Montana Public Radio

American Prairie Reserve

This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

A privately funded, nonprofit organization is creating a 3.2 million-acre wildlife sanctuary — American Prairie Reserve — in northeastern Montana, an area long known as cattle country.

A record number of people entered a drawing to harvest a bison from a private herd in northeastern Montana this year.

Lawmakers Consider The Future Of Bison In Montana

Mar 25, 2019
Bison in Yellowstone National Park.
Josh Burnham (CC-BY-2.0)

Debates are intensifying at the Montana Legislature over the state’s management of North America’s largest land mammal: The American bison.

Some argue bison are a critical cultural, spiritual and historical resource. Others argue bison pose a threat to the health and well-being of cattle. Now, legislators are considering a number of bills that would decide where bison are allowed to graze, and which government entity gets to make that decision.

10 total bison tags will be available on the American Prairie Reserve this fall

A massive private conservation reserve in northeastern Montana is expanding its hunting opportunities this fall.

A sprawling, private nature reserve in northeastern Montana will host its first ever bison hunt early next year. But if you want to harvest a bison on the American Prairie Reserve, you either need to live near the reserve or be ready to pony up a lot of cash.  

Yellowstone bison.
Yellowstone National Park - Flickr (PD)

More than half of Montana is currently in the grips of a severe drought, according to the latest numbers released by the U.S. Drought Monitor Thursday. And, as pastures shrivel up in the heat, ranchers are trucking in bales of hay and selling their cattle early.

But there’s another big, horned animal out there on the range. Bison.

Threshold Episode 06: Territory Folks Should All Be Pals

Mar 9, 2017
Part of the American Prairie Reserve near Malta, Montana.
Amy Martin

Visit the American Prairie Reserve, a conservation project in the heart of Montana that could eventually be home to 10,000 bison. The vision is to stitch together 3.5 million acres of public and private lands to form the largest wildlife park in the lower 48. But some nearby ranchers feel the push to build the APR is pushing them off their land, and they're mounting a resistance. We also try to solve the Great Elk Mystery: why are elk that have been exposed to brucellosis allowed to roam free in Montana, while bison are not?


Wild Sky Beef is part of American Prairie Reserve’s mission to provide habitat for wildlife.

The for-profit arm of APR is paying its neighboring ranchers if they agree to be wildlife friendly.

Some ranchers in central and northeastern Montana resent APR, and its wealthy backers, for buying or leasing their neighbor’s land and turning loose free-roaming bison.

Camas & Sage: A Story of Bison Life on the Prairie

by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

illustrated by Christina Wald

Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2015

Camas & Sage is really almost two books in one. The picture book story tells of a lead bison cow named Sage who gives birth to a calf she names Camas. The story follows Camas through her first year of life, from taking her first steps and nursing to following her mother as she leads the herd to find fresh food and water. She learns how to play with the other calves as the adults in the herd position themselves carefully to be aware of predators. The herd braves spring rainstorms and encounters humans at campsites and prairie dogs in the fields. In the summer, Camas learns to protect herself from insects by roaming to higher ridgetops where the wind keeps the bugs at bay, and rolling in the dirt to relieve their itching skin. In late summer, the rut begins, and bulls join the herd, battling each other with their foreheads for the right to mate with the cows. Camas follows her mother as she leaves the herd to mate, and learns to depend more on grass for nourishment as Sage starts to wean her during pregnancy. The cows and calves grow extra fur to protect them from Montana's harsh winters and plow through the snow to find fresh grass to eat. By the time spring arrives, the calves (now yearlings) are becoming more independent, and Camas prepares to take on a leadership role in the herd as her mother gives birth to another calf.

Bison at Fort Belknap
Mark Azure

After a nine month analysis, the Bureau of Land Management is now prepared to allow bison to replace cattle on a publicly-owned grazing allotment near Malta.