Thinning the Herd at Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park has begun bison capture operations at its Stephens Creek facility near the park’s North entrance.
Members of the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) agreed to an operating plan that targets the removal of 800 to 900 bison that migrate out of the park’s northern boundary this winter to reduce population growth and to reduce the potential for a mass migration of bison into Montana.
Federal, state, and tribal members of the IBMP have agreed to use hunting as the primary method for removing bison from the population. This winter, hunting in Montana is expected to remove up to 350 bison from the population, while an additional 500 to 600 animals that leave the park boundary may be captured and transferred to tribal groups for processing and distribution of meat and other parts to their members for nutrition and cultural practices.
For safety reasons, the area around the Stephens Creek facility is closed to the public until further notice. A map and information on the closure is available for public review during normal business hours at the Superintendent’s Office, the Chief Ranger’s Office, and the temporary Visitor Center in Mammoth Hot Springs.
In 2000, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior and the Governor of Montana signed a court-mediated agreement that included guidelines to limit the bison population in Yellowstone to around 3,000 animals. The removal of bison from the northern breeding herd during each of the next several winters will progress towards that guideline.
The cooperating agencies operating under the IBMP are the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Montana Department of Livestock, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the InterTribal Buffalo Council, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and the Nez Perce Tribe.
The IBMP has been successful at conserving a wild, wide-ranging population of bison, with no detected transmission of brucellosis from bison to cattle. Its partners will continue to work together to ensure the effective management of Yellowstone bison.