Parts of southwestern Montana will open to bison hunting Sunday, November 15.
The annual hunt, which goes hand in hand with bison management in and out of Yellowstone National Park, is astoundingly popular. Last year’s hunt drew over 10,420 applicants for either-sex licenses, from both Montana and other states. In the end, 69 Montana residents and three non-residents received licenses, according to the Billings Gazette.
Bison hunting could open up to 200 additional “second choice” candidates, but that’s dependent on how many bison leave Yellowstone National Park. Bison season is slated to end February 15, 2016.
Bison hunting (and management as a whole) remains a controversial issue in Yellowstone, and especially outside Yellowstone. Indeed, it’s been a (sometimes) vitriolic issue in and around the Park for decades. Proponents of the hunt cite it (and the practice of culling) as beneficial to the herd’s long-term stability. It also, ostensibly, takes burden off managers in the Park, keeping the herd’s number low enough to “work with” as it were. Critics of both hunting and culling say the practice undermines bison’s presence in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, a system that stretches far outside Yellowstone National Park’s boundaries.
Bison have always generated controversy in Yellowstone. Or rather, people’s attitudes about bison have generated controversy, which has been especially true the past few years. In April 2011, two bison were killed after someone fired 40 .22 caliber bullets into a passing herd; the suspect claimed he fired 40 bullets in self defense. In March of 2014, a protester was arrested for barring the entrance to the Stephens Creek bison trap by chaining himself to a 55 gallon concrete barrel. Then, of course, there’s the fact bison are a vector for brucellosis, a debilitating cattle disease that leaves bison unaffected but is potentially ruinous to ranchers, even though studies show elk are more likely to transmit the disease to cattle than bison.
And it’s an issue that comes up every year, like clockwork, and it seems will continue to come up as bison continue to exist in Yellowstone National Park.