April 17, 2024

RMBA Statement: Request for Bison Compensation for Wolf Depredation

Below is a joint statement from the Rocky Mountain Bison Association (RMBA) and National Bison Association (NBA) to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission. 

April 2024 – On behalf of the Rocky Mountain Bison Association (RMBA), I am writing to bring to your attention the pressing issue of bison depredation by newly introduced wolves in your state, and to formally request that bison be included for compensation, akin to cattle and other livestock, for resulting death loss. RMBA, represents 76 Colorado bison ranchers, marketers, and enthusiasts’ as well as 60 members in surrounding states. RMBA is based in Colorado where a majority of its membership resides and raises bison. We are also joined in these comments by the National Bison Association, a Colorado-based membership organization representing 1,200 bison ranches, marketers, and supporters in 49 states.

At present, bison in Colorado are classified as “alternative livestock” by the state and are thus excluded from the wolf depredation fund established as part of the Wolf Management Plan by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife to compensate ranchers for such losses.

RMBA requests an amendment be made to the Wolf Management Plan explicitly to include bison as an eligible species for compensation due to losses caused by wolves and wolf activity, at a rate that is fair to the market value at the time of the loss.

Research from the wolf reintroduction in the greater Yellowstone area routinely documents wolf packs, and lone wolves, hunting bison for food as it is a traditional food source for the species. It is important to note, research shows most bison kills are targeted at young, old, sick, or injured bison, but adult bison kills also happen. Bison producers in Colorado do not have the luxury of vast pastures that the bison herds of Yellowstone experience; the average bison herd size in Colorado is less than 50 head. When a wolf pack gets into a bison producer’s pasture, the bison cannot escape due to fencing and must defend themselves accordingly. Research shows that wolves’ endurance and determination will last longer than that of a bison. This problem is exacerbated during spring calving season when bison producers’ management plan includes having the herd in a smaller pasture to aid in feeding supplemental hay, especially during harsh spring snowstorms. The same applies to the fall season when calves are weaned from their mothers and segregated in their own smaller pasture, away from the herd. Weaning calves is a vital step for bison husbandry that will result in a prime feeding ground for a wolf pack that can, and will, easily kill calves with no adult bison in the area to defend them.

Colorado bison producers do not want confrontation with wolves, and low stress and non-lethal hazing measures will be used as needed. Despite adult bison weighing over 1,000 pounds, and calves weighing between 50 – 350 pounds depending on the time of year, it is not a question of if a bison kill will happen in Colorado, but rather when will it happen. Compensation due to loss caused by wolves must be equally applied to all livestock producers in the state regardless of what species they are raising.

We understand that managing wolves is a complex issue, and we are committed to working collaboratively with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to find equitable solutions that balance the needs of all stakeholders.

By extending compensation to bison producers, we can potentially mitigate the financial burden of wolf depredation and foster greater cooperation between wildlife conservation and ranching communities, paving the way for more robust and sustainable solutions in the future.

In conclusion, we urge Colorado Parks and Wildlife to consider our request and take the necessary steps to include bison in compensation programs for wolf depredation. Together, we can ensure the continued success of bison conservation efforts and promote harmonious coexistence between predators and prey.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your response and the opportunity to discuss this issue further. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or for further information and data.



John Graves
Rocky Mountain Bison Association

Jim Matheson
Executive Director
National Bison Association