Yellowstone – Discovered in 1807 was a lost world found by the hands of humanity after being the home to wild Native Americans for over 11,000 years. A land ruled by ice, brimstone and fire should be un-inhabitable, yet the most treasured wilderness can be found here than any other place on earth. One of the beautiful giants that live here is the Bison – an outstanding representative survivor of the last ice age. Built for the harsh winters that Yellowstone delivers, these Bison are the last wild herd left in North America.

North America

Image Source (Ndomer73)

Winter in Yellowstone is unkind, harsh and deadly when composed of a six month contract frozen and buried under ice and snow.  Many species struggle with the conflict of cold and locked away nutrients under the ice, but this particular story is dedicated to the Bison – who has battled through hundreds of years of the conflicts of Yellowstone’s winters.

Wild Bison

Image Source (Puuikibeach)

The Bison is an impressive adaptable character, consisting of many evolved features to battle against the harsh climate. Firstly is the impressive thick layered coat, used for insulation which aids against the intolerant freezing temperatures of Yellowstone. In order to make sure energy is conserved efficiently over a long term, their metabolisms are slowed right down making sure their energy is only focused and reserved for feeding.

Image Source (csnyder103)

Snow consumes the once grassed floors in thick layers – making feeding almost impossible to many species, but to the Bison this is no set back. Using their thick, large powerful muscles in their neck they sweep the snow centimetre by centimetre, removing snow right down to the grass. Majestic in appearance, Bison bulls can grow up to 6 feet tall at the shoulders, weighting over 2,000 pounds and over past centuries this species have taken on their ancestral traits proudly and ferociously to conquer winter after winter.

Image Source (csnyder103)

Unfortunately for 2010 – 2011’s winter of Yellowstone, these Bison are suffering from a truly unethical disaster. Due to global warming, pollution and other contributions the rate of snow has dramatically increased making levels far too deep for the Bison to sweep and graze through. Getting through just half of this thick layer of snow would consume more energy than can be replaced. As an emergency response to this some of the only few pure remaining descendents of Americans original bison herds are leaving Yellowstone National Park for lower elevations where winter conditions may not be as harsh on buried vegetation.

Image Source (LSykora)

Unfortunately these desperate roaming Bison – only on the move for survival have fallen into a lawsuit filed by the State of Montana where a new bison management plan was developed. It currently stands that any bison entering Montana via Yellowstone’s north boundary would be shot, slaughtered or shipped. Reasons behind such dramatic action are due to the scare and belief that bison will spread the disease brucellosis to livestock and eat grass which ranchers want preserved for their cattle. However, despite such a solid sounding argument, no Bison to cattle transmission of brucellosis has ever been documented.

Image Source (haglundc)

Due to a scare of finance lost by livestock and grass, approximately 400 Yellowstone Bison are being held in corrals near Gardiner, Montana where they await their fate. This is a fate that should not be in the control of man’s hands but nature. All of the captured Bison are currently being tested for the disease brucellosis and those that test positive will be slaughtered. Even those Bison that are brucellosis free may also be killed as the corrals have been designed to hold only 400 bison at a time, but federal agents have been aggressively rounding up any animal that has been straying from the dangerous winters of Yellowstone.

Federal officials can allow Bison to roam parts of the 1.8 million-acre Gallatin National Forest, and some Montana tribes are both desperate and excited to restore the bison back into their historical relationship within their reserves. So even with alternatives, can we really justify the loss of such a meaningful species both important to ecological balance and beauty of Yellowstone over exaggerated fears?

Image Source (Autum Loverin)

Bison scientists have predicted that multiple herds of at least 1,000 are required to ensure long term survival. Currently – Yellowstone is one of the only places in the world left to accomplish this, yet the National Park and Forest Service are working together often resulting in the culling of Bison when leaving the park. It was only in the early 1800’s that over 65 million Bison roamed throughout the continent of North America, and now numbers are only reaching 1000.

Image Source (Dan Anderson)

Without additional habitat the numbers of bison will decline, and not to a good cause but to become lost in misunderstandings, slaughtering and achievements that could not be met.

If you feel like you want to express your voice over this matter, or would like to become involved, the amazing charity Defenders of Wildlife, have put together a petition that specifically focuses on the Bison that are currently being held at Montana where their deaths are in decision. It’s not too late to save these magnificent beasts of Yellowstone. If you wish to voice your message to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, urging them to stop the slaughter of Bison and to provide space that is essential for their survival, then here is the link. The petition takes no longer than two minutes to complete.

Endangered Species

  • Dylan

    Obviously the author has never been on the Alaska highway or to elk island national park in Canada. I have seen many herds of wild bison and have yet to set foot in Yellowstone. Although I’m sure it would be nice. ;)

  • laura

    Poor bison :-( why would you want to shoot these?

  • tweetypie

    I couldn’t sign the petition as its only for people in america but I dry :-( I must say this article really opened up my eyes as I didn’t realise how low the numbers were for yellowstone bison. Its good to see people trying to do something about it.

  • Krystal Loverin

    We just drove through the Golden Gate state park in San Francisco, California and they have a herd of bison there as well. And a shout out to my sister Autum Loverin who is the photographer of one of the above pictures :)

  • rose

    Signed it :-)

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  • AshleyZ

    There are a handful of wild and semi-wild herds in Canada, although they also have problems with Brucellosis and Tuberculosis, so see them while you still can.

  • Dane

    But dont you all see as an american citizen i would not class anywhere in canada as north america, despite our differences we are two geographically different islands.

    unfortnately for us north americans, the last wild bison herd left is in Yellowstone :( Lets just hope those in Alaska etc, may provide help in breeding or something towards those in N.A

  • Chris

    Another organization doing great work on this issue is the Buffalo Field Campaign. This is their link:

    The current issue of Mother Jones Magazine (March/April 2011 issue) has an article called “Where the Buffalo Roam” about efforts to create a large natural reserve in Eastern Montana and the Dakotas to restore the prairie to its natural state, with wild bison as the centerpiece.

    Finally, Steve Rinella wrote a great book about bison a couple years ago called AMERICAN BUFFALO. An excellent read, as is Dan O’Brien’s BUFFALO FOR THE BROKEN HEART.

  • Allan E.

    More touchy feely Gia BS. There are Bison herds all over the United States. By the way Dane, Canadians are on and part of the North American continent. Wishful and feelgood thinking do not replace facts.

  • PHC

    “Due to global warming, pollution and other contributions the rate of snow has dramatically increased “.
    Global warming?
    Or Global cooling?

  • John-Paul

    I think raising awareness of these issues is of importance to save such a legendary herbivore and should be considered the real topic of conversation surrounding this article not whether you have seen one in other places around the USA. However for those of you that are a little unsure or like to get to the FACTS just watch the BBC documentary YELLOWSTONE it is incredible and will tell you all you need to know, trust me got it on blu ray for christmas. Keep up the great article writing Miss Websdale and save those god damn Bison!!!!

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  • Emma Websdale

    For anybody that wants updating on the matter, I have just been sent a link that you may find interesting/sad on the Bison slaughter matter:

    Just wanted to keep you all updated! Thank you.


  • Geekoid


    Tasty beefs! Bisonburger!