Press release


Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign, 406-640-0109,


Yellowstone National Park. Gardiner Basin, MT.  Since Wednesday an estimated 200 of America’s last wild, migratory buffalo have been crammed into tribal stock trailers at Yellowstone National Park’s Stephens Creek bison trap.  The bison have been taken to tribal slaughter facilities by tribal entities affiliated with the controversial Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP).  The two tribal affiliates shipping bison to slaughter for the second year in a row are the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the federally chartered InterTribal Buffalo Council.

An estimated 250 wild bison have so far been captured inside Yellowstone’s trap since last Thursday.  Fifty-five buffalo remain inside the trap and will likely be sent to slaughter on Monday morning.

Buffalo Field Campaign and Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program have filed an emergency rule making petition and lawsuit in an attempt to stop the slaughter.

“It is unthinkable and profoundly incongruent that Yellowstone National Park and Native Americans would participate in the brutal abuse and slaughter of the only wild population of buffalo remaining in this country,” said Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) spokeswoman Stephany Seay.  “You think to yourself that this can’t possibly be happening, but the shocking reality is that those who should be the fiercest champions and strongest allies for the buffalo are instead betraying them by taking the lead in the livestock industry’s culture of death.”

Additionally, more than 100 bison have been killed by Montana and tribal hunters along Yellowstone National Park’s boundary, and that number is likely to increase significantly over the weekend.

On Tuesday at least five wild buffalo were transferred from Yellowstone’s trap to a USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service facility, where they will join other captive wild buffalo being used in a highly controversial birth control experiment with the chemical pesticide GonaCon.

The 250 capture number is an estimate based on counts taken at long distance by Buffalo Field Campaign.  Only portions of the trap are visible from a great distance.  Yellowstone initiates an extreme public access closure expanding seven miles around the Stephens Creek trap, making it nearly impossible for the public to observe government operations.  Exact capture and slaughter numbers are unknown because, for the second year in a row, Yellowstone officials refuse to be open with the public about their bison operations, stating they will only give out reports every two weeks.  Buffalo Field Campaign has requested media tours of the Stephens Creek trap numerous times but those requests have not been granted.

“I feel really disappointed with the Park Service because they are working for the wrong team and they are hiding from the public,” said Maria Farinacci, volunteer with Buffalo Field Campaign.  “Park Service agents work for the Park because they want to have a secure life, have a good job, probably to work with wildlife, but these individuals are making the wrong choice, doing this work for the interests of Montana’s livestock industry, not for the Park or the public and certainly not for wild buffalo.  The public has no voice when the Park Service does that.”

Even a few miles away from the trap, Buffalo Field Campaign volunteers documenting Wednesday morning’s operation were uniquely positioned to get some detailed footage and were successful in observing the buffalo as they were loaded onto stock trailers each morning, enabling us to get an very close count.

“Yellowstone can try to hide their shameful crimes, but we are on the ground in the field, always watching,” said Seay.  “Often this vigilance really pays off, as it did today, but that doesn’t excuse Yellowstone’s secrecy.  Yellowstone owes it to the public they serve to fully disclose what they are doing in a timely manner and we will continue to press them to do so.”

Yellowstone and other IBMP cohorts intend to kill at least 900 of Yellowstone’s wild buffalo this year through hunting and slaughter.  IBMP affiliates are no longer using the weak excuse of brucellosis to commit unjustifiable actions, but have now shifted their argument to “population control.” They aim to reduce the most important bison population in the world to a mere 3,000 animals, due to the intolerance of Montana’s livestock industry, intolerance that is codified in the statute: MCA 81-2-120, a law crafted by the livestock industry that needs to be repealed.  The 3,000 population cap is an arbitrary number based on livestock industry politics, not on science or carrying capacity.  Yellowstone’s own bison carrying capacity study indicates that the Park alone can sustain upwards of 6,200 buffalo, while there are tens of millions of acres of public lands surrounding the Park.

“The tourists that flock to Yellowstone National Park in the summer would be horrified if they saw what was happening to the buffalo during the winter and spring,” said Pat Richardson, a coordinator with Buffalo Field Campaign.

The Yellowstone buffalo are America’s last wild, migratory herds and the most important bison population that exists. They are the last to identify as a wildlife species and ecologically extinct throughout their native range. They’ve been added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List for being “threatened with near extinction,” and even Montana designates the species “in greatest conservation need” with conditions “making [bison] vulnerable to global extinction.”

A petition to list the Yellowstone bison under the Endangered Species Act was filed by Buffalo Field Campaign and Western Watersheds Project in November 2014.

“Yellowstone National Park has been entrusted by the American people as stewards of this country’s last wild buffalo,” said David Martin, coordinator with Buffalo Field Campaign. “Stewards are supposed to protect and defend, not abuse and slaughter, so we can no longer trust the Park Service to do the right thing.”

West Yellowstone and Gardiner, Montana-based Buffalo Field Campaign is a non-profit public interest organization founded in 1997 to protect the natural habitat of wild migratory buffalo and native wildlife, stop the slaughter of America’s last wild buffalo and advocate for their lasting protection, and work with people of all nations to honor the sacredness of wild bison.


About The Author

Ralph Maughan

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.

81 Responses to Yellowstone Park bison are being sent to slaughter

  1. Dominique says:

    NO! I can’t describe how heartbreaking this is, and it just doesn’t make sense why we can’t have a decent and compassionate government structure. As much as I ever hope that the Park Service, BLM and F&W will become the stewards for the animals for the people, they are not! It is beyond clear who they serve and for what reasons. Please, how can we stop this? Sharing…

  2. Amre says:

    It’s nothing but a slaughter. When will the government start working for the people?

  3. Trish Marie says:

    I wrote Dan Wenk, Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park. At least one friend I know of wrote as well (and maybe more). To no avail it seems. Still, one can’t give up. I’ll write again!

  4. Linda Horn says:

    Shameful! The DOI no longer deserves to have a bison as its logo. The new design should be oil & gas wells and mines as far as the eye can see – surrounded by cattle and sheep!

    • Gary Humbard says:

      Exactly Linda. We teach our sons and daughters to not be hypocrites and to be good stewards of the land, and here is Yellowstone NP who’s mission is to maintain a natural ecosystem (they even brought back wolves who were a missing species) is rounding up the iconic symbol of the DOI inside the park to be slaughtered like cattle.

      The ultimate solution is to expand the habitat adjacent to the park where bison can roam without being gunned down or taken to slaughter and to expand the quarantine facilities so more bruceollosis free bison can return to more of their historic habitat.

      Many times I read articles such as the above that condemn the action of a government agency, but do not provide reasonable solutions. Certainly, CO’s can purchase federal grazing allotment permits from ranchers and permanently remove the livestock that are conflicting with bison and I do financially support just such an organization.

      Working for a government agency my entire career, I can tell you when specific information and alternative solutions (substantive comments) were provided, agency officials took notice and responded to them. Right or wrong, general comments and emotions are not “substantive” in nature and are rarely responded to. Agencies are mandated to comply with laws and policies which are established using best available science, along with social, economical and political factors. I will do my homework and send a letter to Yellowstone NP with possible solutions to this bison slaughter.

      • Ida Lupine says:


        But I will say that a lot of us are not qualified to provide reasonable solutions, and we look to our experts, politicians and appointees for that, to represent everyone’s best interests, not just ranchers’. There’s very little we can say that will be taken seriously. Rounding up bison in the park, which is supposed to be left alone, is an atrocious violation of the public trust, and a big disappointment.

  5. ramses09 says:


  6. Rich says:

    The Montana cattlemen have turned the Park into a big feed lot where the bison are produced and then harvested. That isn’t the mission of the Park but that is the way it is being mis-managed and the taxpayers are funding it.

    BTW, Dan Wenk is missing in action and won’t return to his post until March after the deed is done. No blood on his hands. Instead call and ask to speak to the assistant supervisor. You will get the run-around but call anyway and express your outrage. Or write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper to let the world know about this needless travesty.

  7. monty says:

    Please someone explain, what is the best estimate of Yellowstone’s (2.2 million acres) bison carrying capacity. Is this an unusually heavy snow year? As terrible as this may sound, I rather have some bison killed in the park to benefit the grizzly. What do they do with the “surplus” bison in Jackson Hole?

  8. monty says:

    Another question about the bison in YNP. Prior to this recent “killing fields” what did the park do with “surplus bison” 20 or so years ago?

    • W. Hong says:

      I read a book about this and it said, they have been killing them for over 20 years now.

    • Barb Rupers says:

      Perhaps it is time to bring up Bob Jackson’s post from a few years back and the excellent comments that followed.

    • Carrying capacity in places like Yellowstone are based on how many animals of a certain species can survive during the winter without damaging the range. It is pretty obvious that Yellowstone does not have enough winter range for all of the Bison. The hungry Bison are trying to migrate out of the park to find food.
      Unless some one is going to buy out the ranches in the Paradise Valley below Yankee Jim Canyon for Bison winter range, the Bison numbers will have to be reduced. It isn’t pretty, but unless you are willing to shoot them earlier in the year for wolf and grizzly food or allow the various tribes to hunt them in the park, hauling them off to slaughter seems to be the only solution.

      • Susan Armstrong says:

        At least on the surface, shooting them on their range employing highly experienced shooters would seem a more humane death for these powerful wild bovids than penning them and trailering them to a slaughterhouse. (I’m not saying I like either option – but if it came down to a choice between one or the other…)

        • Ida Lupines says:

          Unfortunately, in the way mankind has messed up nature – there may be times when some lethal ‘management’ may have to be necessary. But it’s too much of the go-to solution (easiest, I guess), and keeping animal populations at genetically threatened bare minimums is totally unacceptable.

          There should be migratory corridors like Y2Y, and energy development should be kept more in check.

        • Ida Lupines says:

          At least on the surface, shooting them on their range employing highly experienced shooters would seem a more humane death for these powerful wild bovids than penning them and trailering them to a slaughterhouse. (I’m not saying I like either option – but if it came down to a choice between one or the other…)

          It all sounds rather sadistic, doesn’t it. What kind of people do this and are not moved by the pain and misery they see? “We were only following orders” I guess.

          Animals may have more capacity for empathy than we do. I recall a study where chimpanzees or something would rather forgo a meal than watch their fellow chimpanzees suffer pain. The humans did as they were ordered to do and let their fellow humans suffer?

          I’ll have to find it – it’s been posted here.

          • Ida Lupines says:

            And by this comment, I meant I would very, very reluctantly agree that shooting is a far more preferable and humane option than the horror of penning them and trucking fearful animals to a death campslaughterhouse.

            • Susan Armstrong says:

              Thank you for understanding the point I was making.

              As for your evocation of Nazis: anybody who harshly criticizes people who slaughter animals is bound to be asked, sooner or later, if she herself eats meat…

              • Ida Lupines says:

                I don’t eat red meat or pork, and obviously no fur and leather. I do eat seafood, some chicken and eggs and dairy, although I think the vegan milks are great, even on cereal. I limit cosmetic use because I should be accepted for how I really look, and to those not tested on animals. And I search for palm oil in products like a supersleuth. That is hard work.

                I try to spend my money at companies that have good animal welfare policies – for example Chipotle has dropped pork products from their menu entirely until suppliers provide better animal welfare, and of course a companies human rights record too. Certain types of foods are light on the meat and high on vegetables anyway, as most cultures could not afford a lot of meat. It’s the best way anyway, I think.

                I’d like to phase out animal products entirely. Although even decreasing the amount of meat this country eats generally would have a tremendous effect on wildlife welfare, wildlands health and climate change.

      • Dominique says:

        Oh for gods sake, what narcissistic reasoning. The Bison don’t understand that there are lines drawn, they are used to migrating outside the perimeters that man has decided for them. In no way is this natural environment for them. This is an insanely callous and apathetic attitude towards wildlife by the very people in positions held in trust by the people to take care of our wildlife. This lack of respect and understanding is not acceptable. Humans have encroached on their territory and have unbalanced the eco-system for all wildlife, the least we can do with the small amount of wildlife we have left is care for them, not kill them. If the amount of area we have given them doesn’t sustain them through the winter than give them more of the range, or if you have to have that land for the ugly ranchers or 1% running their cattle and oil than those private interest groups can kick down a few bails of hay to help them through the winter. Your beliefs and determination of killing the Bison because they don’t fit into this man-made plan of destruction is not reasonable for a progressive society. Tired of hearing these propagandized statements to necessitate killing innocent animals, just sick of it!

        • Susan Armstrong says:

          This is one reason I rarely post in this forum: it can be difficult to post a NON-emotional comment without being accused of heartlessness.

          Dominique – It appears you are responding to my comment, ergo you are accusing me of being “insanely callous and apathetic” and “determined to kill the Bison”.

          What part of “I’m not saying I like either option” didn’t you understand?

          Thanks for providing an example of the kind of knee jerk accusatory attack that Gary Humbard discreetly referred to in his comment above.

          I especially can’t work out how my comment is “narcissistic”; you’ve got me scratching my head there.

          • Dominique says:

            Susan, I was not responding to you, my comment was meant to respond to Larry Thorngren, although if you feel the need to be defensive over your permissive comment, I understand..and for anyone that needs to know, I am a Vegan!

            • Joanne Favazza says:

              I’m with ya, Dominique.

              Don’t you just love it when you express justifiable anger about an inexcusable atrocity and you get labeled as “emotional?”

              I guess the abolitionists, women’s suffragists, civil rights activists, etc. were “emotional” too when they rightly fought against social injustices and immoral laws.

      • Ida Lupines says:

        The only problem with line of logic is that as our species’ population increases, the ‘carrying capacity’ of other species goes down. We take their carrying capacity away from them. A little ’boutique’ population of bison and wolves for the tourists is patronizing and unacceptable.

        Just a comment also on the concept of anthropomorphism also – (not to criticize). I’m sure these animals know and feel fear. We don’t allow for the sentience of other creatures because it would call our hierarchy into question – and there are human beings who are incapable of the emotions we attribute so strongly to humanity. We can’t even live up to our own ideal.

        • Susan Armstrong says:

          @Ida you’re quite right that we do not like to admit the sentience of other creatures. Especially those that we like/need to kill/use.

          We humans have advanced capacity for empathy – and we also (some of us) kill our fellow animals. (our fellow man too – but that’s outside the scope of this forum)

          It’s a very interesting topic from an evolutionary standpoint.

          • Ida Lupines says:

            Yes. In fact we’ve treated our fellow man in shocking ways over the course of human history.

      • Ida Lupines says:

        Why can’t we grant them a little more room to migrate? There’s my attempt at a suggestion – and this usually causes a furor by the ‘we don’t want gov’t’ crowd. There’s even legislation being proposed against future national parks?

        I’m confused by the fact that bison are under an utter clampdown (despite years of testing negative for brucellosis) – while elk, who actually do carry brucellosis, don’t seem to cause the same kind of fear in ranchers, and the fact that hunters want them seems to be enough to offset the threat to ranchers. Hunters can’t remove brucellosis. Hunters have sued the USF&W for restricting elk, and the USF&W settled out of court? Couldn’t try harder?

        It’s a big, glaring discrepancy that needs to be answered. These are our last remaining original bison, and I and others do not want them destroyed like this. Doesn’t that mean anything? We want non-lethal measures, something that requires a little more creativity by those entrusted to oversee our lands and wildlife than just killing?

        • Ida Lupines says:

          And I should say that I love both species and want them both protected, both are treated rather shittily.

      • Elk375 says:

        Larry, I have not always agreed with your thoughts on wildlife but you understand the carrying capacity for bison in Yellowstone and the difficulties of migration and boundaries that the northern herd has and will encounter.

        ++Unless some one is going to buy out the ranches in the Paradise Valley below Yankee Jim Canyon for Bison winter range, the Bison numbers will have to be reduced++

        Most of the land in Paradise Valley has been subdivided into 20 tracts. There appears to be large tracts of undeveloped land but that land has been subdivided with there own tax parcel number and is worth between $3,000 to $10,000 an acre depending upon location and amenities.

        People are going to have to understand that the park boundary is the limiting factor for bison in the northern herd. There is public land but the public land is not good bison winter range nor will the bison stay on the limited public land.

        • Ed Loosli says:

          “Since the evolution of a substantially larger bison conservation area outside of YNP is the prerogative of the states in the Greater Yellowstone area, the prevailing social carrying capacity of Yellowstone bison is perhaps the most limiting (Plumb et al.2009).”

          I think the time has come for an intense effort to acquire by purchase from willing sellers or through Environmental Easements key bison habitat within the Madison River valley and the Yellowstone River valley, including Paradise Valley. And, as Gary Humbard suggests buying out grazing allotments where bison (and elk, bears and wolves) are in conflict with privately owned cattle on the National Forest lands surrounding Yellowstone would also be a great step forward.

        • Nancy says:

          “People are going to have to understand that the park boundary is the limiting factor for bison in the northern herd. There is public land but the public land is not good bison winter range nor will the bison stay on the limited public land”

          Agree Elk and from years of previous posts (and comments) there never seems to be any real clear way forward that comes close to addressing this issue:

          Buyouts of PL allotments might help but not if the allotments are in areas that do little good in wintertime.

          Transplanting seems like a great idea especially for areas where they could establish in what’s left of wilderness areas they once roamed.

          Shouldn’t and doesn’t need to be that hard to address, once hometown politics/politicians, are removed from the equation.

          • Ed Loosli says:

            Why are you ignoring the option to save bison and their habitat by buying from willing sellers direct land purchase and conservation-easements? Every cattle ranch in bison wintering habitat should be bought for conservation purposes, and conservation-easements can also be bought and placed on key bison wintering lands. This will take time and effort, but it will be worth the time and money.

            • Nancy says:

              Not ignoring Ed. Just guessing from where you sit, its an easy task?

              • Ed Loosli says:

                I never said protecting bison wintering grounds would be easy. My exact words were, “This will take time and effort, but it will be worth the time and money.” Fortunately, there are very wealthy people in the U.S. who do not like cattle and sheep everywhere and would actually prefer wildlife on their lands – they are called “conservation buyers”. Also, there are large parcels in the Yellowstone River valley that already do not have livestock on them, and only require permission from the owners to host bison.

      • Ida Lupine says:

        Carrying capacity in places like Yellowstone are based on how many animals of a certain species can survive during the winter without damaging the range. It is pretty obvious that Yellowstone does not have enough winter range for all of the Bison. The hungry Bison are trying to migrate out of the park to find food.

        Not to direct this post to you specifically Larry, but I have to ask the obvious:

        And why is their carrying capacity so limited, while humans reproduce without restraint? Why continue this endless, pointless cycle? How to we propose to handle smaller and smaller carrying capacities on when we drive/confine wildlife to smaller and smaller ranges? I’m curious to see how this will go with the sage grouse too; too stingy to even spare a 1/4 of a mile extra range for them in one area, I thought I read somewhere? And then, when the opportunity arose, erase it altogether by rider! Sure, the states can do a great job managing wildlife – right out of existence! It is not ‘their’ wildlife, it is the nation’s, even though personally I don’t think they belong to anyone but themselves. I feel sad for the tribes involved in this also, they’ve been marginalized and corralled to reservations in much the same way – and their cultures not respected and taken away from them. Modern Native Americans don’t always know their own language. There’s a to-do going on in Navajo Country about should their leader be fluent in their language. Yes he or she should. So it’s no surprise that the bison and wolves are being treated the way they are, it’s not wrong in the eyes of the dominant culture, and some have adopted that thinking also, IMO. I thank those who are strong enough to value their own culture over materialism and greed. I wonder if some of them are the Elizabeth Warren sort of cultural appropriators when it is convenient for them.

        Why not let the bison do what they were made to do, which is migrate in search of food? Confining them to a relatively small area and killing them when they leave it seems bizarre, when we know that YNP can’t support them. Why not expand the range a bit for all wildlife?

        • skyrim says:

          Excellent points Ida…

        • Ida Lupine says:

          Oops, sorry for the typos today. Should read:

          How do we propose to handle smaller and smaller carrying capacities when we drive/confine wildlife to smaller and smaller ranges? We can’t keep using the excuse that the animals are ‘over their carrying capacity’.

    • Kathleen says:

      From a 2004 article:

      “Though limited sport hunting was allowed on bison leaving the park as far back as 1953, hunts tried in recent years have been met with angry public protest. The worst fallout came in the winter of 1988-89, when Montana allowed hunt-ers to shoot hundreds of bison exiting the park, the largest buffalo hunt since the late 19th century. The Yellowstone fires the previous fall, along with deep snows and cold, forced a mass exodus of more than 3,000 bison from Yellowstone. Reporters from national TV news networks as well as publications such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal descended on the park to cover the spectacle of hunters lining up to shoot the emerging bison. “A Firing Squad for Buffalo: Montana-Style Hunting” read a Newsweek headline over the picture of a grinning hunter and his blood-drenched trophy. An article in Time referred to the hunt as a “public relations disaster.” Protesters attacked hunters with ski poles, and TV cameras filmed hunters ap-proaching to within 20 feet of bison before firing point blank at the grazing animals. Said one hunter quoted in People: “This is the most exciting hunt of my life!”
      It was not hunting’s finest hour.”

      • Kathleen says:

        This was in response to Monty’s question:
        Another question about the bison in YNP. Prior to this recent “killing fields” what did the park do with “surplus bison” 20 or so years ago?

  9. Yvette says:

    Anthropomorphism is a bad word in the scientific world and with many people. It’s one of those things where I think we err often. It’s likely there is a lot more going on in the minds of many species than we humans give then credit. The wonderful thing with science is researchers continue to build on a body of knowledge. I think we will eventually show that many species know, feel and understand much more than we currently believe they know. It’s common knowledge now that elephants visit the bones of dead relatives and mourn; we know non-human animals suffer PTSD; we’ve seen dolphins and other species mourn the loss of an infant. Why not buffalo?

    I found the link on facebook and thought it intriguing. Maybe there is a degree of anthropomorphism in the tone. I don’t know, but I believe there is a strong possibility they got it right. Given what is now happening in Yellowstone it’s a good time to look back a couple of years.

    • Susan Armstrong says:

      At least on the surface, shooting them on their range employing highly experienced shooters would seem a more humane death for these powerful wild bovids than penning them and trailering them to a slaughterhouse. (I’m not saying I like either option – but if it came down to a choice between one or the other…)

    • Susan Armstrong says:

      (Yvette, this is a general comment, not aimed at you personally…)

      The problem with anthropomorphism – well, one problem – is that it leads people to care only about species to which we can (correctly or incorrectly) attribute human-like emotions.

      In our society we learn to “love animals” – but do we learn to respect species that we do not love? To have a respectful interest in them?

      Animals shouldn’t have to be like us to warrant our respect and concern for their survival as a species and their individual well-being in the face of human influence.

  10. Susan Armstrong says:

    Sorry for the double post. I intended to reply to Larry Thorngren’s comment.

  11. Ed Loosli says:

    Gee, a lot of folks on here have bought hook line and sinker the totally arbitrary number of bison (4,500 or whatever it is) that Yellowstone can support before they need to be “removed”. This number has nothing to do with science or the carrying capacity of Yellowstone Nat. Park or the surrounding Nat. Forests of Yellowstone Nat. Park. This number was made up years ago by the local cattle industry and the Nat. Park Service is just bowing down to the cattlemen in accepting it, just as the State of Montana is also doing.

    The Nat. Park Service admits that the bison carrying capacity is over 6,000 and they also admit that they are participating in the bison slaughter to assist the local cattle industry. Science and expanding native bison numbers are the farthest thing from the Yellowstone Nat. Park Supervisor’s mind – and Yes, he should be “removed” from his lofty position.

  12. Dominique says:

    Exactly Ed, they make up all their junk “science facts”, always, because a non biased wildlife biologist would manage our wildlife completely different, and this is what we need, we need to get the “good ol boyz” out!

  13. Kathleen says:

    Dear Americans:

    You’re busy, I know. You’re busy working and playing and doing a million crazy, diverse things that Americans do in our big, crazy, diverse country. That’s just who we are, and that’s what makes us awesome.

    But right now, I’m going to cherry-pick a few things we share. We’re nuts about wildlife–amiright?!? In 2011, a whopping 71.8 million of us–that was 30% of the U.S. adult population–identified as dedicated wildlife watchers in a once-every-five-years national Census survey. We spent a bundle–$54.9 billion–on wildlife watching that year.

    According to the same report, 12.3 million of us visited parks and other natural areas to view wildlife (pg. 36). And in 2012, a National Parks Conservation Association poll found that “95 percent of voters see protecting and supporting the National Parks as an appropriate role for the federal government.” In one survey question, protecting natural habitats, plants and wildlife was ranked the top value of six possibilities.

    And we walk the talk–take Yellowstone, for example. Visitation topped 3 million for the eighth straight year in 2014, up 10.21% from 2013. Many visitors are drawn to the largest concentration of wildlife in the lower 48 states–to wolves, elk, and bighorns. To bears, eagles, and pronghorn. To the only place on earth where a wild bison herd has survived continuously since prehistoric times!

    That’s why what’s happening in Yellowstone National Park right now–even as I type this and you read it–is so awful. So incongruously terrible.

  14. monty says:

    When Forbs died his son sold the Gardner ranch to that church group. What a missed opportunity. To all who answered my questions thanks. Did I miss the answer to my question about what they do with the surplus bison in Jackson Hole? Maybe I missed the response, I will check again.

  15. monty says:

    Barb Rupers: The Bob Jackson article and comments knocked my socks off 11111111111111111

    • Ida Lupine says:

      Yes, a very courageous man.

      For the public, I ask you to question the Park on these culpabilities. In fact question my statements. It is the best way to come up with personal conviction. Your questions means substantiating facts are disclosed.

      Where and how do we start?

  16. Ed Loosli says:

    Barb Rupers:
    Yes, thank you for the editorial by Bob Jackson…Even though it was written seven years ago, sadly, it could have been written today.

  17. I have been visiting Yellowstone since 1953. I can remember when the bison(much smaller numbers than exist today) were herded way back up the Lamar valley by rangers on horseback all summer. The grass out in front of the Buffalo ranch in the Lamar Valley was saved for winter grazing.
    The elk were shot by park sharpshooters to keep their numbers under 6,000. When the public protested about the elk being killed, the park allowed the elk to increase to 20,000 which damaged the range, killed most of the aspen and highlined juniper trees throughout the park as high as a hungry elk could reach.
    The introduction of elk eating wolves solved the overpopulation of elk and now the bison are overpopulated and need to be controlled. They cannot be stockpiled!!!!
    In the past various tribes hunted the park and kept the bison numbers in check. During harsh winters, the bison surely migrated as far as Livingston or beyond.
    The people that established the park boundaries had no idea as to where the elk and bison spent the winter.
    No one is herding the bison down to the pens where they are being captured and sent to slaughter. They are coming there on their own four feet. They are out of food and can’t migrate out of the park. They ate all the grass in the Lamar Valley and in the Slough Creek area during the summer and fall.
    There is a bison proof metal guard across the highway above Yankee Jim Canyon and it keeps the bison from moving downstream to the ranches below the canyon.
    All of the available public winter range below Gardiner to Yankee Jim is grazed down to the dirt. Drive down below the high school to the Royal Teton Ranch and take a look!! There is no grass left!!!!!
    I would rather the tribes get to use the bison than have them starve to death while they cause more damage to the winter range.

    • Ed Loosli says:

      Larry Thorngren:
      you wrote: “All of the available public winter range below Gardiner to Yankee Jim is grazed down to the dirt. Drive down below the high school to the Royal Teton Ranch and take a look!! There is no grass left!!!!!”

      Are you saying that our public land managers have allowed private cattle ranchers to over- graze this bison winter range down to dirt?? This is an excellent example of why cattle (and domestic sheep) have to be permanently removed from our public lands when they are in conflict with the needs of native wildlife.

      • Elk375 says:

        Ed this is Yellowstone Park and cattle are not allowed to graze in the park. It is not cattle that grazed the grass down but an over population of bison.

        You are one of the most ill informed persons on this forum.

      • Ed- I am talking about winter range on park lands and on the small amount of forest service land that can be reached by bison. I am not sure that there are any cattle grazing on this range.
        Most of the steep land below Gardiner is more suitable for Bighorn sheep than bison. National Park land below Gardiner has been damaged by over grazing for many years. The park service is trying to re establish native grasses to the damaged area, but is having trouble with various weeds and introduced crested wheat grass. The park has fenced off some large parcels and they are trying to get some native grasses started again. Tumble weeds and a small introduced mustard weed are giving them a lot of trouble. The weed population explodes wherever the grass is overgrazed and the ground is plowed up by the hooves of bison and elk. The pronghorns can eat the weeds and are doing better than the large grazers.
        I stopped at the park headquarters and spent some time with the man in charge of trying to get native grasses re-established this fall and he explained a lot of what they were trying to do.

        • Ed Loosli says:

          Larry Thorngren (and Elk):
          When you wrote: “All of the available public winter range below Gardiner to Yankee Jim is grazed down to the dirt”, it is my understanding that Gardiner to Yankee Jim canyon is outside Yellowstone Nat. Park, not inside it. Is this correct or not? So, when you were talking about this public winter range I did not think you were talking about inside Yellowstone NP. Thanks for clarifying what you meant.

          • Ed- Much of the park land downstream from the Gardiner high school on that same side of the Yellowstone River was at one time private ranchland. The park acquired the some of the land in the 1940s, The rest was owned by Forbes
            who sold it to the Church Universal Triumphant. The church named their ranch The Royal Teton Ranch and they still own most of it. Locals call it the CUT ranch. They try to keep the wildlife off of their property, but deer and pronghorns get through their fences on a regular basis.
            The ranch lands acquired by the park service had been stripped of sage and other native vegetation,plowed,leveled and irrigated. The natural rocks had been hauled off and dumped somewhere.
            In the 1950s well meaning park administrators planted crested wheatgrass(a non native species) on the property which, along with overgrazing by elk, made it even harder for any native plants to re-establish themselves. The park has fenced off several hundred acres and have planted it with various native grasses and forbes in an experiment to see if they can reclaim the land by excluding the elk and bison. This past fall,I saw a park service worker hand spraying weed killer on tumble weeds in one of the fenced experimental plots. That is when
            went up to park headquarters and asked what the hell was going on.

            • Ida Lupine says:

              Good God. Then we have the audacity to blame wildlife for our tragicomedy of errors.

        • Ida Lupine says:

          That’s the other thing – no one says cattle are over their carrying capacities. But they are just as much innocent pawns an any.

  18. Gary Humbard says:

    Larry, for us who are not familiar with the area, thank you for providing the information regarding bison in and around Yellowstone. I’m not aware of a conservation organization that is working to buy out some of the private land in Paradise Valley so maybe the only possible solution to prevent future slaughters is to enlarge quarantine facilities for future re-locations to tribes and other locales.

  19. Ed Loosli says:

    Gary Humbard:
    Fortunately, there are conservation organizations holding conservation easements and working to get more in the Gardiner and Paradise Valley area of Montana North of Yellowstone Nat. Park. They are the Montana Land Reliance, Gallatin Valley Land Trust (along the Yellowstone River) and the Rocky Mt. Elk Foundation.
    Here is the link to the Montana Land Reliance map for the Paradise Valley area:

    • Ida Lupine says:

      Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation??? Wow.

    • Elk375 says:

      Ed, a conservation easement says what it says. The grantor of the easement grants certain rights to the holding organization and every easement grants different rights away. Most of the easements are non developmental easements and either were granted because the landowner did not want the land developed and was able to get some tax benefits or the landowner was so broke that by granting the easement was able to save his/her land.

      I doubt if any easement is going to allow buffalo automatically on the land.

  20. aves says:

    The following quote is from YNP’s bison management page (

    “Are the bison leaving Yellowstone National Park because it is overgrazed?

    To date, the central and northern bison herds have not reached the estimated food-limited carrying capacity of approximately 5,500 to 7,500 bison inside the park during winter. Also, several assessments of conditions by scientists and land managers have indicated the park is not overgrazed.

    National Park Service biologists have recommended maintaining a bison population that fluctuates between 2,500 and 4,500 to preserve ecological processes that meet conservation needs and to mitigate social and political conflicts in Montana.”

    A review of the available science says the park’s carrying capacity is up to 4500 bison ( and the 2014 population estimate was 4900 total bison.

    The arbitray limit of 3,000 bison is purely political. The Interagency Bison Management Plan authorized the removal of 800-900 bison a year and agreed to this limit(

    This is a complicated issue and there is a clear need for more bison range outside the park. But putting the limit for bison at 3,000 is purely political and not backed by any science.

  21. Joanne Favazza says:

    Yellowstone NP officials are an absolute disgrace, and completely gutless for not standing up to Montana’s livestock interests in order to protect these wild, native bison. This horrific treatment of bison that our tax dollars are helping to fund is sickening, heart breaking, and utterly inexcusable.

    Perhaps the NPS should display a dead bison on its logo to replace the existing one. That would be a far more honest representation of what park officials really stand for, and who they really work for.

    • Ed Loosli says:

      aves & Joanne:
      Exactly!! By law, the Nat. Park Service has the absolute strictest standards to protect and preserve the natural resources under its jurisdiction, including wild bison. The Nat. Park Service are failing to meet these standards, and somehow, with voices like yours, they eventually will realize their duty under law.

      • Elk375 says:

        That is right ED, but once the bison leave Yellowstone Park they belong to the State of Montana.

        My question is why is everyone upset about the reduction of herd size in Yellowstone. Today Billings Gazette had an article about the bison in and around Grand Teton National Park. At the end of summer there were an estimated 825 bison. Several days ago the bison season closed with a kill of 299 bison. There is very little protest, no Buffalo Field Campaign.

        • Dominique says:

          , what would you say if there were only 800 humans left in your town?

        • Yvette says:

          Excellent point, Elk. My guess is that there is more media exposure with the YNP bison. Plus, it takes interested parties, like Buffalo Field Campaign, to get more attention drawn on an issue.

          Is it a similar situation at Grand Teton where the bison are being shipped to slaughter for tribal interests?

        • aves says:

          You make a good point, they are the same issue, although a hunt is more palatable to some than rounding up for slaughter.

          The reaction is likely different because of the much higher numbers being killed from the Yellowstone herd (900 vs. 299), the many years the herd has been managed this way, and the history of Yellowstone as the sanctuary that saved the last wild bison.

          I doubt the BFC has the resources to cover both spots.

  22. Ed Loosli says:

    “10,000 Elk Are Fed to Protect 700 Cows” by Richard Anderson

    And, bison have just finished being slaughtered in the Elk “Refuge”, like shooting fish in a barrel. The State of Wyoming calls it a “fair chase hunt”. They even shoot bison calves…the hunting success rate said to be near 100%.


January 2015


‎"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