Wild Yak live in the alpine regions of the Tibetan plateau in mountainous areas that range from 4,000 to 6,100 meters in elevation. Steppe meadow is a favored habitat, but that type of grassland is also the best pasture for domestic livestock. Livestock herds are currently increasing in number in the region, and the associated increase in intensity of pasture use is displacing the Wild Yak and reducing the habitat available to them. Interbreeding with domestic yak presents the major threat to the remaining wild populations, not only by threatening the genetic purity of Wild Yak, but also by creating a conflict between Wild Yak and pastoralists (who do not want to lose their domestic cows when they join wild bulls). Due to these pressures, the overall range of the wild populations has shrunk, and only fragmented and isolated populations remain in the core area in northern Tibet and northwestern Qinghai. There is both a real need and a real opportunity to take action now to secure a priority area of Wild Yak habitat and prevent them from interacting with domestic yak.
The Wild Yak's global population has probably declined by over 30% in the past 30 years. About 7,000–7,500 Wild Yak, almost half of the global population, are found in the Changtang National Nature Reserve (298,000 km²) in Tibet. However, this species is now one of the most threatened species of the Tibetan Plateau and has been persecuted to the point that it only finds refuge in the most remote, relatively human-free areas.