Ranger’s Horses and Mules Purchase Program

Project Overview

Yellowstone National Park cares for and works 110 horses and mules each year. These stock animals are vital to backcountry park rangers in the summer and fall, as rangers use them to travel throughout the park to support backcountry logistical needs. The corrals operation also relies on horses purchased through Yellowstone Forever for winter bison operations and the Bison Conservation and Transfer program. Each year the park must replace members of the herd who are lost due to death, injury, or are retired due to old age. Funding from Yellowstone Forever is used to purchase these vitally important and less visible members of the park’s workforce for ranger use.

“The benefits of horses and mules to perform the job of a backcountry ranger in Yellowstone are immeasurable. The assistance these animals provide allows rangers to go further – to clear more trails in a day, to reach visitors in distress faster, to haul more tools, equipment, and supplies to backcountry cabins and support trail work crews.”  – Ranger Kowalski


Yellowstone National Park is reliant on horses and mules for use in the park’s vast backcountry. The animals purchased through this project allow backcountry rangers to fulfill their duties patrolling trails and cross-country routes in the wilderness to check on illegal fire rings, visitor permits, and trail status. They respond to injured and sick hikers. Without a full herd of stock animals these rangers would not be able to perform these vital tasks. Due to the historic flooding in Yellowstone in 2022, the work that is needed in the backcountry to fix washed out trails and bridges is at an all-time high. This work would not get accomplished without the support of YF and its donors. Recently, the corral staff was able to purchase a nine-year-old pack mule and a new team of draft horses ­– Shorty and Squirt – for all the wagon work in the Slough Creek area of the park.

Special Matching Gift Opportunity 

Donations to the Ranger Stock Program will be matched dollar-for-dollar annually for the next three years, up to $50,000 each year, thanks to a generous gift by Yellowstone Society
members Lyn and Bill Reed of Somerville, TN.


How Your Support Helps

Each year Yellowstone National Park is able to restock its herd of horses and mules thanks to funding from Yellowstone Forever’s donors. Yellowstone Forever is the primary source of funding for this project. The park’s goal is to replace approximately 12 head of horses and mules each year, so the need is ongoing. Horses and mules that are a good fit for the job can be hard to find locally and horse prices are at an all-time high making the purchasing of quality animals a challenging task. Your support allows the corral staff to search nationwide for the best animals for use in Yellowstone National Park.

For more information, please contact [email protected] or 406-848-2400 (ext.1).

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