Management Runs Amok for the Last Wild Buffalo

The latest IBMP report was released last Saturday. We once again bring you our breakdown of the bloody details.

A buffalo looks back at the camera

As of Saturday, March 31st, 2,318 of the last wild buffalo have been removed from the population – 38% of the population.

Yellowstone is holding 805 of those buffalo for release. This means the park has captured 432 buffalo since the last report! Even if the park honors their promise to release those buffalo, still 1,513 will have been removed from the population – 25%.

While we feel a huge relief to hear from Yellowstone that they will set the captured buffalo free, there are big concerns about how holding them for so long will impact the dynamics of both the distinct herds. While in captivity, Central and Northern herds are kept together in ways they would not be in the wild, and they tend to grow strong bonds. Some buffalo may leave one herd for another, which has unknown negative impacts for each herd and for the population as a whole.

Click on the image to see composite photo of the small trap, then click anywhere on that image to zoom in. This is a photo from February; there are now many, many more buffalo in the trap.

The Central herd, who is already imperiled, can’t really afford to have herd members leave to join the Northern herd. An additional concern is that we are barely two weeks away from calving season — if buffalo start to give birth in the trap, that could spell big trouble, because buffalo are fiercely dedicated to their calving grounds and we do not want them to think of the trap as a calving ground.

“Hunters” are still killing buffalo as well – 72 were reported killed in the last two week. This killing of pregnant mamas just weeks away from giving birth is insanity.

Hunters in hi-viz yellow jackets stand in front of a group of running buffalo.
Buffalo flee back to the park as shots are fired.

Right now there are ten tribes hunting under treaty right, but there could be a dozen more who decide to participate. How in the world is this buffalo population supposed to survive all these people coming to kill them? How do the tribes and partners with the IBMP plan on working together to sustain a healthy buffalo population?

Even with the victory of this coming release, 1,231 have been killed this season – that is 20% of population. This makes this the most deadly year for the Yellowstone buffalo since the massive slaughter of 2007/08.