Eric Wandishin
Dead, dead on the range: This mature bull bison was shot by wildlife officials for straying outside the boundaries of a buffer zone outside a north entrance of Yellowstone National Park in Montana. The local resident who snapped the photo was out antler hunting at the time.

Shot, Left to Rot: Montana Officials Kill Bison Bull Wandering Outside Yellowstone National Park

Adrian Jawort

It was quite a sight: Eric Wandishin, gathering elk antlers on the Dome Mountain Ranch near Yellowstone National Park noticed a wild bull bison wandering just outside the boundaries—a spot known as an elk harvesting ground but much farther north than bison usually roam. Wandishin snapped a photo to show ranch owner J.B. Kylap, whose land it was. 

But about a month after Wandishin’s March 3 sighting, the majestic beast was dead—shot by Montana officials for its transgression outside the park. Moreover, it was left lying where it fell. 

“It was really exciting, and the buffalo was just enjoying life outside the park,” Kylap said, impressed that the animal had managed to make its way up the steep mountains, past man-made barriers and onto his property.

But not everyone was excited. Word got out about the bison that had somehow managed to slip past the buffer zone that borders Yellowstone. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Park officials asked Kylap if they could haze the animal off of his private property and onto public land. When it became clear that they intended to shoot it, Kylap refused. However, a little over a month later the bison left Kylap’s ranch of its own accord and entered the adjacent Dome Mountain Wildlife Management Area.

“As soon as the government found out the bison left, they sent in two Department of Livestock agents—both carrying high-powered rifles—and one FWP official, and a Yellowstone National Park Ranger after it,” said Stephanie Seay of the Buffalo Field Campaign, which advocates for the rights of free-roaming wild bison.

Field campaign member Mike Mease watched as the agency representatives rode out to their intended kill on horseback. On April 12 the bison was shot and simply left to rot.

“They had no doubt they were going to leave him there,” Mease said. “There’s no way they could’ve gotten him back out. They draw these ridiculous lines, and if [buffalo] dare to cross over them onto National forests or public lands, they have no tolerance for them and kill them all.”

The Interagency Bison Management Plan, a cooperation between federal and state agencies, holds that bison venturing outside the park's buffer zone can be killed to protect people from injury, property from damage and livestock from disease, according to the Billings Gazette

Once they cross the line there’s no tolerance,” said Christian McKay, an executive officer of the Montana Board of Livestock. “We don’t want that memory going back into the herd."

Kylap called the decision by state officials disappointing and said it reveals much about the way certain factions view wildlife in Montana. Just the day before the shooting, the Republican-controlled Montana House of Representatives had passed Republican State Senator John Brenden’s so-called anti-bison bill, legislation that blocks the transport of wild bison that leave the park to Indian reservations where they are more than welcome. The bill also allows a zero-tolerance kill policy for bison that enter public lands in Montana.

“He was supposed to be on a wildlife refuge for animals—just not for bison, I guess,” Kylap said. “Why did they have to kill a bull bison when he was miles away from anyone and wasn’t endangering anyone?”

Brenden favors harsh anti-bison measures and believes the animals should be eliminated from Montana’s public landscape. 

“Buffalo have their place in the world, but it isn’t going back to the 1850s,” he said in February. “It’s no different than the dinosaurs. We’re living in a modern world, whether we like it or not. We don’t need free-roaming buffalo.”

“This bull was enjoying himself on his own four feet,” Seay said. “We should be celebrating that instead of murdering him.”

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page



Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
You low-life cowards ! Am talking of the dept. of livestock agents, who had to shoot the bison. Who are they to say kill what animal, for what agency, what cattle ranch, what government control, what politics and white money. They should be a shame, but thou very unlikely. Think about it, to move domestic animals next to a park full of wild animals-how stupid !! A cow is of more value then that of the dying bison. Truly disgusting !!!!!

Ghostwalker's picture
Submitted by Ghostwalker on
Nature has no boundry lines only instinct and nature created it that way for a reason.Humans think they know everything and what is best so they kill-dumb sobs.

Thomas Arnold's picture
Thomas Arnold
Submitted by Thomas Arnold on
Yet another black mark for government officials. I am not surprised and don't expect any better from officials that have developed the holier than though attitude. At the very least the could have arranged for someone to receive the meet from the Bison. Instead the took the lazy, wasteful attitude of, let's just shoot it. Had it been a poacher they would have reveled in the prospect of a compensatory fine!

Nu's picture
Submitted by Nu on
I am trying to get my head around this....Innuit cannot go whaling but "officials" can destroy a buffalo.

Pediowoman's picture
Submitted by Pediowoman on
Can’t blame the agents they are doing what the ELECTED officials are dictating them to do. They in turn and doing what the big money groups Cattlemen’s Assn, Sheep people, ATV groups PAY then to do in the form of campaign donations. Here the DFW had to kill an entire pack of wolves ( it cost the state about $90,000.00 to do it) because ONE rancher refused to even try to protect his cattle. The DFW agents were sick about it but to keep their jobs they had to do it. Instead of blaming the agents we need to absolutely hammer the low life politicians that cringe and cow tow to their big money pals.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
Substitute "buffalo" for "Indian" and you'll see that the White man hasn't changed much in the past 100 years.

Tom Macklin's picture
Tom Macklin
Submitted by Tom Macklin on
Its desperately sad to think what bullets have done to the people and animals on this planet ....

rockymissouri's picture
Submitted by rockymissouri on
This is shameful...!! What an ignorant excuse for a human being .....and a total waste John Brenden.... He needs to be voted out...!!! Let the buffalo alone. Good for Mr. Kylap, a decent person.