Yellowstone Releases Hundreds of Captive Buffalo

But 25% of the Last Wild Herds Have Been Lost, Mainly to “Hunting


April 24, 2023

circular logo with a buffalo and the text "Roam Free Nation"

Stephany Seay, Cofounder, Roam Free Nation

Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies

GARDINER, MONTANA: The latest Yellowstone bison report has been posted by the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) and wild bison advocates are thrilled that Yellowstone has kept their word and released the 803 buffalo they were holding in the trap.

“This is cause for a huge celebration,” said Cindy Rosin, board secretary for Roam Free Nation. “As the grass greens, the snow disappears, and new calves appear, we celebrate with the buffalo, and give thanks for the hardy survivors of this year’s slaughter.”

But bison advocates are also mourning the heavy losses the buffalo herds suffered this season. In the past two weeks since the IBMP’s last report:
2 buffalo died in the trap before they could be released
33 more buffalo were killed in the “hunt” – the majority of these are listed as “unknown” age and sex, and were not reported by any tribe in particular, so we can be sure there are the deaths of adult pregnant females hiding in that number.

“One would think the slaughter would stop, now that the calves are arriving,” said Stephany Seay, cofounder of Roam Free Nation. “But there are still a few ‘hunters’ around the area and word is at least three tribes will continue to hunt through April. We only hope that the buffalo released from the park’s trap headed south to the safety of the wilds of Yellowstone, rather than north towards the killing fields.”

With some tribes still “hunting” it is possible that these numbers will go up, but for now, there is hope that the buffalo will be left in peace.

As of now, this deadly season for the buffalo looks like this:
1,548 buffalo have been removed for the population – 25% of the population
282 buffalo were sentenced to a life of domestication and captivity thought the quarantine program
1,266 were killed by mismanagement actions – 21% of the population
1,172 in the “hunt”
88 shipped to slaughter
6 deaths in the trap
This does not include winterkilled buffalo or those who died on the roadways.

This is the most deadly year for the buffalo since 2007/08.

Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies said, “Now that bison calves are being born, it is time for the State of Montana and tribes to stop the slaughter of bison in the Beattie Gulch hunting trap. Bison are the only native species that are killed as soon as they step one foot into Montana, in spite of the fact that there has never been a confirmed case of bison transmitting brucellosis to cattle.”

It is unknown at this time how this season’s killing spree impacted both the imperiled Central herd and the Northern herd. In the Hebgen Basin, west of Yellowstone where the Central herd exclusively migrates, there are hardly any buffalo out. Typically by the end of March the Hebgen Basin is beginning to teem with buffalo heading to their traditional calving grounds on and around Horse Butte. One small family group videoed by a Horse Butte resident showed a small handful of adult females and far more calves and young ones, a clear indication that many of those younger buffalo lost their mothers, likely to “hunters”.  

“There were so many buffalo taken from both herds because of the terrible mismanagement and the long, hard winter,” said Jaedin Medicine Elk, cofounder of Roam Free Nation and Northern Cheyenne tribal member. “We’re used to seeing way more buffalo migrating out of the Park towards Horse Butte by this time of year. Advocates and locals are very concerned.”  

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Roam Free Nation have put up eight billboards around southwest Montana decrying the ugliness of the so-called hunt. In the heavily traveled corridors of towns such as Bozeman, Billings, Helena, Belgrade, and Livingston, passers by will see the truth: “There’s no hunt. It’s slaughter.” 

“As this deadly season winds down, we are angry at the loss of so so many buffalo, we are frustrated with the games of politics played by humans that should be the buffalo’s allies,” said Rosin. “We are committed to continue to speak for the buffalo until they roam free. Now, we breathe the spring air, celebrate the arrival of the calves, and take their boundless energy with us to carry the fight on into the future.”

The buffalo herds of Yellowstone country are the nation’s last continuously wild, migratory bison. They are currently being considered for Endangered Species Act listing by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, who are accepting public comments through June 4, 2023.  

Roam Free Nation is a Native-led, Montana-based wild buffalo, wildlife, and wild lands advocacy group who speaks from and represents the perspective of wild nature. Their representatives have over fifty years of combined experience in the field, monitoring wild bison migration, documenting actions against them, and advocating on their behalf. Learn more at

Alliance for the Wild Rockies is a Montana-based organization whose mission is to secure the ecological integrity of the Wild Rockies Bioregion through citizen empowerment and the application of conservation biology, sustainable economic models, and environmental law.  Learn more at


A pie chart of buffalo eliminated from the herd shows 68% killed in treaty hunts, 18% sent to quarantine, 6% shipped to slaughter, 5% killed by state hunters, and 2% dying of fatal hunt wounds. Graphic by Sharon Colman.