bison herd Montana
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This story is excerpted from the MT Lowdown, a weekly newsletter digest containing original reporting and analysis published every Friday.

Number of bison killed by hunters just outside the Yellowstone National Park boundary this winter, according to the latest report issued by the Interagency Bison Management Plan.

That number, double the previous record, has prompted Bozeman-based nonprofit Gallatin Wildlife Association to send a letter seeking Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s intervention.

The group is calling for a new management framework that will result in fewer bison killed immediately north of the YNP boundary. This winter’s kill rate has been particularly high since heavy snows have driven hundreds of bison out of the park into Beattie Gulch in search of winter forage. Nearly a third of the park’s bison population has been shot by hunters, culled by wildlife managers, or removed for brucellosis testing or quarantine this winter, according to GWA’s letter.

“The systematic killing and culling of YNP bison at Beattie Gulch, a practice the IBMP has condoned each year, has run into a 21st century ethical nightmare,” the letter, written by GWA President Clint Nagel, says. “The practice has not proven successful for bison ecology or safe for the general public, residents, or for those who participate in the annual hunt itself. This is why we think it is best if you intercede.”

The letter calls for a new approach to bison management that will allow the national mammal to roam freely outside Yellowstone National Park, including onto the Custer Gallatin National Forest land where hunting is currently most concentrated. Buffalo Field Campaign spokesperson Tom Woodbury has described the current hunting practice as a “canned hunt” that puts hunters at risk, too.

“If hunting were to cease or be drastically reduced at Beattie Gulch, bison survivors would be able to roam, explore, and instill possible memories of where they may find springtime forage,” GWA’s letter continues. “This could very well benefit their decision-making processes in the future, for at present treaty hunting is preventing migratory behavior, an important aspect of bison ecology.”

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Amanda Eggert studied print journalism at the University of Montana. Prior to becoming a full-time journalist, Amanda spent four years working with the Forest Service as a wildland firefighter. After leaving the Forest Service in 2014, Amanda worked for Outside magazine as an editorial fellow before joining Outlaw Partners’ staff to lead coverage for Explore Big Sky newspaper and contribute writing and editing to Explore Yellowstone and Mountain Outlaw magazines. Prior to joining Montana Free Press’ staff in 2021 Amanda was a freelance writer, researcher and interviewer. In addition to writing...