Here is a news release from the Buffalo Field Campaign. Don’t know if the bison were exactly stolen, but there was no public comment when it looks like they should have had one, and whole idea of birth control for bison or any wildlife is controversial.

Ralph Maughan

USDA-APHIS Intends to Sterilize Ecologically Extinct Wildlife


Contacts: Stephany Seay, media coordinator, Buffalo Field Campaign 406-646-0070
Darrell Geist, habitat coordinator, Buffalo Field Campaign 406-646-0070

CORWIN SPRINGS, MT: Without public notice or input, Yellowstone National Park has consigned fifty-three of America’s last wild bison, captured during 2011, to the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) for a population control experiment.  This move contradicts numerous public announcements from Yellowstone officials that all wild bison captured during 2011 would be released.  USDA APHIS plans to use wild bison to experiment with GonaCon™, a chemical immunocontraceptive vaccine, under the highly controversial Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP).

“The public and the buffalo have been absolutely betrayed by this backroom deal,” said Stephany Seay, a spokeswoman with Buffalo Field Campaign, a wild bison advocacy group.  “Yellowstone National Park cannot legally surrender America’s wildlife for harmful experiments on a whim, without any public notice or involvement.”

USDA APHIS received its permit from Yellowstone National Park on May 17, 2011.  IBMP agencies were holding working meetings with the public in attendance on May 17-18 yet there was no public announcementuntil May 26 that a decision had been made.

“The IBMP agencies were directed by Congress to be transparent and yet here they go with a backroom deal that will have significant harmful impacts on the ecological health and evolutionary potential for the last wild population of American buffalo,” Seay said.

Population control was rejected as an alternative in the IBMP Record of Decision and Final Environmental Impact Statement signed in 2000 because environmental impacts would be “too significant to be within the reasonable range of alternatives.”

“The agencies clearly rejected population control because of significant harmful impacts to wild buffalo,” said Darrell Geist, habitat coordinator with Buffalo Field Campaign.  “The wild American bison is ecologically extinct throughout their native range inhabiting less than 1% of their historic range.  By all measures wild buffalo are endangered and not to be treated like ‘pests’ and chemically neutered.”

Buffalo Field Campaign filed Freedom of Information Act requests with USDA APHIS and Yellowstone National Park to divulge records shedding light on their decision to experiment with population control on America’s last wild buffalo.

The Yellowstone bison population includes America’s last continuously wild herds, and is the last population that still follows its migratory instincts. As unique native herbivores that evolved across the North American continent, scientists believe bison can help restore the native grasslands, sagebrush steppes, and prairie ecosystems that are considered to be some of the most endangered habitats in the world.

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 the wild bison. Buffalo Field Campaign 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.


In the Record of Decision and the Final Environmental Impact Statement and Bison Management Plan for the State of Montana and Yellowstone National Park (2000) the agencies considered and rejected population control as an alternative and outlined several “environmental impacts too significant to be within the reasonable range of alternatives”:

•    “… immunocontraception would affect the immune system of bison and potentially make them more susceptible to disease.”
•    “Significant behavioral changes can be expected for all major contraceptive agents currently under investigation (Garrott 1995).”
•    “Contraceptive agents could disrupt family and social bonds and extend or alter breeding and birthing seasons (Garrott 1995).”
•    “Sterilization, if done on a large scale, might have genetic influences on the population by eliminating pre-selected animals from the gene pool.”

“The final environmental impact statement (pp. 56-63) sets out several alternatives that the agencies rejected from in-depth analysis. The alternatives include fencing the perimeters of the park to physically prevent bison from leaving Yellowstone National Park, providing feed to bison to keep them within Yellowstone National Park, relocating bison to other public lands, using birth control to control the size of the bison population, sterilizing bison to prevent the transmission of brucellosis, depopulating the entire herd and replacing it with brucellosis-free bison, using native predators to control the bison population, controlling or eradicating brucellosis in elk, requiring cattle producers to change their operations, allowing natural forces to control the size and movements of the bison herd, and restoring bison to the Great Plains. We agree with the judgment of the EIS team to reject a full analysis of these alternatives. Most of them would not have met the goals of the planning process. Others would have had environmental impacts too significant to be within the reasonable range of alternatives.” Record of Decision, pages 20-21.

GonaCon™ was developed by USDA APHIS to “control populations of over-abundant wildlife species” and has been “tested in many pest species including white-tailed deer, domestic and feral pigs, bison, wild horses, cats, dogs and California ground squirrels.”  GonaCon™ a Versatile GnRH Contraceptive for a Large Variety of Pest Animal Problems, 2004, online.

APHIS web site on GonaCon™ and “overabundant wildlife populations”

The immunocontraceptive agent, GonaCon™, is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a chemical sterilant/hormone, online.

The wild bison of the Yellowstone region are the last population to retain their identity as a wildlife species.  Wild bison are ecologically extinct throughout their native North American range and efforts are underway to gain Endangered Species Act protection for this last continuously wild population.

For more information visit


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About The Author

Ken Cole

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. We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.

6 Responses to Wild American Bison “Stolen” From Yellowstone National Park

  1. MAD says:

    ahhh, the wonderful HUMANE immunocontraceptive catastrophe rears its ugly head in relation to bison now. I guess the fact that other immunocontraceptives that have been around for over 15 yrs (PZP, etc.) have been show to have significant deleterious effects on many different species (horses, white-tailed deer) doesn’t matter if the USDA is pushing it (probably at the behest of livestock associations).

    I never really understood the Humane Society’s rationale for darting animals and injecting a drug that alters their reproductive cycle, alters their natural mating cycles, and affects them chemically/biologically. How exactly is this humane that we are “engineering” these animals because they “interfere” with our activities – which are usually intrusive on THEIR habitats. Personally, I think it’s kinda sick. There have been loads of studies in the last 5-7 yrs showing the nasty side effects of these drugs, yet the USDA or the Humane Society will never admit there is a problem.

    I have a good idea, how about we go into areas that are severely overpopulated with humans and pay some hunters to go around and dart females with immunocontraceptives. This way we could alleviate the stress the humans are putting on the environment and the enjoyment and activities of others, while at the same time allowing some of these trigger-happy “hunters” to get their rocks off. Seems like a win-win to me.

  2. Elk275 says:

    ++I have a good idea, how about we go into areas that are severely overpopulated with humans and pay some hunters to go around and dart females with immunocontraceptives.+

    You said it, I would not want to touch that comment with the longest pole in the forest. What if we paid huntresses to dart males with a sedative, then using that “blade” on a Stockman’s knife turning the male prey into eunuchs. It is easy for situations to reverse themselves.

  3. Nancy says:

    +I have a good idea, how about we go into areas that are severely overpopulated with humans and pay some hunters to go around and dart females with immunocontraceptives. This way we could alleviate the stress the humans are putting on the environment and the enjoyment and activities of others, while at the same time allowing some of these trigger-happy “hunters” to get their rocks off. Seems like a win-win to me+

    Hmmmmm…’re on the right track there MAD. But lets look at the attempts in some areas of the globe that should of been addressing it and pretty much failed:

    • jon says:

      india would be my first stop. Over a billion people in that country. I wouldn’t worry all that much about human overpopulation, but when it’s having devastating effects on non-human populations, something needs to be addressed and something needs to be done if possible.

      • Nancy says:

        Jon – the only non-human populations taken into consideration in India is the “sacred” cow.

        Think Earthings (the video) or one of those other documentaries out there, covered the sad fact that many of those “sacred” cows of India, were being shipped off, in disgusting, deplorable conditions, to countries close by (who don’t hold them in such high esteem) and they were slaughtered for their meat and hides……… Kind of like cattle in this country, in the western states 🙂

  4. Phil says:

    Man, when I got this site a couple minutes ago I thought I was in the wrong place. Anyways: I wonder what these people think a population should be in order to begin managing it?


May 2011


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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