Yellowstone


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Wild Buffalo Wild Bison

Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, before the surrounding area became the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Boundary changes, made twice, added small areas to the original rectangle and altered the east boundary in 1929 to conform for most of its length to the drainage divide formed by the Absaroka Mountains. Most of the land adjacent to the boundary is administered by the U.S. Forest Service.

source

 

The Pittsburgh Commercial

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Mar 12 1872

THE YELLOWSTONE VALLEY

The Great National Park and Sanitarium

……Until within the last two years the charm of mystery has surrounded the Yellowstone river. Like the Nile, it’s sources were long unknown, and the nomadic tribes of Indians upon its borders were left in undisputed possession of its secrets until the surveys for the railroad through Dakota and Montana, followed by scientific exploration, brought to light the features of this peculiar region. The illustrated reports of the “Wonders of the Yellowstone” in the magazines has attracted great attention recently. And the natural spectacles of geysers of boiling water, hundreds in number, dotting a beautiful as well as picturesque landscape far grander than the Springs of Iceland, has engaged the attention of the national government. As a consequence an area forty by forty-five miles has been set apart at the sources of the Yellowstone in Montana for a grand national park and sanitarium. Next as a result of the explorations we hear that the Valley of the River, just below the springs, where turns east and runs for several hundred miles parallel to the Missouri River, though considerably to the South of it, will likely be the route of the Northern Pacific Railroad. This Valley is described as a fertile belt with bottoms from four to ten miles wide, now covered with the most luxuriant growth of “bunch grass,” where thousands of buffalo, deer and antelope range, and where the Crow and Sioux Indians keep thousands of horses the year round on the natural pasture. The low hills insight are frequently found covered with a fine growth of timber, though occasionally the grazing ranges break through and extend for miles over the rolling country.

……Evidences of mineral coal have been seen at various points, and doubtless the miner will find the same evidences of gold, silver, copper and iron, that have marked the prospects in all the other valleys of Montana. Heretofore the hostility of the powerful Indian tribes has prevented the development of the resources of this country. The Indians are stronger in number there than elsewhere in an equal area, because, doubtless, of the natural advantages the place affords for the means of supplying a comfortable existence without any labor. The immense herds of buffalo at all times furnish a cheap market to draw upon, and the Sioux will be loth to part with any of their territory. But there are thousands of settlers arriving in the country -nearly a thousand a day in fact – and the east is becoming so much crowded but it is necessary that some new field should be opened for the surplus. The Sioux tribes, with a population of not over twenty-five thousand, must not hope much longer to monopolize so great a territory as Eastern Montana in Dakota – a region as large as all the Middle and New England States combined.

……While in Montana last summer the writer was surprised to find how fertile the soil was in the extent it had been developed by a small number of miners and agriculturalist, but the reports we heard from many who accompanied the parties along the Yellowstone United in describing the resources of its Valley for grazing and agricultural purposes as superior to those already settled near Helena and the other mining towns. The Northern Pacific Railroad will doubtless land and impetus to settlement in this virgin territory that will mark a wonderful page in the history of our national progress.

T.P.R.

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Juniata Sentinel and Republican

Mifflintown, Pennsylvania

 Dec 11 1878

YELLOWSTONE PARK

For a distance of some 30 or 40 miles from the crooked, elevated canon pass near the foot of the second canon of the Yellowstone to its gate of the mountains the lovely trail pass to Fort Ellis, the main Yellowstone and the west fork of the Gallatin run northerly, nearly parallel, and but a few miles apart. But between them towers into the snow-capped peaks 9,000 and 10,000 feet high, one of the blackest, roughest, most repellent and most impassable basaltic mountain ranges upon the continent. While its western side towns from the lovely Gallatin valley of the Bozeman and Fort Ellis like battlements amid the clouds, it’s eastern descends basaltic  terraces to the enchanting Bottler Park along the Yellowstone. These terraces, With countless recent earthquake fissure rents, usually somewhat parallel with the main range and each other, often hundreds, sometimes thousands of feet deep, and no wider, with towering, rugged, often impassable walls of black, red, violets, and other sombrehued pudding stone, basalt and lava, mingled with a scattering the dwarf pine and cedar, fringed the grassy slopes. These again, cross-furrowed by the narrow, tortuous, yawning canon , outlets of the huge hot springs, your crystal lakes and grassy cedar-fringed cliff, sheltered parks high amid eternal snows, unite to form a region of matchless, enchanting beauty and repellent horror. That countless bleaching horns and bones, and if you domesticated specimens roaming peacefully with our domestic cattle, alone attest the recent occupancy of the valley by the curly bison or mountain buffalo. But the sharp eyed, fleet footed antelope in the black tail along the terraced grassy slopes; the fierce wolverine and mountain lion in the dense thickets, ferocious grizzly in the rugged canon passes, speckled trout and tufted waterfowl of the lovely lakes, the stately antlered elk stocking proudly through cedar groves and secluded grassy glens, and the majestic big horn grazing leisurely from, or dashing fearlessly along the rocky battlements high amid snow and cloud, still seem as of yore, game in scenery combined, forming not for the timid pilgrim, but for the bold, experienced, cliff climbing mountaineer an earthly hunters paradise in the fabled Eden of the departed Indian warrior beyond the distant mountains. This has ever been the chosen hunting ground of Frederick Bottler, the “mighty hunter of the mountains,” (immortalized by professor Haydens scene of him amid his five huge antlered elk laying as they fell before his deathly rifle and the famous photograph of “The Successful Hunter,” ) and here for the past eight years we have together closed are mountain sport for the season and with uniform success. We this year, on the morning of October 9, with our saddle and pack horses past where the Scottish Earl Dun Raven killed his largest big horn and Texas Jack from a branch treetop thankfully saw his wounded grizzly demolish his Winchester instead of himself, to one of our chosen haunts seldom visited by white men, and never by Indians, deep and worn amid surrounding crags and snow. At 2 o’clock P.M. we picketed our horses (still saddled for use) in a small grassy glade and recommenced out hunt, which a Parson Murray, of Adirondack fame, would have enjoyed a month and chronicled a lifetime, both with us, soon finished.

At this ruting season of the year the huge antlered elk, when heated in the chase, cool themselves, buffalo like, in wallow beds, only more wet and muddy. While guided by the loud, peculiar, wooing elf whistle, we were cautiously approaching on of these haunts in a thicket of Pinon pines, Frederick, who was in advance, discovered an approaching grizzly, and at a distance of fifty yards gave him a mortal shot through the neck and breast, but as he charged I instantly stopped him with a bullet crashing through the brain. Three other grizzly, until then unseen, reared snorting in the thicket, but while withholding our fire for deadly aim in their expected charge, as usual when attacked, they strangely slid from sight in retreat. In trailing them, I when some distance from Frederick, brought down a very large and fine cow elf, with one bullet through the breast, two through the lungs,  and with the fourth broke her neck, a;; sent as fast as possible from a Winchester rifle. Before reaching my game, Frederick, who had meantime killed an antelope and a sheep, and becoming alarmed at my rapid firing, came up breathless to join in an expected bear fight, and only throating our game we hastened over a low ridge where Frederick had seen a herd of elk.

Scores if not hundreds of them, were laying, grazing, or gamboling, singly or in groups, for adown the opposite terrace, fully a thousand feet below us, and a half mile away; a charming scene for a painter, but practically too far away for us, and without molesting them we steered for a band heard whistling nearer camp.  Having an abundance of meat, we now went for horns, and cautiously approaching, with but one ring of both rifles, brought down the largest horned bull within range, and then dashed , rifle in hand, into the herd for the loftiest antlers near the other side. There seemed about 100 of them, mainly 3 or 1 year old bulls, and as these animals do not visit the Park, probably few in any of them had ever seen a human being, for at the report of our rifles, the most of them looked hastily to the surrounding cliffs, searching for the echoes: other ran off, while some of the group around the one we had shot gazed in silent wonder at his reeling fall, spouting gore, and dying struggles. Others snorted in affright, and two, perhaps rivals for some favorite cow, charged boldly in for a free fight with a fallen foe and each other, too much occupied with their sport to notice us, until somewhat diverging from Frederick I ran up to certainly less than 50 feet when they observed me, and one of them ran off. The other, a noble 4 year old, standing nearly astride neck, and lofty antlers, seemed to momentarily expand in fierceness, to magnificent proportions, and preparations for a fearful charge, and when he with fairly bristling hair gave the fearful battle snort, his acrid hot hissing saliva nearly reached me. I have often and again heard their wooing, whistle – snorting battle challenge, and clashing horns, but never before when I was so near – most unmistakably the party challenge – utterly exposed, with no possibility of retreat, and only a bare one of a fortunate shot to drop him before transfixed by a score of antler points. During over 40 years of frontier experience, I have thankfully sought the lee side of a friendly bluff, boulder, or breakwork from a shower of hailstones or bullets, a hidden coula from a wounded bull, or a dashing herd of buffalo, a torked tree from a wounded black tailed buck, and a low branched one, easy to cliimb, from a powder burned grizzly, but never before realized how terribly formidable the usually timid, but fleet, proud, lofty antlered Rocky Mountains elk could become when scenting blood, thoroughly aroused, and proudly facing the unknown biped man – belted, armed and plumed, stocking erect into his battle rain. For a moment I would have rather faced a family of snorting grizzlies, but unwisely, for, with my answering shout of mingled challenge and affright, the God – stamped fear of his degenerate image – upon nearly all animals – reached him, but all too late, for high in his first leap of retreat a rifle rang out, and his proud form and lofty antlers crashed headlong in death beside his fellow. As Fred had also brought down another, we desisted, not for want of game, but inclination for wanton slaughter. With horse and lasso we, without skinning, soon dragged our game just passed our spare horses in a little sheltered glade, to our blazing campfire beneath the sheltering branches of an ancient cedar.

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  1. NOTE: The article states 40 X 45 miles (1800 s.m.)Today; Yellowstone National Park spans an area of 3,468.4 square miles(8,983 km2), comprising lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges. Yellowstone Lake is one of the largest high-elevation lakes in North America and is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest supervolcano on the continent.

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YNP 1894

Bison wintering in Hayden Valley prior to 1894. Photo probably by John Folsom, early Canyon winter-keeper.

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RECORDS OF THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

Expenditures, Buffalo Corrals, Chutes, Fencing of Pastures, etc., 1907-13 (parts 1-2)

In the book “Buffalo Nation” by Valerius Geist, it states that the U.S. Army responded to the call from Roosevelt to help with the decline of buffalo on YN, by purchasing 14 cows from Pablo -Allard herd and 3 bulls from Charles Goodnight herd. “The army placed the bison into an enclosure along with some calves caught from the wild Yellowstone herd. This led to a “buffalo ranch” in the park that was run along military lines, with hay grown on irrigated meadows and some bulls being castrated and branded like cattle.”

“Recreation Survey of Buffalo,” 1925

715-03 “Memorandum Report on the Proposed Buffalo Show Corral,” by George F. Baggley, 1930

715-03 “Bang’s Disease in the Yellowstone National Park Buffalo Herd,” by Francis D. LaNoue, 1933

H.R. 8773, Dispose of buffalo, 1937-38

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YELLOWSTONE


The Bison of Yellowstone National Park
NPS Scientific Monograph No. 1

The Present Population

Origins

As stated previously, the Yellowstone bison of the present derive from two subspecies: plains bison from Montana (Pablo-Allard herd) and Texas (Goodnight herd), introduced in 1902, and a remnant of the original wild population of mountain bison. Skinner and Alcorn (1942-51) summarize the introduction, numbers, and subsequent management practices pertaining to the introduced herd at the Buffalo Ranch in Lamar. Population numbers are from that source and other official reports. Skinner also provides a resumé of official information concerning the wild bison, but does not attempt to evaluate the question of their survival. Information scattered in the diaries, reports, and correspondence of park personnel (Yellowstone National Park Archives) provides the basis for the following.

Before 1915, introduced bison of plains stock could not have escaped to form a wild group. The introduced herd was in a small fenced pasture at Mammoth from 1902 until moved to the Buffalo Ranch at Lamar in 1907. From 1907 until at least 1915, these animals were closely day-herded, and apparently put in a fenced pasture at night. Although one plains bull from the fenced herd was turned out in 1903, and one or two stray bulls were mentioned later in scout reports, these apparently never joined the wild bison. Twenty bulls from the Buffalo Ranch were driven 14 miles up the Lamar River in 1914; these all returned.

Members of two other small groups of semidomestic bison, those of the Yellowstone Lake Boat Co. and some from Henry’s Lake west of the park, never mixed with the wild herd (Appendix III).

In spite of very low numbers and a pessimistic outlook, the original wild herd did persist, and gradually increased once protection from poaching was assured. The critical survival period extended from 1902 until about 1920; thereafter, groups of bison which did not frequent the Buffalo Ranch were more common. These probably contained escapees from the introduced herd as well as native animals. Table 2, from sources listed in Appendix III, shows dates, locations, and numbers for the wild herd from 1903-15. Later official estimates of wild herd numbers are not used, since there was some possibility of wild and introduced animals intermingling after 1915. The table shows clearly the presence of a remnant wild herd in Pelican Valley in winter, and on the Mirror Plateau in summer, as well as a few individuals elsewhere. There was a steady increase, indicated both by calves and by total bison seen. The known population more than doubled between 1903 and 1912. An actual count was difficult, as Nowlin (1912) of the Biological Survey found: “I have never seen buffaloes on the range so wary and difficult to locate as the wild ones in the Yellowstone Park.”

Official population estimates of the time did not allow for more animals than were actually seen; they were undoubtedly conservative. By 1912, as Nowlin’s classification of 35 animals shows, the survival of calves (8) and yearlings (7) was encouraging, and the potential for increase (13 females) was apparent. By 1915, the population may have been nearing 100. Known mortality is shown only in 1904. While winter loss probably occurred during other years, the death of many animals would surely have been observed and reported by Army patrols or scouts.

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Buffalo Jones and Army Scout Holt

Buffalo Jones and Army Scout Holt with a captured bison calf on a sled.

Photo from Yellowstone National Park files.

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Present composition

An estimate of the contribution of the two subspecies to the present population gene pool is, at best, rough but is preferable to having none. Table 3 shows the sex and adult-calf composition of the fenced herd from 1902 through 1915. The addition to this herd of four calves captured by Army scouts (Fig. 13) from the wild herd for the purpose of adding a second bloodline is also shown. From these numbers, Table 4 was compiled to show the age classes according to sex. The bulls 4 years and older were assumed to have done the breeding in this fenced situation, although younger bulls may have been physically capable. Females were assumed to breed as 2-year-olds and to calve at 3. From these assumptions and the tables, the wild strain in the fenced group was estimated at a maximum of 10% by 1910. Further dilution of the wild strain in the fenced herd was assumed until perhaps 1917.

TABLE 3. Composition of fenced herd, 1902-15


YearMales
yrlg & other
Females
yrlg & over
TotalMale calvesFemale calvesTotal calvesHerd totalShow herdb

19023182121
1903218202 + 2 wild3727
19046202666 + 1 wild1339
190512a27a39a3a2544
190615a29a44a9a4a1357
190722a32a54a3a2a559
190825a34a59a7a1473
190930a42a72a13 + 1 wild9239614
1910415192a1992812016
191156a56a112a2914115
19125861119a141024143yes
191366a66a132a151530162yes
19147782159a20153519416 + 20
191594a96190a282149239yes

aCalculated.
bShow herd is included in herd total.

Sometime between 1915 and 1920, intermingling of the introduced and wild animals began. At first this was probably gradual. Park records do not show the specific year, but after 1915 the close herding practices in use with the introduced herd were abandoned, and the animals were kept on open range all summer. Close account was kept of most of them for several more years, but there were some escapees. After 1921, with construction of a log drift fence across the Lamar Valley above Soda Butte Creek, deliberate efforts were made to keep the introduced herd on the higher summer ranges, where intermingling with the wild bison must have quickly increased.

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Yellowstone National Park Herd cir. 1903

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Roosevelt & Carrie -King of the herd and the dehorned cow cir. 1907

Roosevelt "king of the herd" & Carrie (dehorned cow)

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YELLOWSTONE NATURE NOTES

Vol. XIV January-February, 1937 Nos. 1-2

BUFFALO IN YELLOWSTONE PARK
by
Junior Naturalist Frank Oberhansley

……Aside from the fact that buffaloes (Bison bison bison) were at least moderately numerous in the region embraced by Yellowstone when this became our first national park in 1872, we know little of the early history of those animals in this region. This is not strange when we remember that there were still millions of buffaloes roaming at large in their native haunts. The supply as yet seemed inexhaustible. The early explorers and visitors were attracted here by the expressions of nature in the hot springs, geysers, and other natural wonders. It was natural that only their impressions and interpretation of the unique were written. Upon verification by the Geological Survey that such geologic phenomena really existed here, this area was set aside as a national park in order that it might be preserved in its natural state by the government for the “benefit and enjoyment” of all the people, forever. The thought of making Yellowstone a game preserve was incidental to the main issue.

……From the time of discovery until 1886 hunting was deemed essential to the success of any expedition to this remote area. Market hunters were well established in the northern section of the park as early as 1873. The first superintendent, N. P. Langford, recommended that hunting be restricted to the needs of residents of the park and its visitors, but for want of any salary he was prevented from residing here and seriously checking these activities during his five year term.

……In the pioneering venture of creating a national park, Congress overlooked the item of providing money for administration and protection; consequently for a period of five years no government funds were available and hunters had things pretty much their own way in Yellowstone. When money was first appropriated in 1877, the beginning of the end was in sight for the buffalo. At this time Superintendent Norris stated that thousands of hides had been taken out and that it was the practice of the hunters to poison the carcasses which were left as bait for wolf and wolverine. He predicted correctly that within the decade buffaloes would become extinct or exceedingly rare outside of this government area. It was estimated that there were three or four hundred head of the “curly, nearly black bison” (1) left in the park. They were described by Norris as being “smaller, of lighter color and with horns smaller and less spreading than those of the bison that formerly inhabited Colorado.” (1). Figgins described the mountain buffalo (Bison bison haningtoni) as being much lighter in color, “notably in the head, neck, and forelimbs” (2) than the plains buffalo (Bison bison bison). Grinnell stated that the “Mountain Buffalo” (3) was abundant in Yellowstone Park in 1875 and called attention to the terrible destruction of these animals for their hides alone. These mountain buffalo were considered to be more fleet and intelligent than the plains animals. Their hides were also more valuable as they were darker, finer, and more curly.

……In 1880 Mr. Norris estimated 600 buffaloes for the park, 300 of which were only summer residents and having their winter range to the west in Idaho. The other animals ranged in the eastern and northeastern section of the park. During the year a game keeper was employed to assist Mr. Norris in protecting the buffalo and other animals. By Superintendent’s Order the buffalo was protected in 1879. Montana also provided a protection law that year.

bison
……From 1882 to 1885 we can learn nothing of the status of the buffalo in Yellowstone. Reports of slaughter moved Congress to replace civilian employees with Cavalry troops of the army, the commanding officers acting as superintendents for a period of 30 years when the National Park Service of today was created. Protective work was ineffectual as no suitable court or laws were provided for offenders. The work of the soldiers was augmented by civilian scouts acting in the nature of game wardens.

……In 1886 all hunting in Yellowstone was prohibited by law but no court was provided to try cases, the only punishment being arrest and expulsion from the park and confiscation of outfit. This proved to be an excellent gamble for poachers with cheap outfits when a good head was worth $400.

……Captain Harris estimated 100 buffalo in 1837. The following year he dispatched a patrol on snowshoes to the winter range with the idea of finding out how many buffaloes were left. This patrol encountered only three head. A later patrol in March succeeded in finding signs of about 100 animals that had wintered in the vicinity of Mary Mountain. During the following spring several buffaloes were seen along the Firehole River whose range was thought to extend across the Madison Plateau to the southwest corner. Thee total estimate was then raised to 200 head.

……Captain Boutelle became superintendent in 1890. He observed a scarcity of calves and thought cougars and lions were preying upon them. Sensing the perilous plight of the buffalo, appeals were sent to the governors of the states of Wyoming and Idaho for protection of animals that might drift from the park into these states. Wyoming enacted a good protection law the same year but Idaho ignored the request and continued to harbor the most notorious set of poachers known, in the vicinity of Henrys Lake near the western border of the park.

……From 1891 to 1897 Captain George S. Anderson served as military superintendent. He noted the activities of the merciless freebooters of Henrys Lake and learned of several heads being marketed in surrounding towns at from four to five hundred dollars. Several arrests were made in this vicinity, but no convictions were secured. During the winter of 1894 a notorious poacher from Cooke, Montana was arrested in Hayden Valley with six hides in possession. Scout Burgess and Sergeant Troike apprehended him in the act of stalking a small band of buffaloes. His final conviction was the first under the new protection law of 1894. A court was established that year in the park with John W. Meldrum as first United States Commissioner to try cases and assess penalties.

…….From 1891 to 1894 Captain Anderson estimated there were 400 buffalo left in the park when suddenly the estimate dropped to 200. Seventy five were counted on the west side and reports of many more in 1891. Evidently, the Idaho poachers were quite successful, for in the year 1896 it was estimated there were only 25 or 30 head left in the entire park, and doubts were expressed that they could be saved. Attempts were made to capture a few of them by providing hay in a corral in Hayden Valley but with no success. Hay was cut and stacked in Pelican Valley in hopes the buffalo would find it. Winter snows covered it so deeply, however, that even the scouts could not locate it. Special money was made available by the War Department in a final effort to save the buffalo from complete extermination. Experienced hunters and other mountain men were employed to assist the scouts and soldiers but their efforts were of no avail as the damage was nearly complete. Only the carcasses were left as evidence of the fact that buffalo had inhabited the southwestern and western sections of the park. Poachers had reduced the herd to an estimated 22 head by 1902.

……With buffalo so near to extinction, it was decided to import an entirely new herd, and gradually release some of these animals, thus introducing new blood into the wild herd. Accordingly, 18 cows were secured from the Pablo-Allard herd in Montana and delivered by Howard Eaton. At the same time, 3 bulls were secured from the Goodnight herd in Texas by C. J. (Buffalo) Jones who was employed as game warden in charge of buffalo. These animals were kept in a large enclosed pasture one mile south of Mammoth until 1907 at which time the herd had grown in number to 61 head. Three calves were captured from the wild herd and raised by domestic cows. The pasture proved insufficient to meet the needs of the ever-increasing herd so a new site was selected on the present location of the Buffalo Ranch in Lamar Valley at the mouth of Rose Creek. Here a portion of the valley bottom was fenced off to protect the wild grasses which were harvested in the fall for winter feed. The north slopes of the valley including about 600 acres were fenced for summer pasture land. Comfortable living quarters were provided for the buffalo keeper at the present site.

……As early as 1908 it was felt that there were too many bulls in the herd. They were constantly fighting and endangering the lives of the calves. In order to relieve the condition, fourteen bulls were separated from the herd and driven to Mammoth as the first show herd. Late in the fall they were returned to the main herd. The practice of maintaining a show herd at Mammoth continued until 1935 when a more suitable location on Antelope Creek was selected. Hundreds of thousands of visitors have thus been benefitted; as buffalo could rarely be seen by them on the inaccessible summer range.

……The Lamar herd had grown until in 1910 it numbered 121 head, 61 males and 60 females. The original summer pasture proved inadequate so the herd was turned out each morning to graze. At first they were herded carefully and driven into the enclosure every two hours in order to accustom them to being handled. Later they were herded during the daytime and returned to the pasture at night. This practice of day herding was continued until 1915 when it was thought to be unnecessary. Since that time, the herd has gradually reverted to a wild state until today the Yellowstone buffalo are perhaps fully as wild as the plains buffalo of old.

bison

……In December 1911, just after the buffaloes were taken from the range where they had been day herded during the summer, 22 of the younger animals (15% of the herd) died. Blackleg was at first suspected and fear of losing the entire herd prompted quick action. The disease was found to be Hemorrhagic septicemia, a blood disease for which the entire herd was vaccinated in June of that year. There was a recurrence of the disease in 1919 when 26 of the buffaloes died in spite of previous vaccinations in 1917 and 1918. A third attack of the disease threatened the herd of 578 in 1922. Fifty two of the animals died before serum could be secured from the Bureau of Animal Industry. The new serum of 1922 proved to be 100% effective in immunizing buffalo against the disease and from that time until the present a fresh supply has been available at the Buffalo Ranch ready for instant use.

bison
……In the meantime, the original wild animals were not molested by poachers. They ranged widely over the park country east of Yellowstone Lake and River, so wild that they were seldom seen even by the scouts or later by the rangers, except when special patrols were made. Seventy two head were counted in 1916 and 67 in 1917. Since that time there has been a gradual overlapping of the ranges of the two herds until at the present time they have thoroughly intermingled. There is still a tendency for the animals to winter in distinct herds. The main herd at the Buffalo Ranch is fed hay during the hardest part of the winter. Another group varying in number to as many as 300 animals, winters in the valleys east of Yellowstone Lake without artificial feed. During the past two two small herds, numbering 36 and 35 were separated from the main herd and turned loose in Hayden Valley and the Lower Geyser Basin, respectively, in order to reduce the main herd and at the same time establish the buffalo on his former range. These animals seem to be doing well in their new locations. Twenty eight were counted in Hayden Valley in September while thirty were seen in January in the Lower Geyser Basin.

……The early problem of surplus bulls in the herd was partially met by establishing a show herd at Mammoth, through live shipments, to public parks and zoos and to private estates for exhibition purposes. As early as 1904, attempts were made to rejuvenate the wild herd with new blood by liberating one of the new bulls in Pelican Valley. This venure was a failure as the bull was found dead near Thumb station the following spring. Subsequent attempts were made to reduce the number of bulls by driving them from the Buffalo Ranch anticipating that they would join the wild herd, but fortunately for the wild herd they always returned to the Ranch. Finally, permission to slaughter and sell the meat of surplus buffaloes was granted by Congress to park officials so in the event that live shipments do not balance the herd against feed and available range, there is always a way provided for a sound management program. It has been established that facilities in Yellowstone are adequate for approximately 1000 buffaloes and for the best interests of the park as a whole this figure has been adhered to rather closely during the past few years. In 1918, 66% (44 head) of the male calves of 1917 and 1918 were castrated during the vaccination of the herd for Hemorrhagic septicemia. These steers and others following were slaughtered at the Buffalo Ranch, the meat in later years having been donated to relief organizations and Indian agencies in the states bordering the park. Total live shipments to zoos and reservations from the park number 1351 to date.

……From the small herd of eighteen cows and three bulls established in Yellowstone in 1902 plus the remnant of the original herd which was assimilated in later years, the present herds total approximately 1000 head, while a total of 2182 surplus animals have been disposed of. Many fine herds have been establish throughout the country from the Yellowstone surplus.

……Under the sound agement program of late years, the future of the buffalo in the park has never been brighter.

References for the above article:

1. Superintendents’ Annual Reports

2. Figgins, J. A., Bison of the Western Area of the Mississippi Basin, Vol. XII, p. 30.

3. Grinnell, George Bird and Ludlow, Captain – A Reconnaissance from Carroll, Montana to Yellowstone National Park in 1875.

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Disposition of Quarantine Facility Study Bison Oct 2014

QFSBisonDisposition draftEA (public-pdf)

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