Biologists in Yellowstone National Park recommend that 450 bison be killed this winter in order to “reduce abundance and growth potential,” reported Wyoming’s Star Tribune.
Estimates from 2012 report that Yellowstone has roughly 4,200 bison. These animals are divided into two herds: the central herd that stays primarily near Old Faithful and the Firehole and Madison river drainages, and the northern herd that gathers near the Lamar Valley and Yellowstone River drainage. Currently, the central herd has about 1,600 animals, while the northern herd has 2,600 animals, the most it’s ever had, according to park officials.
Ideally, the park service would like to see each herd have roughly 1,500 bison, with an equal number of males and females.
“Hunting and management removals of approximately 400 bison per year would provide a high certainty of approaching all desired conditions within five years,” reads the Interagency Bison Management Plan statement.
Without thinning the herds this winter, biologists say that there’s a 50 percent chance of bison numbers rising to more than 4,875 entering into the 2014 winter.
Those against the culling strategy argue that bison should be allowed in a larger area, rather than slaughtering the animals. Dan Brister, executive director of the Buffalo Field Campaign, a conservation group, supports enlarging the bisons’ habitat.
“We’d like to see them treat bison more like elk are treated,” he told the Tribune. “There’s a lot of great habitat they’re being excluded from.”