Bison cross a stream in Grand Teton National Park. Photo: Nick Sulzer // Buckrail

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A U.S. District Court judge is requiring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to take a second look at requests to list Yellowstone bison as an endangered species.

Judge Randolph D. Moss ruled Jan. 12 that USFWS fell short in its initial investigation into whether Yellowstone bison may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The ruling is a victory for the Buffalo Field Campaign, Friends of Animals and Western Watersheds Project.

“For the last eight years we’ve sought to hold FWS accountable for its failure to protect wild Yellowstone bison,” said James Holt, Buffalo Field Campaign’s executive director, in a press release. “While we savor this victory today, time is not on our side.”

Moss did not set a deadline for USFWS to reconsider bisons’ status.

More than 5,000 bison live in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. National Park Service culls the herd every year as population management. Officials say culling is necessary to prevent the spread of disease, primarily from bison to cattle. A 2017 study from the National Academy of Science found all cases of brucellosis in Greater Yellowstone cattle that year were traced to transmission from elk rather than bison.

Culling is also frowned upon by some environmentalists who say bison habitat is under threat thanks to climate change and the animal should be protected. More than 3,000 bison have been killed in the last five years as part of the government’s population management, according to Western Watershed Project.

“This is another important victory for Yellowstone bison. But it is important that this victory lead the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure adequate protections for our national mammal,” said Jocelyn Leroux, Montana director for Western Watershed Project. “Yellowstone bison, and the Central Herd specifically, need action now to reverse decades of aggressive government killing and harassment.”

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Buckrail @ Shannon

Shannon is a Wyoming-raised writer and reporter. She just completed a master's in journalism from Boston University. Jackson shaped her into an outdoorswoman, but a love for language and the human condition compels her to write. She believes there's no story too small to tell nor adventure too small to take.