This week, the Interagency Bison Management Plan reported that more than 1,400 Yellowstone National Park bison have been killed this winter season. The estimated herd size was about 6,000 animals at the start of the season.
Numbers contained in the latest report show that 1,089 bison were taken by tribal hunters and another 50 were taken by state hunters in Montana. 374 bison were captured and culled from the herd while 805 are being held for possible release back into the park. 282 more are being held for the bison transfer program to be sent to tribal bison ranges once the animals are declared brucellosis-free. In total, about 2,318 bison were removed from the herd this winter, though the 805 now held near Gardiner could be returned.
Heavy snow beginning early this winter drove large numbers of the animals out of the park to lower elevations, in search of food. Park Superintendent Cam Sholly told MTN’s John Sherer earlier this winter that the park could support thousands more bison than the 6,000 estimated going into the winter. But, once the animals migrate out of the park, bison are subject to rules set by the state of Montana and are fair game for tribal and state hunters. Some years, when bison mostly stay in the park, the animals that do wander out are captured and either sent to slaughter or held for transfer to tribal bison ranges.
As MTN reported in February, animal activists and some residents who live near the park have been speaking out against the large numbers of animals taken by hunters this season. Tribal leaders point to the hunt as a traditional practice that is guaranteed by long-held treaties with the United States Government. The tribal hunts are highly regulated and closely monitored by tribes, the state of Montana, and federal game wardens.