Over 1,600 Yellowstone bison have been killed or removed from the population.
GARDINER, MT: Yellowstone National Park released the latest report of bison management
operations on the Interagency Bison Management Plan website (IBMP.info) on Friday, March
3rd. The shocking numbers show that the slaughter and removal of Yellowstone’s bison has
gone unchecked, putting the entire population at risk.
As of Friday, March 3rd, 1,675 buffalo have been removed from the population – either killed in
the firing line style “hunt” on the park boundary, or trapped inside Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek
bison trap for slaughter or domestication through quarantine. That is 28% of the population
which stood at a record 6,000 buffalo in August 2022.
The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and their allies at Roam Free Nation unveiled a billboard in
Helena today which states: “There is no hunt. It’s slaughter.” The so-called “hunt” is just another
tool to achieve what livestock interests want – to keep wild bison out of Montana.
This “hunt” has killed 919 bison, many of them pregnant females – and this includes 247 killed
in just the two week period since the last report. This means nearly twice as many have been
killed in the “hunt” as the last most deadly year – in 2016 when 486 were killed.
The quarantine program, which hides behind the greenwashing name “Bison Conservation
Transfer Program”, has removed another 276 bison, sentencing them to a life of captivity and
domestication. An additional 32 are being held for quarantine “selection”. This already puts them
over the stated capacity of the quarantine facility of 260.
Another 357 buffalo are being held by Yellowstone in the trap for “release or slaughter”.
Yellowstone captured 158 bison in the last two weeks – despite the kill tally of the “hunt” being
so high, and despite the quarantine facility being over capacity.
The Central Herd, one of two genetically distinct herds inside the park, was at an estimated
1,500 animals before this season. Because the Central Herd feels the fatal effects of
mismanagement on both the north and west sides of the park, their population has been in
trouble for years. Now the Northern Herd, which was estimated at 4,500 animals, could be
facing the same trouble, with the huge capture and slaughter numbers on the north end of the
park. While we will not know the toll taken on the distinct herds until the summer count, it is
entirely possible that the Northern Herd is now below the 3,000 animal threshold suggested as
the minimum for herd viability.
“This slaughter must be stopped now,” said Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.
“This war has been going on for decades, with no end in sight,” said Stephany Seay, cofounder
of Roam Free Nation. “Bison mismanagement is growing out of control. In addition to
Yellowstone’s senseless capture-for-slaughter operations, state and especially tribal hunts are
creating a killing frenzy whenever wild bison attempt to migrate into Montana, particularly in the
Gardiner Basin. We hope a lot of people see our billboard and begin to ask the hard questions.”
Additionally, with a winter as harsh as this one has been, the natural winterkill numbers can be
expected to be unusually high. Yellowstone already estimates that 9 out of every 100 adult
bison die over the winter naturally. A high winterkill will only compound the dire consequences
for the bison population.
With 28% of the population being killed or removed from the wild, this year’s toll on the buffalo
has surpassed the cap suggested by every partner of the IBMP. The Park suggested that a 14%
reduction would keep the population stable. The Nez Perce Tribe suggested that no more than
12% be taken. Even the Montana Department of Livestock (who has no business “managing”
wild bison) agreed to a cap of 25% removal. (These numbers can be seen on page 13 of the
draft report from the last IBMP meeting.)
Roam Free Nation board member Cindy Rosin asks, “If even the buffalo’s worst enemy says the
killing should stop at 25% of the herd, why are the buffalo still dying? Why is the Park still
capturing? Why has Yellowstone not released the remaining captured buffalo?”
Please help by donating to pay for the cost of more billboards.
Mike Garrity is the executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.