An Open Letter to the Last Wild Bison of America

Dear wild bison,

It’s time you made a comeback. But first, I want to apologize.

Even though you are magnificently large and swift – the largest terrestrial animal in North America – our forefathers hunted you to the brink of extinction over 100 years ago.

Wild bison once dominated the grassland and prairie ecosystems of the United States. Photo by John Serrao/flickr
First you were killed for food. But many more of you were killed for hides and just for sport. And then, they set out to exterminate you from the Great Plains to make way for farmland.

By 1900, less than 100 of you were left in the wild of Yellowstone National Park.

To this day, you Yellowstone bison are the last and only pure, wild herd in America.

To think, you were once 40 million strong, roaming in great, thundering herds across most of North America. What a sight, and a sound, you must have been!

By 1900, we realized what great harm we had done to you, and took steps to stop the carnage.

We stopped hunting you. We protected you on federal lands as wildlife. Things were beginning to look up.

Then in the 1950s, brucellosis hit, a terrible disease that causes cattle to lose their calves. To get it under control, animals that tested positive for the disease were killed.

Some of you got brucellosis, too. I found it interesting that there’s never been a case of wild bison infecting cattle—none the less, many of you were killed out of fear.

bison and calf
Bison calves are born in the spring and typically stay with their mothers for about a year. Photo by Kathy Rowland, National Wildlife Federation photo contest entrant.
You deserve so much better. You are the only native wildlife species that is not permitted to roam your natural, historic range!

We will not come that close to losing you again. You are the heirs to our wild past.

So, here’s what we’re doing. We are making sure you are healthy and giving you a new home.

Actually, it’s part of your old home – the beautiful and protected rolling prairies of Fort Peck Reservation in northeastern Montana. These are the lands your ancestors roamed centuries ago!

In fact, 139 of you are going there soon.

I hope you’re excited about this move – I sure am. It makes you one of the biggest conservation success stories in history!

We hope to see a lot more of you in the future and may you always have room to roam.

Friends of wildlife can help bring wild bison home by supporting our work to move wild bison back to their ancestral western tribal lands and protect wildlife throughout the country.