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Bison cull underway at Yellowstone National Park

Bison cull underway in Yellowstone National Park

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The controversial Yellowstone National Park bison cull is underway as park officials attempt to thin herds in an effort to maintain a sustainable number of animals. With about 4,900 bison in Yellowstone, officials plan to remove 600 to 900 animals – a number recommended by the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) partners last December, the National Parks Traveler reports. 

Because bison populations continue to increase by 10 to 17% per year, annual culls are necessary to keep herds healthy and provide enough space for bison to roam, according to Yellowstone’s website. Bison are not threatened by predators like bears and wolves because of their size, leaving management of the increasing populations up to park officials. Further, while bison hunting is an option, “hunting outside of the park has not been effective….because concentrated hunting pressure along the park boundary often causes bison to return” to the park where hunting is not permitted. 

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Agency officials began the cull last Sunday “when bison started to move out of the park into the Gardiner Basin just to the north of Montana” and plan to continue the effort through late March, according to the National Parks Traveler. To do this, they are using three methods:

  1. Public and tribal hunting outside of the park.
  2. Capturing bison that roam near park boundaries, then transferring them to Native American tribes who will then process and distribute the meat and hides to their members.
  3. Capturing bison and putting them into quarantine to ensure the animals are brucellosis-free before relocating them to tribal lands.

Captured bison will be held in the Stephens Creek administrative area that is closed to the public year-round. This area includes park corral operations, equipment storage, a native plant nursery and capture and quarantine facilities, according to the National Parks Traveler.

IBMP partners include the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, the Inter Tribal Buffalo Council, Montana Department of Livestock, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, the National Park Service (Yellowstone National Park), the Nez Perce Tribe and the US Forest Service (Custer-Gallatin National Forest).

In 2019, 460 bison were culled from Yellowstone.


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Matt S. - posted 2 months ago on 03-05-2020 10:04:53 am

Very frustrating to put in for tags with 2% draw odds just to watch them do this. Tribes can make great use of the meat, but still allow for hunters to provide some funds and get a memorable experience out of this.

Bendrix B. - posted 2 months ago on 03-05-2020 08:16:21 am
Rochester, MA

Seth D. Not sure why you need to insult the author by calling this "Stupid Click Bait". It is a cull of the herd according to the definition of cull. Although this story does not say where the Brucellosis free animals will go, all the others will be killed.

I think the interesting question to ponder for Yellowstone and other parks is to consider the inclusion of hunting when populations grow beyond the carrying capacity of the land. Rather than go to all the expense of rounding up live Bison (something I'll bet is exciting to watch) it would be revenue producing to allow the bison to be hunted. Even if the Bison belong to tribes, those tribes could sell guided hunts (as they do on their land for other species) or hunt them for their own consumption. If done annually, I'm sure that would hold the population down.

Anyway, Kristen does great work here and I enjoy her articles immensely.

Seth D. - posted 2 months ago on 03-05-2020 06:01:39 am
Public Lands

Bison have a big problem.

First many of the bison (and elk) in the Yellowstone Ecosystem are known carriers of Brucellosis. No state will take the bison in Yellowstone for fear of causing millions of dollars worth of losses to that states cattle industry.


TERRY D. - posted 2 months ago on 03-04-2020 07:29:51 pm

Personally I'd rather see the excess bison transferred alive to other states for either population renewal in new area and/or to existing herds that. Nothing will change unless voters lobby legislators for change.

Seth D. - posted 2 months ago on 03-04-2020 06:14:27 pm
Public Lands

The public hunts for bison in Wyoming and Montana are through the normal application state lotteries.

AR H. - posted 2 months ago on 03-04-2020 12:51:32 pm

Why isn't there information on how to get in on the public hunting in this article?
Why isn't there more information period?

Seth D. - posted 2 months ago on 03-04-2020 12:39:11 pm
Public Lands

Woody, the Montana and Wyoming legislation gave them to the tribes years ago. Not sure it could be changed.

Woody S. - posted 2 months ago on 03-04-2020 12:35:23 pm

Why can’t they transfer them to other states like Utah or Arizona?

Seth D. - posted 2 months ago on 03-04-2020 11:59:47 am
Public Lands

This is stupid click bait. It is not a cull, it is mostly a live removal. I have praised your little book reports before, but this is BS.