Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Department or School/College

School of Journalism

Committee Chair

Ray Ekness

Commitee Members

Nadia White, Wayne Freimund


genetics, Yellostone, buffalo, domestic, wild


University of Montana


Since Europeans arrived to stay in North America, the number of wild bison fell from more than 30 million, to a low in 1884 of 325 wild bison – including just 25 in Yellowstone National Park. But in the late 20th century, bison ranching soared in popularity. In 1970, the number of bison being raised on ranches exceeded, for the first time, the number of bison in herds managed for conservation. Some people say this shows the power of ranching as a tool for conservation. Today, there are 500,000 bison in the United States. Of those, 480,000 are privately owned. Conservationists argue bison have to be wild to be valuable. Scientists argue they have to have DNA free of bovine genes to be wild. And other ranchers would just assume the range – and their own fence lines -- be left for the more easily managed cattle. But bison ranchers and their allies say that in order to keep North America’s iconic furry beasts of the plains in the picture, you’ve got to let them earn their keep. To save them, they argue, we need to eat them.



© Copyright 2014 Kristina Lyn Heitkamp