Yellowstone National Park bison

Yellowstone Bison Population Could Be Culled by 900 This Winter

The Yellowstone National Park bison population could be culled by a fifth this winter, resulting in upwards of 900 head taken down if they wander outside Park boundaries.

The information as reported by Reuters came from David Hallac, chief of Yellowstone’s science and research branch, who says the reduction of the herd is needed to maintain a manageable population. Currently there are an estimated 4,900 bison in Yellowstone, but National Park Service officials say a more desired population is in the 3,000-3,500 range. Culling 900 bison would still leave the Park’s population above goal levels.

The plan has already engendered a response from Friends of Animals and the Buffalo Field Campaign, who say they are petitioning both the NPS and the U.S. Forest Service to prevent any culling. From a press release issued by the pair:

In an effort to avert the bloodshed, Friends of Animals (FoA) and Buffalo Field Campaign filed an emergency rulemaking petition Sept. 15 with the National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to protect the genetic diversity and viability of the bison of Yellowstone National Park.  They are requesting that the NPS and USFS undertake a population study and revise the IBMP to correct scientific deficiencies, make the plan consistent with the best available science, and follow the legal mandates the U.S. Congress has set. Until then, the groups are also requesting that the capture, removal or killing of bison at Stephens Creek area of Yellowstone National Park and Horse Butte area of the Gallatin National Forest be prohibited.

“Yellowstone National Park and other federal agencies are required to follow the best available science and not the latest political whims of Montana,” said Daniel Brister, executive director of Buffalo Field Campaign.  “Our joint petition seeks redress to ensure the buffalo are protected for future generations. The IBMP currently is heavily weighed in favor of protecting the profits of the livestock industry at the expense and peril of our nation’s only continuously wild bison population.”

In another bison development: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is being urged by scientists to have the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks develop a state plan for managing a potential wild bison herd. Efforts to develop a plan have taken much longer than anyone has anticipated, with meetings of a state bison working group cancelled. The issue, of course, is the same issue any time there’s a discussion of Yellowstone bison wandering outside the Park boundaries: politically powerful stockmen groups oppose any potential interaction between cattle and bison, saying the threat of brucellosis and potential property damage should guide any policy decisions.

Image of bison at Druid Fire Camp courtesy National Park Service.

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