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2019 Yellowstone Bison Culling Begins

The annual spring culling of Yellowstone bison has begun, as 23 bison that were part of a larger herd heading north of Mammoth Hot Springs were captured near the Stephens Creek facility.

The impending 2019 Yellowstone bison culling was signaled last week, when Yellowstone officials announced the closure of the area around the Stephens Creek administrative area. The administrative area is closed to the public year-round, and that closure area is expanded when culling operations begin. The Stephens Creek administrative area includes corral operations, equipment storage, a native plant nursery, a firing range and, during the winter, the facility that is used to capture, sort, test, and temporarily hold bison.

The Yellowstone bison population is estimated to be around 4,500, and the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) partners agreed on a plan to cull the population by between 600 and 900 bison.

According to a Yellowstone press release, the population will be reduced using three methods: 1) public and tribal hunting outside the park, and 2) capturing bison near the park boundary and then transferring them to Native American tribes for processing and distribution of meat and hides to their members, and 3) a quarantine program in its initial stages that moves brucellosis-free bison to tribal lands. All of the 23 captured in the initial round are slated to be slaughtered and processed.

Yellowstone bison culling has proven to be a controversial activity over the years, as activists argue against any thinning of the herds, arguing that it’s an inhumane and unnecessary practice. National Park Service officials and the IBMP partners say that the optimal size of the Yellowstone bison population is under 4,000. The implementation of a brucellosis protocol that ends with Yellowstone bison being shipped to the Fort Peck reservation is an attempt to cut down on the number of bison slaughtered annually.

Photo from January 2018 courtesy National Park Service.

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