Yellowstone Bison Being Considered For Endangered Species List

The Yellowstone National Park's famed bison species is being considered as a potential species to be listed as "endangered," the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Friday.

Ellen Fike

June 03, 20223 min read

Bison in traffic scaled

The Yellowstone National Park’s famed bison species is being considered as a potential species to be listed as “endangered,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Friday.

The service recently completed a 90-day finding of three petitions to designate the Yellowstone bison, which are a segment of the Plains bison, that are in portions of Wyoming and Montana as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Service officials found that the petitions presented substantial and credible information indicating that listing the bison as threatened may be warranted. The service will now initiate a comprehensive status review of the segment to determine if ESA protections are warranted.

According to the service, the petitioners presented credible information to indicate potential threats to bison, such as reductions of its range due to loss of migration routes, the lack of tolerance for bison outside Yellowstone National Park and habitat loss.

The petitioners also provided information suggesting that regulatory mechanisms (in the form of management actions intended to address disease, provided for in the Interagency Bison Management Plan), overutilization, disease and loss of genetic diversity may pose further threats.

The Plains bison is a subspecies of the American bison and is historically found from central Canada to northern Mexico, nearly from coast-to-coast.

Primarily abundant on the Great Plains, the species was eliminated from many areas of the country by the early 1800s. Following conservation efforts by landowners, Tribes, state, federal and other partners, today there are more than 400,000 Plains bison. 

Despite the possible threat to bison, they also have a tendency to be a threat toward humans, as well. Yellowstone officials reported that bison have injured more people in the park than any other animal.

Bison have been popping up in Wyoming news quite frequently in the last few months.

This week, an Ohio woman was injured by a bison after she approached too closely to it and it gored her. She was flipped 10 feet into the air.

Yellowstone park officials are also sending bison to tribes across the country so they can begin their own bison herds to honor the culture of the tribes, Cowboy State Daily reported this week.

The first export of bison from Yellowstone occurred in 2019, when park officials moved 55 bison to the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana. Because Montana law prohibits the live transfer of Yellowstone bison to new areas unless they are first certified as brucellosis-free, the animals had been held at the quarantine facility for 17 months and had undergone rigorous testing for signs the disease that induces abortions in pregnant cattle, elk, and bison.

Additionally, “Mountain Men” series star Josh Kirk, a Lander resident, is offering the chance to hunt bison with him in a rugged, primitive manner where hunters can learn how to harvest all parts of the animal.

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Ellen Fike