cover image To Save the Wild Bison: Life on the Edge in Yellowstone

To Save the Wild Bison: Life on the Edge in Yellowstone

Mary Ann Franke, . . Univ. of Oklahoma, $29.95 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-8061-3683-7

Wild bison, better known as buffalo, are closely associated with this country's natural heritage, yet little attention is paid to the fact that most are no longer truly wild. In this lucid account of the controversy over how to maintain the bison in Yellowstone National Park, Franke (Yellowstone in the Afterglow: Lessons from the Fires ) shows that keeping the animals in natural conditions is almost impossible. Park officials must balance competing interests—Indian tribes for whom the bison are an important religious symbol; environmentalists who oppose any control of the bison's movements; property owners who suffer when the animals roam outside the park; ranchers who fear the bison will transmit disease to cattle. Many management policies have been tried: the bison's movements are monitored; diseased animals are culled; wanderers found outside the park's boundaries are slaughtered. All these activities threaten the wild bison in Yellowstone—not with extinction, but with loss of their wildness. The author considers each option in depth, finding that so far there are no satisfactory solutions. She does, however, present plenty of food for thought as she explores the ramifications of humankind's desire and ability to control natural processes. 26 b&w illus., 4 maps. (Sept.)