buffalo field campaign yellowstone bison slaughter Buffalo Field Campaign
West Yellowstone, Montana
Working in the field every day to stop the
slaughter of Yellowstone's wild free roaming buffalo

Total Yellowstone
Buffalo Killed
Since 1985

Yellowstone Bison Slaughter
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Defend Montana's Wild Natives!

Urge Montana's Governor Steve Bullock to

Champion Wild, Migratory Bison &

Reject Montana's "Slaughter for Habitat" Proposal

America's wild buffalo (or bison) herds once roamed in the tens of millions from coast to coast, Canada to Mexico, but now only inhabit Yellowstone country, a mere fraction (.01 percent) of their historic range. Fewer than 4,000 wild buffalo exist and instead of being protected, they are abusively managed to serve Montana's cattle interests. The wild, migratory bison of Yellowstone Country come into disasterous and unnecessary conflict when they migrate over the artificial boundary from Yellowstone National Park into southwest Montana. Montana's livestock interests, represented by the Montana Department of Livestock, have created and carried out tragic management policies against wild bison. For decades these practices have resulted in the indefensible, senseless deaths of thousands of wild buffalo, and repeated harassment and abuse of thousands more, all at U.S. taxpayer expense.

Review Montana's most recent scheme against wild buffalo.

Across the United States and around the world wild buffalo are a cherished, celebrated, honored animal, symbolizing the very spirit of wild, untamed North America. Recent polls have shown that Montana residents also overwhelmingly support wild, migratory populations of American buffalo in Montana, yet Montana livestock interests maintain absolute power over wild bison, making outlaws of these native gentle giants.  Under MCA 81-2-120 the Montana Department of Livestock has absolute authority over wild, migratory bison when they enter Montana.  The people of Montana -- and all Americans -- must rally and repeal livestock authority over wild, migratory buffalo and restore integrity for care-taking our natural heritage before it is too late.

TAKE ACTION!    Please personalize the sample letter below and contact Montana Goveror Steve Bullock urging him to support initiatives that welcome, respect and value native wild bison in Montana, and to abolish MCA 81-2-120 which empowers the state's livestock agency to manage - through abuse and slaughter - America's last wild bison. Let him know you stand for protecting America's wild buffalo and our natural heritage. If you live out of state, let him know why you visit Montana and Yellowstone Country. If you are a Montana resident, express yourself!  Urge Governor Bullock to show strong leadership by working not only to defeat efforts that seek to destroy our last wild buffalo and public wildlife, but to support initiatives that help naturally restore these gentle giants throughout Montana. 

Alternately, you can contact Governor Bullock directly:

Montana Governor Steve Bullock
Office of the Governor
Montana State Capitol Building
P.O. Box 200801
Helena, MT 59620-0801
Phone: 1-406-444-3111
Fax: 1-406-444 5529
Website form:

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  • Updates from the Field Weekly Email Recipients

    American taxpayer subsidies to Montana for implementing state law governing wild, American bison

    Montana Code Annotated (MCA) 81-2-120  (This 1995 law must be abolished)

    Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council, Buffalo Resolution, 2013

    The Brucellosis Myth Fact Sheet

    Bison Research Papers

    Endangered Status of Wild American Buffalo

    All of the people who rallied to support the alternatives in Montana's Gardiner and Hebgen Basins habitat expanstion Environmental Assessment plan are now in the position of having to agree to slaughter buffalo as a necessary condition for year-round habitat, at most, 0.4% of Montana's 94,208,000 acres - 147,200 square miles.  BFC did not support any of Montana's alternatives because they failed to address sound wildlife management practices for year-round habitat, for both sexes, in the Gardiner and Hebgen Basins. The vast majority of the habitat under consideration - over 90% - is public land managed by Gallatin National Forest and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

    Without MCA 81-2-120 on the books, the law that gives the Montana Department of Livestock authority over wild, migratory bison in Montana, cattle ranchers and their surrogate, the Department of Livestock, would not be in a position to corrupt wildlife management of native, migratory buffalo. The silence from Governor Steve Bullock's office demonstrates how pervasive this corruption has become. The people of Montana -- and all Americans -- must rally and repeal livestock authority over wild buffalo and restore integrity for care-taking our natural heritage before it is too late.

    ANALYSIS:  Possible Results of Montana's "Buffalo Slaughter for Habitat" Draft Proposal, by Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Department of Livestock and Board of Livestock, March 13, 2014.  By James A. Bailey, wildlife biologist and author, March 21, 2014

    Current situation: There are about 4000 bison in the Yellowstone ecosystem - about 1200 in the central herd and 2800 in the northern herd.  There is some genetic exchange between these herds.  A few males from the northern herd visit and presumably breed with the central herd each year, returning to the northern herd after the rut.  Animals from the central herd, probably mostly calves and yearlings, join the northern herd each winter.  (This may be in large part due to social disruption from population control activities.)  This degree of separation of the 2 herds (breeding populations) creates concern for the genetic health of, in particular, the smaller central herd.  In a smaller, more isolated herd, there is a greater potential for genetic drift (random factors) to replace natural selection, jeopardizing fitness of bison.  There is also a greater rate of loss of alleles to genetic drift.  Likely, the central herd is already losing more than 5% of its alleles each 100 years.  In addition, smaller herds have a greater stochastic risk - the probability that unusual and unpredicted events will eliminate or seriously reduce the herd.  Disease, including chronic wasting disease, is one of those risks. 

    There are no wild bison, year-round, in Montana.  Our only wild bison are those allowed to visit us, briefly, from the Park each winter/spring.  In the 2005 IBMP EIS and decision, the Park Service agreed to cooperate in reducing and maintaining a Yellowstone herd of 3000-3500 bison.  This agreement assumed no bison outside the Park after May 15 each year.  It has been outdated by new research of bison genetics and Brucella transmission.

    FWP/DOL/BOL propose to relate amounts of tolerance for bison outside the Park to reducing the total herd, inside and outside the Park.  The more bison outside the Park in Montana, the fewer there may be in the Park.  Tolerance of bison in Montana could mean that bison will prolong their temporary visits to the state each year.  Or, bison could establish year-round populations in our state; but this might not occur for years.  Ultimately, Montana could have both a permanent bison herd and a migratory herd that visits Montana each winter/spring.

    Scenario 1: For as long as these bison choose to return to the Park each year, Montana will continue to have no permanent wild population of bison (unless a bison herd is established elsewhere, which will not happen soon and may never happen).  There will be no increase in bison available to Montana hunters, who hunt in fall and early winter.  For tribal hunters, who hunt in late winter as well as earlier, bison may be available over a wider area, but it is likely that much harvest of bison will continue to occur near the Park boundaries.  Total numbers of bison may be reduced, in exchange for a small benefit from some bison staying longer in Montana each spring.

    The following scenarios involve reductions of the bison herd.  I am arbitrarily assuming stable proportions of bison in reduced central and northern herds (30% in the central herd, 70% in the northern herd, as today).  However, with recent herd reductions, the central herd has been declining and the northern herd has increased.  Removals of bison from the northern herd have occurred at the northern boundary; whereas removals from the central herd have occurred at both the northern and western boundaries. Thus, the proportion of Park bison in the central herd may actually decline.  If this happens, negative impacts to the central herd are underestimated here.  

    Scenario 2: Hold, reduce herd to 3700-4000*.  At this herd size, up to 200 bison will be allowed in area E, Horse Butte peninsula and adjacent land connecting it to the Park on the east.  FWP/DOL would continue efforts to reduce the overall herd to 3000.  With a herd size of 3700, there would be 200 bison in area E, 1050 bison in the central herd, and 2450 bison in the northern herd.  If 200 bison remain to breed (August) in area E, this will be an inbred herd with a rapid loss of alleles to genetic drift.  This threat to their genetic health would be ameliorated somewhat if any migrating bison from the Park survive and join the Horse Butte herd long enough to breed.  There is no assurance that bison would be exchanged between the Horse Butte herd and the central herd.  There would be a 12.5% reduction of the 2 Park herds, the only near-wild bison herds south of central Canada.  In particular, there would be increased losses of fitness and alleles due to genetic drift in the central herd.  If, due to changing Park Service policies or weather conditions affecting exposure of bison to hunting or other removals, the overall herd regrows to exceed 4000, a migrating or established permanent herd of bison in area E would no longer be tolerated and would be removed by May 15. 

    Scenario 3: Reduce herd to 3300-3700*.  At this herd size, bison would be allowed to leave area E (Horse Butte) toward the north into area C (which includes area E).  FWP/DOL would continue efforts to reduce the overall herd to 3000.  The number of bison allowed in area C is unspecified.  However, the more bison in area C, the fewer bison would be allowed within the 2 Park herds.  If we assume that there were 400 bison in area C (200 in area E and 200 northward), with an overall herd size of 3300, there would 870 bison in the central herd, and 2030 bison in the northern herd.  If bison stay in area C year-round, it is likely they would form only 1 breeding population.  Having 400 bison in area C would avoid significant inbreeding, but these animals would rapidly lose alleles due to genetic drift.  There is no assurance that bison would be exchanged between area C and the central herd to ameliorate this problem of genetic health.  There would be a 27.5% reduction of the 2 Park herds.  At this level, it is reasonable that the northern herd would lose alleles at a rate near 5% per 100 years, and that the central herd would lose alleles even more rapidly.  If more than 400 bison are allowed in Montana, the FWP/DOL/BOL document demands an even larger reduction of the Park herds.  If, due to changing policies or weather conditions, the overall herd regrows to exceed 3700 animals, bison would no longer be tolerated in most of area C (perhaps only in area E, as above). 

    Scenario 4: Reduce herd to <3300*.  (Under the outdated 2005 IBMP agreement, the Park Service is not obligated to cooperate in reducing the Yellowstone bison herd to this level.)  At this herd size, bison would be allowed in all of area B (which includes areas C, E and more).  Allowing bison year-round in area B, with no population-size triggers, was the preferred alternative in the original EA.  FWP/DOL would continue efforts to reduce the overall herd to 3000.  The number of bison allowed in area B is unspecified.  But more bison in area B requires equally fewer bison in the 2 Park herds.  If we assume there were 600 bison in area B with an overall herd size of 3000, there would be 720 bison in the central herd and 1680 bison in the northern herd.  If all 600 bison stay in Montana year-round, they might form 2 separate breeding populations (with one south of Hebgen Lake and the Madison River).  Likely, one of these Montana herds would be subject to significant inbreeding and both would have significantly rapid loss of alleles to genetic drift.  There is no assurance that bison would be exchanged between these breeding populations, or with the central herd, to ameliorate this problem of genetic health.  There would be a 40% reduction of the 2 Park herds.  At this level both Park herds likely would lose alleles at rates exceeding 5% per 100 years.  The central herd would be especially vulnerable.  If, due to changing policies or weather, the overall herd regrows to exceed 3300, bison would be exterminated in some parts of area B. 

    Scenario 5: Bison in the Taylor Fork area.  The Taylor Fork is a small part of area B, and within the Gallatin River drainage.  With an overall bison herd of <3300*, 100 bison would initially be allowed in the Taylor Fork area.  Intentional transplanting of bison to this area is not planned.  Bison may not find the area for years or decades.  However, if there were 100 bison in the Taylor Fork area, other bison herds, in or outside the Park would be reduced by 100.  Given the distance, habitat and drainage divide, it is most likely that any year-round herd of bison in the Taylor Fork area would be a separate breeding population, subject to extreme inbreeding and genetic drift. 

    * All the above population triggers could be reduced by the BOL at its May meeting.

    Overall, this proposal is a conservation geneticist's nightmare.  We have the most important conservation herd, the only truly wild herd, of bison south of Canada.  Its size and segregation make its future genetic health questionable, especially the smaller, central herd.  This proposal would fragment the herd into as many as 5 subherds, with interchange of bison unlikely for the proposed Taylor Fork herd, reduced for the 2 Park herds, and uncertain for 2 possible new herds in Montana.  (I assume that exchange of bison between the northern and central herds in the Park would decline simply because there would be fewer animals in each herd.  Exchanges of animals with and between the 2 new herds in Montana would be inhibited by continued harvesting, administrative killing, and trapping/slaughter of animals.) 

    The FWP/DOL/BOL proposal ignores these issues of conservation genetics/biology.  It ignores the existing questionable status of the Park's central herd.  It ignores the Park Service mandate to maintain an unimpaired bison genome for the benefit of future generations of us. 

    The FWP/DOL/BOL proposal demands Park Service acquiescence to and participation in achieving its narrow and short-sighted goals.  (Continued trapping and removal of bison at the Park's Stevens Creek facility is assumed.)  Yet the proposal has not been formally submitted to the Park Service for advice or consent. 

    Our legislature has ordained that, in Montana, Yellowstone bison will be managed by DOL/BOL, not by FWP.  Now DOL/BOL presume to manage federal bison in another state! 

    What could Montana gain from this proposal?  We might have, at most, 3 small bison herds, at least 2 with inbreeding and all with serious loss of alleles and fitness due to genetic drift.  Likely, we will have few bison because the Park will have to retain most of its bison to fulfill its federal mandate.  (The current state/federal agreement, resulting from a Montana lawsuit against the Park, is for 3000-3500 bison.  This outdated goal is not supported by recent science.   Rather than recognizing the science or the Park Service unimpairment mandate, the FWP/DOL/BOL proposal aims for the rock-bottom number of 3000 bison.)

    For harvest, these small Montana herds would, at most, provide 50-60 animals/year on a sustained basis.  Many of these may be taken by tribal members.  Few Montana hunters would benefit.

    If the FWP/DOL/BOL proposal succeeds in causing a significant reduction of the Park bison herds, there would be fewer bison leaving the Park in many winters.  This is touted to benefit cattle producers as a reduced risk of Brucella transmission.  However, almost all the risk of brucellosis to cattle is from elk, not from bison.  There are very few cattle producers affected by bison coming out of the Park and no Brucella transmission from bison has occurred.  This touted benefit is a sham. 

    The original EA provided an opportunity to move forward with bison conservation and management to benefit most Montanans.  However, the current FWP/DOL/BOL proposal adds specified population triggers and other stipulations that make these benefits unlikely, at best.  The EA contained no analysis of effects upon population genetics of Yellowstone bison, in or out of the Park.  Differences between the EA and the FWP/DOL/BOL proposal are significant and may make adoption of the proposal into a violation of the Montana Environmental Protection Act in that the new proposed alternative was not analyzed, using current knowledge and science, in the original EA (or in the 2005 EIS establishing the IBMP).

    Montana could seize the opportunity to have and benefit from some managed bison in Montana.  The issue for Montanans is not how many bison are in the Park, in another state.  The issue is how many Montana bison do we want and where do we want them.  The issue is how to incrementally learn how to manage bison issues and how to produce bison benefits for Montanans.  We need to stop persecuting bison, stop persecuting the Park Service for fulfilling its legal mandate, and proceed with bison conservation and management in Montana for Montanans. 

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