatar


        You find it disturbing, as do I, I have lived with these people for many years and I am not happy with what I am seeing going on, and in many areas, things are deteriorating..I am sorry, but there is not a very pretty picture to paint…even my wife’s family is talking more an more about it, and they have been here since the late 1800’s.

        This is one of the reasons, I am looking to sell out and leave the state of Montana, I love the state, but I am not happy with many of the people. I would say, you being troubled is justified, I know I am very troubled..

      10. JB Avatar

        I suppose some folks will always react this way in tough times; but it is hard for me to see so much (in my opinion) misplaced animosity toward government.

      11. Save bears Avatar


        Just to show what is going on, a good friend of mine was just arrested, because I turned him in for securing a fully automatic M-16 rifle, I am a 2nd supporter, but I could not let him do this, and he is/was a Federal Employee working at one of the airports with full access to virtually the whole airport, he was their IT/Maintenance guy who does all of the work on the airport computer system, including setting up the security system..

        When I asked him why he needed a machine gun…his answer..Just in case they come to take over(They=Feds) There are to many serious situations like this happening. Enough that I am no longer comfortable..

      12. Save bears Avatar

        Misplaced or well founded…the outcome can still be the same…

      13. jburnham Avatar

        I know for sure there are small groups in MT and elsewhere that can’t wait to take up arms against the feds, and I’m sure there always will be. But I have a hard time buying into any of the armed revolution prophecies. We can’t even get 50% of the people to show up at the polls, why should we believe there will be a mass uprising of people willing to go to war with the government?

      14. jon Avatar

        Have you ever heard of right wing militia groups? They are plenty of nuts out there in Montana and all over for that matter who believe that the feds are coming for them and are going to take their guns away from them as well as their freedoms.

      15. Save bears Avatar


        I don’t see where anyone said, that they are going to take up armed revolution against the government..JB and I were talking about one specific issue, which is the seizure of private lands under the right of eminent domain..especially if it were to be in favor of wildlife, most of all Bison..

        I don’t now the motivation of the friend of mine for buying a machine gun, but I can say for sure, it was not about wildlife…..

        Myself personally feel that any revolution we have will be held at the ballot box, but I do know there are a lot of people in the tri-state area that are acting quite different than they did a few years ago, and it is becoming the norm and not the exception to see rifles racked in the truck as well as pistols on the hips when in town now a days..

      16. jburnham Avatar

        Savebears: “I don’t see where anyone said, that they are going to take up armed revolution against the government”

        I was thinking more of the rhetoric coming from these groups, not necessarily your comments.

    2. jon Avatar

      I agree with you Mike. it’s easier said than done. It’s very easy to see that letting welfare ranchers let their cattle graze on public lands, the same land shared by native wildlife is going to create conflict because native wildlife and livestock are going to run into each other. Livestock shouldn’t be allowed on public lands.

      1. Save bears Avatar

        For the most part, it is not a public lands issue surrounding Yellowstone a good amount of the land surrounding the park is private land and you have to cross private land to get to the public land…You really need to do some reading…opps, that’s right, your ignoring me…

  8. mtn mamma Avatar
    mtn mamma

    Saves Bears,
    You are not an oddball at all for watching the bison. By default my kids have become obssessed with bison. My 2 year old shouts out the window “Tatonka” at any large mammal (horse or cow) we pass. Of course we dont have free roaming herds in Colorado but there are some bison refuges & ranches that we visit.

    1. skyrim Avatar

      I hope that your 2 year old’s generation has a greater appreciation for these glorious beasts than ours. Maybe Colorado may then have their own wild herd. I always try to maintain hope for those who follow us. (in so many regards).

  9. mikarooni Avatar

    For lack of a better alternative that could/would actually be implemented, the Turner deal still looks good, under the circumstances, to me.

  10. wolfsong Avatar

    This is just sickening!! The cattleman squeaks and the government jumps, and ALL of the wildlife pays the price. Is there ANYTHING that can be done?

    1. skyrim Avatar

      Stop eating cows. That would be a good start.

    2. Elk275 Avatar

      It is not cattleman, it is small acreage subdivisons. The Upper Yellowstone Valley has been divided into 5-10-20 acre tracts. Some tracts have manufactured homes and others have starter castles.

  11. Jeff N. Avatar
    Jeff N.

    With the National Park Sevice being complicit with this annual slaughter, the bison on the NPS logo should rightfully be turned upside down to where it is laying on its back with legs pointing skyward. This is truly insane, slaughtering a species based on the willfully perpetuated brucellosis lie, for the sake of a few intolerant a-holes whose mentality remains locked in a perpetual “indian war” for control of the west. Do I expect Salazaar and Schweitzer to raise a finger on this issue, sadly no.

  12. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I would like to see all of the money that is presently used for research projects such as the Yellowstone Wolf Project ( 4 million for collaring just from the Yellowstone Park Foundation) and instead of throwing away 3.3 million on this Bison fiasco, use the money for buying winter range.
    7.3 million dollars would have made a nice down payment on some land in the Paradise Valley.
    If the Paradise Valley had been included as part of Yellowstone to begin with, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
    I would like to see areas that would serve as good winter habitat for Bison be specified and an effort made to purchase as much of this land as possible. The money that is now siphoned off for endless and useless studies would be much better spent on land acquisition.

    1. steve c Avatar
      steve c

      Suggesting that this funding come from the wolf study is ridiculous, Larry. People donate a lot of money that they want directly spent on the wolf project. It is not as if wolf collaring was stopped there would suddenly be piles of money laying around for buying winter range. If there was a specific well marked fundraising drive to raise money to buy up land from paradise valley to the park entrance, I am sure millions would be raised.

      Where are you getting 4 million for collaring? This is from the yellowstone park foundations website “We work to raise a minimum of $200,000 every year to fund around 60% of the Wolf Project’s expenses”

      1. JB Avatar

        Larry has never let facts get in the way of his tired argument that radio collars should be banned. He also has never presented any convincing evidence that his perspective is not directly attributable to his occupation (i.e., wildlife photographer).

  13. wolf moderate Avatar
    wolf moderate

    “I would like to see all of the money that is presently used for research projects such as the Yellowstone Wolf Project ( 4 million for collaring just from the Yellowstone Park Foundation) and instead of throwing away 3.3 million on this Bison fiasco, use the money for buying winter range.”

    Yeah, I agree. It’s a waste of valuable resources. People from urban areas are moving to places like Idaho, MT, OR, WY, CO etc, buying up 5-20 acre lots (that are prime wintering range) to build there 5,000 sqft log cabins. Using funds from these programs (wolf radio collars especially) that have run there course and instead purchasing winter range would benefit them much more. Maybe instead of litigation, purchasing lands and donating it to the state would be beneficial too….Like RMEF does.

    1. Elk275 Avatar

      That is exactly what I am doing tomorrow. I am going to Paradise Valley and appraise a brand new million dollar home on 20 acres at the base of Emigrant Peak. It’s a good job, inspect the home and site then soak at Chico Hot Springs for and hour and have lunch. There goes winter wildlife habitat

      There is no way politically that property is going to be acquired by eminent domain for wildlife in Paradise Valley. There is no use even thinking about it. Bison are going to be confined to Yellowstone National Park and the immediate adjacent federal lands. There numbers are going to be limited by the amount of forage available.

      The Buffalo Field Campaign and other interested groups are going to have to model the expectations after the RMEF and acquire hundreds of thousands of acres. There is a group in Bozeman called the American Prairie Foundation that is currently acquiring property in Valley and Phillips County Montana. This I support, this will work.

      1. wolf moderate Avatar
        wolf moderate

        ” am going to Paradise Valley and appraise a brand new million dollar home on 20 acres at the base of Emigrant Peak.”

        They are probably an environmentalist from Berkeley….I’d do the same thing if I had the money though too, so can’t be too big of a hypocrite. 😉 Though, it would not be anywhere near YNP. Have fun tomorrow. Brrrrr!

      2. Elk275 Avatar

        You were over 80% right, I just returned.

      3. wolf moderate Avatar
        wolf moderate

        HAHA! Assumptions be damned. They’re facts

  14. rebecca dunn Avatar
    rebecca dunn

    Such a shame to kill those beautiful animals. We spent 2 wks. in Yellowstone in fall of 2010 and alot of time was just spent watching the buffalo!!!!

  15. Jon Way Avatar

    Larry T. and Wolf Moderate,
    Your thoughts of stopping wolf radio-collaring and other such projects and buying land is a fruitful thought. When considering the thought that wolf collaring (which is about $200 K not $3 million a year) money would be better spent elsewhere, one needs to think of all the tours and people that come to Yellowstone to see wolves. Millions more are generated locally than are actually spent on collaring. All those people get to see and/or learn about what is happening to our bison and become better aware of the situation.

    Rather than stopping research b.c people don’t like seeing animals collared, a great solution would be for all of us to request that Yellowstone Park Foundation (and other groups) fund raise money to buy land outside the park and have prominent people (like Ken Burns) better raise the issues that great groups like Buffalo Field Campaign have been doing for years. I for one would love to see Yellowstone acquire more of the “Northern Range” N of Gardiner as Park Property which would give bison more room with little debate over the brucellosis fraud argument. Maybe even change portions of the Gallatin National Forest into YNP hands….

    1. wolf moderate Avatar
      wolf moderate

      “Larry T. and Wolf Moderate,
      Your thoughts of stopping wolf radio-collaring and other such projects and buying land is a fruitful thought. When considering the thought that wolf collaring (which is about $200 K not $3 million a year) money would be better spent elsewhere, one needs to think of all the tours and people that come to Yellowstone to see wolves. Millions more are generated locally than are actually spent on collaring. All those people get to see and/or learn about what is happening to our bison and become better aware of the situation.”

      SOunds like the collars aren’t for scientific research afterall. It is so wolf guides can easily locate these animals to exploit them for money. Your response about YNP really makes it sound like a zoo.

      I highly doubt that the entire cost of wolf monitoring using collars is only $200,000, unless you are speaking only about YNP. If you are implying that the enitire cost is $200,000 over the entire NRM, I’ll have to do some research because that figure is impossible.

      1. Steve C Avatar
        Steve C

        Many scientific publications have come out of the yellowstone wolf study. Packs are collared in the south of the park as well where no wolves can be observed by tourists as they can on the northern range. Enhanced tourism is a happy biproduct of the science going on in Yellowstone.

        The wolf project is in YNP. If you are talking about state collaring actions outside of the park (not related to the wolf project within yellowstone) than the cost would be much higher. I agree that collaring actions outside of the park (primarily used to locate and kill wolf packs) are a waste of money.

      2. Savebears Avatar

        I would sure like to see some proof that collaring operations outside the park are primarily used for killing packs…can someone point me in the right direction?

      3. Steve C Avatar
        Steve C

        Savebears, that is an assumption on my part that WS is using radio collars to locate and kill packs.

  16. Leslie Avatar

    Ken, you are right. Bison need to be reclassified not under the USDA but as wildlife. I suppose there would be two classifications, as there are bison used for meat, but not genetically pure bison.

    It is amazing that in this day and age…after our bloody heritage with the bison…Also, I support the American Prairie Foundation as well. These organization or wealthy individuals who buy large contiguous tracks of land for native wildlife use might be our last hope, especially as the tide is turning against the Feds which means more budget cuts for Parks and their support employees.

  17. mikarooni Avatar

    This situation is getting worse and worse. It looks like they’re out to butcher a big bunch of them. Again and as I’ve opined before, free-ranging bison would be great; but, for lack of a better alternative that can and will actually be implemented in the foreseeable future, the Turner deal is looking better and better than this slide toward dead bison, at least in my opinion and under these circumstances.

  18. Ken Cole Avatar

    I just posted the WWP/BFC et al news release. We have filed for a restraining order to stop the slaughter.


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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