Yellowstone Bison Herd to Be Reduced By Hunting and Transfers to Forestall Possible Disease

The Yellowstone National Park bison herd is being reduced by up to 900 individuals through hunting and transfers. The project is underway, The National Park Service (NPS) has announced. The culling of the herd, estimated to number over 5,400 individuals began February 13 and will continue through March.

brown bison beside tree
Bison are formidable animals, strong and fast, They are notorious for charging people who get too close. Photo by Brett Sayles on

The decision was taken several months ago. The park has limited room for bison, and they wander out of the park which causes conflict with the park’s neighbors. There is also concern over brucellosis, a disease fatal to cattle that may be spread to domestic animals by bison.

brown bison on green grass field
Bison gather in herds which at one time covered the plains Photo by Oliver King on

The culling will take place in three ways. Hunting by Native American tribes and other hunters, processing by the tribes, and transfers through the Bison Conservation Transfer Program. The program was initiated by the NPS and the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux tribes on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana. Under the program healthy bison are transferred to various tribal herds. The program works with more than one dozen plains area tribes interested in bison conservation. Native American tribes are fully involved in the decisions taken. Fort Peck was founded in 1871 and is home to members of the Assiniboine tribe. Members of a number of Sioux bands live there too, including some descendants of Hunkpapa who fled to Canada with Siting Bull.

One of the tribes sponsoring hunts is the Crow Nation. The Crow offer hunts for trophy quality bison for a set fee. The hunts are of a limited number of tribal buffalo on tribal land. The tribe is also seeking to join six other tribes in permitted hunts outside the park in winter,

Crow warriors such as Medicine Crow were bison hunters and their descendants maintain a herd and sponsor hunts. Medicine Crow’s grandson Joe Medicine Crow served in World War Two and was the last war chief of the Crow Nation based on his exploits in the U.S. Army

Bison in America have made a spectacular comeback. They were hunted to near extinction by the close of the 19th century. The herd in Yellowstone is one of a very few herds whose members are pure bison with no interbreeding with domestic cattle. There are an estimated 30,000 bison in managed herds, including a growing number managed by Native American tribes. Beyond that there are several hundred thousand bison in private hands throughout the west. But many of those are cross bred with domestic cattle.

For our earlier reporting on this issue click here

Published by ursusrising

long time writer and editor living in Los Angeles

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