Worry over dead bison found north of Yellowstone Park

Montana is said to be investigating-

Gardiner, MT. Given the frequent stories of wildlife killing and hate that emanate from the Gardiner, Montana area, the latest find of 2 to 4 bison carcasses north of Yellowstone Park is raising worry about more illegal and legal wildlife killing in the area and/or the spread of domestic or wildlife disease.

The bison were found in areas frequented by people, not in any remote backcountry.

The area recently had an unpleasant incident of wolf killing following the placement of domestic sheep almost next to the Park that wildlife supporters said was deliberately done to cause controversy or provoke a wolf attack.  Non-park wolves were soon credited with attacking the sheep.

For years the area has been scene of Yellowstone Park wildlife poaching, bison slaughters, heated controversy over elk numbers (too high or too low), Yellowstone Park wildlife migration routes, and what some see as excessive wolf hunting so as to decimate the population of Park wolves.

The winter just past also saw the first evidence of controversy over a growing Native American bison hunt that left a large number of bison entrails (8000 pounds) that would attract grizzly bears.  They were cleaned up by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The complete story on the recent find of bison carcasses is by Eve Byron of the Independent Record (here reproduced in the Missoulian).





  1. BraveWolf Avatar

    There are alot of ignorant and nasty wildlife haters, anti-government/anarchist morons and extreme religious zealots who live in the Gardiner area. A weird religious sect owns land north of the park that should be part of Yellowstone. It is prime bison habitat. The ranchers should be kicked off of that land. A member of the extremist sect had been or still is an inluential school official there. Many of the kids are taught a horrible disrespect and contempt for wildlife and conservation. It is a sad and screwed up community. There are certainly many good folks there, too, but there are too many cruel and creepy idiots.

  2. Rancher Bob Avatar
    Rancher Bob

    It’s spring and we find some dead bison, one at least in a flooded river. Do we wait for results or do we just start guessing. As Ralph said in Interesting wildlife news, “What bullshit crap like reporters have no knowledge of this story whatsoever. Will they use use the same headline when it happens here in 2014 too?”

    Oh wow…

    1. Robert R Avatar
      Robert R

      RB you hit the nail on the head!!!
      Someone is always accused or convicted so to speak
      Hunters/Ranchers with just the title of an article.

  3. cobackcountry Avatar

    Over the years I have heard many, many theories ad claims that people deliberately did things which would cause a slanted view, or species decline of protected animals.

    I have heard parvo, and mange were introduced by ranchers and/or hunters. I have heard about SSS being preached at meetings of certain elk organizations.

    Nothing is surprising about the possibility of this being deliberate, or sheep being deliberately put in the area to entice wolves.

    I hope we get a cause of death soon.

    1. SaveBears Avatar

      Mange was introduced by the Montana state government in the early part of the 1900’s to specifically kill off wolves, it was not introduced by ranchers/hunters, it was an actual government sanctioned activity.

      1. jon Avatar

        Montana state government? There were no ranchers or hunters working for the Montana state government back in the early part of the 1900s?

        1. Roger Hewitt Avatar
          Roger Hewitt

          Ranchers and hunters are the Montana state government. Stock Associations and sportsmen really run the state. Wildlife conservationists are going up against that tradition. It is the same in WY and ID.

          1. SaveBears Avatar

            Hm, Glad to see Roger from Great Falls is commenting, always make for a lively time!

          2. Ida Lupine Avatar
            Ida Lupine


      2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
        Ralph Maughan

        This has come up many times (the Montana mange story) since wolves were reintroduced.

        It is true, but I don’t know how the mange was spread by the government of Montana — what agency, method of infection, etc.

        1. Robert R Avatar
          Robert R

          Ralph it’s really simple, trap an animal infect it with what ever (mange/parvovirus) and turn the infected animal back into the general population.
          Bait stations can also be used for both parvovirus and mange.

          1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
            Ralph Maughan

            Robert R

            Yes, that is probably how it was done, and, of course, people worry that someone will do that other wildlife, though it is the livestock industry that is most vulnerable to this kind of crime.

        2. Louise Kane Avatar

          Think about deliberately infecting a population of animals with a terrible disease and what that means. Its disturbing on so many levels. A debate about how it was done is less important then about rectifying the horrible actions that are taken by state and federal officials and agencies, and that are legal.

          1. JB Avatar


            That all depends upon your perspective–and the purpose of infecting wildlife. There is a project going right now that is attempting to eradicate mosquitoes in Malay by “infecting” the population with a “suicide gene”. The purpose is to rid the area of terrible diseases such as dengue fever. A number of scientists are concerned about this (and I suspect some ethicists well). But not a lot of political opposition to getting rid of mosquitoes and the terrible diseases they carry.

            1. Mark L Avatar
              Mark L

              JB says,
              “There is a project going right now that is attempting to eradicate mosquitoes in Malay by “infecting” the population with a “suicide gene”. The purpose is to rid the area of terrible diseases such as dengue fever. A number of scientists are concerned about this (and I suspect some ethicists well). But not a lot of political opposition to getting rid of mosquitoes and the terrible diseases they carry.”
              These approaches bother me more (ethically) because they are not even addressing the ‘real’ vector that is actually doing the infecting, just the unfortunate carrier that happens to use humans to feed it’s females, and has that disease in it’s gut. This is a lot like blaming wolves, (et al.) for carrying mange, after they have been infected purposely.

          2. Immer Treue Avatar
            Immer Treue

            I believe we did this to a group of African Americans not too long ago with syphilis. Not to mention some of the awful stuff that went on during WWII.

            1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
              Ralph Maughan

              I have read about the Tuskegee syphilis study. It was morally reprehensible, but the men were not infected by those doing the study. The uproar was that the men were not given the cure (penicillin) once it was invented and available to the public. They just continued to study them until they died with no intervention or information about the cure given to them.

              1. Immer Treue Avatar
                Immer Treue
      3. cobackcountry Avatar

        It doesn’t live that long without a host (10 days-ish).

        But that is kind of the point….you can count on a lot of speculation regarding the matter. I would like the necropsy results.

        1. cobackcountry Avatar

          Mange needs a host for a meal every 10 days. Introduced or not…it doesn’t mean it wasn’t ‘reintroduced’.

          1. SaveBears Avatar

            There is no current evidence to show that it has been reintroduced, when I worked at FWP we studied it extensively.

        2. SaveBears Avatar

          The USFWS has explained how it has survived to this day, when I was going to grad school, we actually studied the mange introduction in the state of Montana, it has been passed through the generations through several different types of animals.

  4. SaveBears Avatar

    I didn’t say, that ranchers didn’t work for the government in the early part of the century, I said, it was introduced by the government, it was a sanctioned activity, it went hand in hand with the bounty program

    “Sarcoptic mange is distributed world wide, exhibits little host specificity, and transfers readily among a variety of hosts. It is probably the most significant ectoparasite (mites) of wolves. Based on circumstantial evidence some researchers believe mange is an important regulating factor in wild canid populations. There is a long history of mange or “mange-like” conditions in free-ranging canids in N. America. Interestingly as early as 1909, mange was deliberately introduced into Montana when experimentally infested coyotes and wolves were released in an attempt to control free-ranging canids. This may have been the source of mange on wild canids in western Canada. Mange is transferred to new hosts by direct contact or by using rubs or rubbing posts contaminated with mites. It can cause death, mainly through the animal’s inability to regulate heat loss or by loss of condition and skin lesions that contribute to infection. Animals can recover. Infested wolves can have lower weight and fat deposits and loss of condition is more marked among pups. Wildlife Services reports indicate that coyotes with mange are common in this area of Wyoming were the Absaroka pack lives. Another rancher reported just seeing a coyote with manage in the Paradise Valley, MT. Mange in coyotes from the Salmon, ID area also reported.”


    1. cobackcountry Avatar

      We have a mange issue in coyotes here in Colorado. I saw 4 different mangy ‘yotes last week. It is also the time of year where females are with pups in dens a lot. I thought about offering to shoot them, so it wouldn’t spread too much further. But I’d have to know there were no pups.

      Before anyone gets enraged…. It would be more humane than watching them die. I have seen it, it is ugly.

      1. Louise Kane Avatar

        I’d have to agree with you in this one instance. It would be a more humane death. I wonder who could study biology and actually infect a living animal with this disease. A hard heart for sure and a fckd up system creating more heartless followers with the state working hard to justify their terrible policies, as “management”. This country has made life a living hell for most living creatures. I find it heartbreaking, discouraging and demoralizing.

    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      It was a very primitive kind of biological control and as has happened many times, mange hardly stopped at the target.

  5. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    There is a long history of retaliatory terrorism from groups that don’t like what they feel is government interference. But to be fair, we’ll have to wait to see what the evidence says when it comes back. Even today, people are told: ‘Don’t make them retaliate’ and ‘Let them get it out of their system’.

  6. Ken Cole Avatar

    The fact of the matter is that domestic sheep do not belong in Gardiner or Jardine. The risk that they could come into contact with bighorn sheep, bison, wolves or grizzlies is way too high. If disease transmission were to occur it could impact three different species, bighorn sheep, bison, and mountain goats. This could be devastating to wildlife throughout the area. The act of one selfish individual can have a big impact.

  7. BraveWolf Avatar

    Ralph, This sounds like European American criminal white trash to me. It is amazing that this depraved and evil behavior still continues in the United States of Greed & Cruelty. BW

  8. CodyCoyote Avatar

    Brucellosis was ” introduced” to the Yellowstone wild herds, too. The Brucella abortus bacterium is not native to North America. The early cattle barons brought the bug all the way from central Asia and western Europe to the New World via their alien exotic cattle. In its past life brucellosis in humans was called ” Malta Fever” and infected the British Army in the 1850’s during the Crimean War, for instance. Those hopelessly romanticized cattle drives from Chihuahua and Texas to Wyoming and Montana in the 1880’s were the vector of transmission to the GYE. The cynic in me requires mentioning that the US Air Force weaponized brucellosis as a germ warfare agent in the mid-1950’s.

    Perhaps a little historical perspective wold nudge Montana into doing some serious proactive conservation on the Yellowstone buffer zones. Can the Montana state vet’s office and FWP possibly be shamed enough to do the right thing ? We already know the Montana Stockgrowers cannot be branded with their own hot smoking irons of imported diseases and sense of landed aristocracy in blue jeans and Stetsons.

    What I would like to see is a GIS map overlay that shows the private and publically grazed lands around Yellowstone by domestic livestock species, and the domain and winter range of migrating Yellowstone wildlife. Where are the domestic sheep and cattle and where are the migrations of bison and elk ? Two years ago a domestic Bison on the Antler’s Ranch SW of Meeteetse acquired brucellosis from migrating Yellowstone or Thorofare elk who travelled 75 linear miles across four divides and three watersheds. This kind of easily understood graphical information disseminated to the public might be useful in removing the obstruction and obfuscation from underneath those Stetsons…

    Let’s start with Gardiner MT and the so-called Paradise Valley.

  9. Richie G. Avatar
    Richie G.

    I hope most people take a wait and see attitude, I believe this is best for all the residents of the area.

  10. Rancher Bob Avatar
    Rancher Bob

    Local news reports say disease not a issue, more test results due, seems broken ribs pelvis were issues along with found in flooding river.


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.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan