© Jim Peaco/NPS


Stopping the Bison Slaughter

Defenders is actively promoting two alternatives to the slaughtering of Yellowstone bison. First, we’re working with landowners outside Yellowstone to allow the bison freer movement beyond the park by reducing potential conflicts. Second,we’re helping Montana’s tribes advocate for relocating bison onto their reservations .

The Problem

During harsh winters, Yellowstone bison leave the park in search of food at lower elevations. Since they are not tolerated by many ranchers, these bison are then hazed back into the park by park rangers, shipped to slaughter, or shot on sight.

How We’re Helping

In early 2011, Yellowstone bison were granted a temporary reprieve from Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, who reached an agreement with park officials and other local stakeholders to allow bison more room to roam in Gardiner Basin outside Yellowstone. He also put a temporary ban on the shipping of Yellowstone bison within Montana, which effectively halted the shipping of these bison to slaughterhouses.

Defenders has also helped push for the successful inclusion of Fort Peck and Fort Belknap Indian Reservations as leading options for relocation sites of surplus bison. The bison relocation was approved by the state wildlife commission in December 2011 and the bison were successfully moved to Fort Peck in March 2012, and to Fort Belknap in August, 2013.

The future of bison restoration is looking brighter than it did even a few years ago, but there is still a long way to go. Biologists estimate that reversing the “ecological extinction” of wild bison will require several more herds of at least 1,000 bison each, and at least a few herds of at least 10,000 bison. No such proposals have been put forward. Defenders will continue working with Native American tribes and federal and state officials to find more places to restore wild bison that will allow the full recovery of this iconic species across its former range.