Both elk and bison currently stable-
Yesterday I did a long post on the stabilization of the elk population on Yellowstone’s northern range, but I didn’t mention another important development, the recovery of the bison population to a bit over 3000 animals. Growth between 2008 and 9 has been slow. In the past years, the bison population has swung wildly, often climbing to near 5000 only to be killed off by the brutal Montana Department of Livestock as the bison literally began heading for greener pastures outside the Park.
One big change is the distribution of the bison population. It has grown strongly on the northern range, but not with the herd in central Yellowstone. In fact, the northern range bison have largely made up for the decrease in elk in terms of forage consumption.One bison eats about as much as 3 elk. So about 2/3 the bison are now living on the Northern Range.
Right now bison on the west side of the Park are getting ready to migrate out of the Park onto Horse Butte, just west of the Park. Last fall it appeared the bison would be welcomed for the first time, at least grudgingly, onto this vital calving ground. All the government agencies were lined up as was the enthusiastic major private landowner. The Forest Service even officially closed the Horse Butte cattle allotment. This allotment had already been bovine free for a number of years. However, not being officially closed, opponents of bison could use the vacant cattle allotment to persist in their false argument about the danger of bison spreading brucellosis to cattle.
At the last minute, however, the agency that is the source of all the trouble, Montana’s DOL, went back on the deal. Knuckle-dragging DOL agents are already lurking in the area. There will be trouble.