New Yellowstone Bison Management Plan in the Works

In January of 2022 Yellowstone announced that they are developing a new bison management plan to update a 20-year-old document. Public comments were accepted through February 28th (where our voices were loudly heard!) and now we wait for the next phase.

The park is proposing three options – we present them here in their own words:

Alternative 1: No-Action
The NPS would continue to manage bison pursuant to the 2000 IBMP as adaptively adjusted and implemented and would maintain a population range of bison similar to the last two decades (3,500 to 5,000 bison after calving). The NPS would continue hunt-trap coordination to balance population regulation in the park using culling at Stephens Creek with hunting opportunities outside the park, increase the number of brucellosis-free bison relocated to tribal lands, and work with the State of Montana to manage the already low risk of brucellosis spreading from bison to cattle.

Alternative 2: Enhance Restoration and Tribal Engagement
Bison would be managed within a population range of about 4,500 to 6,000 bison after calving with an emphasis on using the Bison Conservation Transfer Program and tribal hunting outside the park to regulate bison numbers. The NPS may use proactive measures such as low stress hazing of bison toward the park boundary to increase tribal hunting opportunities outside the park. The NPS would reduce shipment to slaughter based on the needs and requests of tribes.

Alternative 3: Food-Limited Carrying Capacity
The NPS would rely on natural selection, bison dispersal, and public and tribal harvests in Montana as the primary tools to regulate bison numbers, which would likely range from 5,500 to 8,000 or more bison after calving. Trapping for shipments to slaughter would immediately cease. The NPS would continue captures to maintain the Bison Conservation Transfer Program as in Alternatives 1 and 2.

What we see from these options is that we have a very real chance here to stop the capture and slaughter program! Alternative three does not go far enough – does not respect buffalo as a wild migratory species, does not address the firing line at Beattie Gulch or the risks posed to the endangered Central Herd by hunting every animal that exits the north or west sides of the park. But it does present a move in the right direction – the end to capture and slaughter would be a huge victory, and we need to press for it now.

For more detailed information, find the scoping notices here:

Two National Park Service employees prod a frightened buffalo with their head caught in a trap.
This is what quarantine looks like.