Update from the Field
The dust from the Stephens Creek trap has hardly settled.
Our volunteers have returned with disturbing video and
stories. Images of buffalo bucking and fighting in the
trap as they are forced into head clamps, struggling
to escape until their noses are tugged up by rings,
forcing them into submission, while Park Service employees
test them. These images of hundreds of buffalo forced
through this gruesome procedure haunt me. Thinking of
the 198 buffalo held in captivity at the Stephens Creek
trap, scarred by the experience of this brutal testing
procedure, fills me with anger and despair. When will
the madness stop? Some 278 wild Yellowstone buffalo
have already been killed this season. And the spring
migrations are just beginning.
The other day I followed buffalo tracks down the Madison
River. It was a beautiful sunny spring afternoon. Bald
eagles, trumpeter swans, blue herons, osprey, geese
and ravens filled the sky. The snow is melting, uncovering
grass and sagebrush. The frozen lake is receding. Sets
of tracks clearly pointed their way to Horse Butte.
As we approached we saw a bull buffalo, moving briskly,
stopping to wallow and jump, grazing, and moving along
again. Further along was a mixed herd of buffalo continuing
their trek westward.
By the time we caught up to them, they had already reached
the Horse Butte trap and were grazing behind the police
tape that warns the public that a piece of our national
forest is closed to the public good. We watched nervously
as the buffalo grazed by the trap. I have seen this
sort of brazen resistance from wild buffalo before.
Sometimes it seems that they choose to roam into the
danger zone as an example of their wild spirit. Unwilling
to be domesticated, they challenge their would be captors
with their courage. These majestic buffalo inspire me
with their resistance.
I was relieved when they moved on down the Butte. For
now they are being left alone. Department of Livestock
(DOL) agents have hazed some buffalo leaving Yellowstone
National Park near the highway, but have not mounted
a major hazing or capture operation on Horse Butte.
These few dozen Yellowstone buffalo graze wild and free
on our national forests on Horse Butte. More buffalo
will follow. Volunteers reported from a flyover this
weekend that several hundred buffalo are gathered inside
the park at Cougar Knoll, less than 10 miles from the
border. It is only a matter of time before their calving
instinct brings them to Horse Butte. Their fate is unknown.
Our season is about to get even busier. If you or someone
you know wants to come out and join us in the field,
now is the time. We will be running more patrols in
the next months as hundreds of buffalo migrate to Horse
Butte and risk their lives in the shadow of the Horse
Butte trap. Even if you can't come join us in the field,
there is much you can do to help the Yellowstone buffalo.
Your tax-deductible donations help keep volunteers in
the field and sustain our efforts to fight this senseless
slaughter. Please read more below and watch for updates
in the coming weeks. Thank you for your support of the
last wild buffalo in America.
For the buffalo,
* Reflections on the recent slaughter in Gardiner
Have you ever experienced something so horrible that
you never thought anything could compare? Then, sad
as it could be, those memories are rekindled by acts
just as disheartening. These feelings haunt my mind
after returning home to West Yellowstone yesterday and
finally slowing down long enough to digest my sorrow.
Having witnessed the 1997 mass slaughter of 1083 buffalo
first hand, this year jaunted those nightmares.
First I must take my hat off and thank with all of my
heart, George. Your efforts to save the buffalo through
dedication and compassion keep me strong. You and your
wife Susan are family for life and I already miss you
The last major capture held over 300 buffalo in the
traps for several days. Buffalo family members that
had escaped capture circled the trap, lured back by
the hay that the Park Service had left there as bait.
This went on for several days giving the appearance
of visitors' day at the county jail. Cramming over 300
buffalo in these death traps produced many injuries
and one buffalo died. The Park Service has still not
released the cause of death.
It seems that the Park has problems even communicating
between themselves. The rangers, wranglers or park police
are the ones that haze and capture the buffalo. They
don't consult, get advice, or in some cases, get along
with the buffalo biologists. The rangers say they have
hazed groups of animals several times but the radio
collars tell the biologists a different story. The other
day on a conference call with the Park Service I brought
up the question of why untested buffalo are allowed
on the national forest in Eagle Creek, but not in the
Gallatin National Forest near West Yellowstone. Wayne
Brewster said the difference is that there are no cows
or private lands up in Eagle Creek. As we speak Bill
Hoppe's cows are giving birth, next to his neighbors'
houses and the over 100 buffalo that have wintered in
the Eagle Creek area. On the west side in the Gallatin
National Forest, cows are only here from June 15 through
October 15. For the last two years, there have been
no cows on the national forest and they can not return
until the Forest Service completes an environmental
impact statement. To date the Forest Service has no
plans to do the EIS.
I have grown tired of the double talk. If the Park Service
feels so bad about being involved, then STAND UP and
be counted. Voice your outrage and pull out of the bison
management plan. Show the world that you are able to
protect our national treasure, the buffalo and Yellowstone
National Park. Expose Montana's ability to justify anything
for the cattle industry. Return the responsibility and
financial burden for the buffalo slaughter to Montana,
the state demanding zero tolerance for wild buffalo,
not on the US taxpayer.
With the Buffalo,
* Call the Government on its Bad Science
Hold the government accountable for the bad science
that is the foundation of the current bison management
plan. Contact Rep. Sherwood Boehlert
(R) of New York's 24th legislative district. Rep. Boehlert
is the chairman of the House Science Committee and has
the ability to call for oversight hearings on the science
involved in bison management. Let Rep. Boehlert know
that the current management plan is totally inconsistent
with the current science on Yellowstone bison and brucellosis.
are several points to make in your comments to Rep.
1. There is no indication that calf,
yearling, bull or non-pregnant female bison can transmit
brucellosis. Yet the Interagency Bison Management Plan
does not distinguish between individual bison, but rather
calls for all seropositives to be sent to slaughter.
2. Two government sponsored reports,
the 1992 GAO report and the 1998 National Research Council
report, both concluded that the risk of transmission
between all wild bison and domestic cattle is low. Based
on these reports, it is unreasonable to pursue a policy
of zero-tolerance for bison in Montana.
3. A recent doctoral dissertation by
Natalie Halbert at Texas A&M University concludes
that there are at least two genetically distinct populations
of bison in Yellowstone National Park. In discussing
the current management practices, Halbert states, "The
potential impact of these issues on the long-term preservation
of YNP bison warrants consideration in the future management
of this historically and genetically important bison
4. The Park Service recently began
vaccinating captured bison with RB51 vaccine. Scientific
studies on the efficacy of RB51 vaccine in bison conclude
that RB51 vaccine, "did not confer significant
protection in the vaccinated animals." (Davis &
5. The test used to determine which
bison are sent to slaughter only determines the presence
of long-term antibodies for brucellosis. Based on culture
testing results, the "gold standard" for brucellosis,
over ninety percent of bison slaughtered were not actually
infected with brucellosis bacteria.
Ask Rep. Boehlert to become a co-sponsor of H.R. 3446,
the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act. Ask him to
call for an oversight hearing to investigate the killing
of Yellowstone buffalo based on inconsistent and inaccurate
science. Contact Rep. Boehlert's office in Washington,
D.C. by phone at 202-225-3665 or by
e-mail through www.congress.com.
* Thank You for the Support
BFC Would Like to Thank these Special Supporters:
George and Susan for all of their support. We can't
thank you enough for all you do for the buffalo.
Thanks to Thom at the Riverside Cottages in Gardiner.
Thank you Julia Page for the discounted rent. Thanks
to Bettie Deweese for bringing food to our volunteers
Dave Pauli with the Humane Society, Don Woerner, DVM,
Will Patric with Greater Yellowstone Wildlife Alliance,
and Glenn Hockett of the Gallatin Wildlife Association
for coming out to Gardiner to witness firsthand what
is happening inside Yellowstone.
LightHawk and pilot Reg for the recent flyover that
has helped us prepare for the coming spring migration
of buffalo down the Madison River. LightHawk flights
have been an invaluable tool for the Buffalo Field Campaign
over the years, and we can't thank them enough for their
continued help and support. To learn more about this
amazing, all-volunteer, environmental aviation organization,
visit the LighHawk web site: http://www.lighthawk.org.
* Support BFC
And don't forget, in addition to tax deductible donations,
you can also support our important work by purchasing
quality gifts and art. Please see our new offerings
- we are updating this page and our offerings as you
are reading this - check back often and share it with
A big thanks to everyone who ordered and is enjoying
the Cedar Tree Music CD. Here's a quote from a satisfied
"I was just about to respond to your lovely e-mail
yesterday when to my delight and amazement, the CD's
came in the mail (great service!). This morning I listened
to it for the first time, also looking at the notes
that come with it, and was so impressed. There is something
about the music that really touches the heart - we all
go through challenging periods... - but when I heard
the music I was immediately moved to tears in a very
healing way, and felt confident that we will get through
these challenges and come out stronger on the other
side. I'm looking forward to hearing your music again
and really taking the time to listen to all the words
with the notes and explanations in mind. Thanks for
creating such beautiful music (and I get a special thrill
when I hear the dulcimer) and for sharing the proceeds
with such a good cause as the Buffalo Field Campaign.
Every little bit helps...
Thanks so much -
For the Buffalo,
* Week of Action for the Buffalo, May 1-8
Workshops, Field Patrols, Actions...with the Buffalo
We are encouraging a Month of Action all of April culminating
in our Week of Action for the Buffalo, May 1-8.
The National Park Service and the Montana Department
of Livestock have already killed 278 wild bison this
Stop the slaughter of the last wild bison in America.
Come defend the buffalo.
There were once more than 35 million buffalo in North
America. Today the Yellowstone buffalo herd is the only
continuously wild herd in the US. In the spring, Yellowstone
bison migrate to national forests in Montana where they
are hazed, captured and killed. The Montana Department
of Livestock (DOL) has spent nearly $4 million since
1996 on bison management practices that have killed
over 2,000 wild buffalo.
Volunteers are urgently needed in the spring. Hundreds
of buffalo have already begun their spring migrations
to Horse Butte to calve. There is a trap waiting for
them on national forest land.
BFC monitors the herd's migrations, perform acts of
non-violent civil disobedience, and documents all actions
taken against the buffalo. Volunteers are provided with
housing, training, and equipment.
Our Week of Action for the Buffalo is an opportunity
to gather activists to concentrate our efforts to defend
the buffalo. If you've been thinking about coming out
(or back) to Yellowstone, please join the buffalo for
a Week of Action, May 1-8.
* Last Words
Three letters to the editor on behalf of the buffalo
were published in the Bozeman Chronicle this week...
March 19, 2004
Spend bison slaughter money on real solution
The government is taking our wildlife. Is it worth it
and for what?
These are two questions reasonable people are asking
about our government's bison slaughter program.
We spend more than $3 million annually, hazing, confining
and slaughtering wild bison both within and near Yellowstone
National Park. Supposedly, we do this to protect the
livestock industry's brucellosis-free status. However,
the government will likely begin killing wild bison
regardless of their disease status (Bozeman Chronicle,
March 16). In reality, few domestic cattle use the area
and most of them belong to the Church Universal and
Supposedly the CUT moved to Montana for "spiritual
renewal" and to live in harmony with the environment.
Unfortunately, the consequences of their land use and
management choices near Yellowstone National Park have
led to everything but renewal and harmony. As well,
the Department of Livestock (DOL), the agency responsible
for regulating livestock in Montana, turns its back
on reckless livestock husbandry practices that unnecessarily
threaten the entire industry. If DOL doesn't care, why
The Wyoming livestock industry lost its brucellosis-free
status. Interestingly, brucellosis was probably transferred
to cattle from wild elk. Regardless, has the sky fallen
in Wyoming? No. Dr. Jim Logan, Wyoming's state veterinarian,
notes 100,000 to 300,000 livestock will be tested in
Wyoming (Belgrade News, Feb. 24). At $5 per test, a
worst-case scenario leads to an annual cost of $1.5
Oh, by the way, taxpayers picked up the tab there. We
could do the same here. The cost of testing cattle in
Wyoming is half the cost of our government-run bison
slaughter program, and cattle testing is much more humane.
Let's spend the $1.5 million we save each year on habitat,
a real solution.
Of course, wild bison have never transmitted brucellosis
to cattle in the wild, so the questions remain -- IS
IT WORTH IT AND FOR WHAT? When the DOL, CUT and our
government turn their backs on reasonable solutions,
one has to wonder.
President, Gallatin Wildlife Association
Montana director, Western Watersheds Project
March 23, 2004
Urge agencies to stop bison slaughter
I want to thank Scott McMillion for his stories on the
current Yellowstone bison situation. People have to
realize that the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL)
has no intention of tolerating bison on our public lands
in Montana even when no cattle are present for miles
around. It is all about power and control. Karen Cooper
of DOL is quoted as saying, "It really doesn't
have anything to do with the cattle there (on the CUT
property). It has to do with the fact that there is
disease in the herd (of park bison)." This is totally
disingenuous! Of course this situation has everything
to do with livestock, which wrongly take precedence
over native wildlife too often on our public lands.
It is cattle that should be managed, not bison. Bison
tolerate brucellosis. It is not a threat to people.
To wipe out this disease in wild herds is to condemn
these herds. Do we really want to eradicate this genetically
unique herd? Do we want them to be less wild? Do we
want them sent to slaughter from our most famous national
I went to Yellowstone two days ago because I was distraught.
From a mile away, with good binoculars, I could see
the huge corral complex, which is off of the old Corwin
Springs to Gardiner Road to the west. The public cannot
get anywhere close (because of safety issues and effect
on the bison?). There are warning signs everywhere.
It was horrible to see. Here are park bison in corrals
in the park, which is supposed to be their refuge, tested,
ear-taged, fed hay, just like cattle, calves vaccinated
with a drug not proven effective in bison. I cried.
I urge the concerned public to go see this travesty.
Our tax dollars are funding the slaughter of our native
wildlife to protect the cattle industry. Let them protect
themselves. Vaccinate their cattle and graze them away
from the bison migratory routes north and west out of
I talked with park officials, and they don't like the
situation either, but there is little they can do because
of the current bison management plan. The Park Service
input into this plan did soften it. DOL would have liked
to go into the park to kill all the bison that tested
positive (for antibodies, not necessarily the disease),
maybe half of the herd. The Park Service would not allow
that. There was compromise. These individual bison who
exercise their urge to move north (or west) are now
sacrificed, when there are no cattle for miles.
Pressure DOL, pressure the Church Universal and Triumphant
and the Park Service. This is bureaucracy gone amok.
Bison deserve a better fate.
March 25, 2004
Buffalo on public land should be managed as wildlife
Yellowstone National Park is trapping our wild buffalo,
and with the complicity of the Montana Department of
Livestock herding them into cattle trucks for transport
to slaughter. With high fanfare of official uniforms,
badges, sidearms and flashing red lights on official
cars, they are sending them down the highway to death,
for no good reason.
Our native buffalo evolved over thousands of years to
become fit for Montana's land, water and climate. They
must be allowed to move into public wildlife winter
ranges in the Yellowstone, Gallatin and Madison River
basins. Native genetically pure wild buffalo are more
valuable than the few cows that are causing their slaughter.
Buffalo are being trucked out without even testing for
brucellosis. Who gave the right to Yellowstone Park
and Montana Department of Livestock to slaughter our
buffalo? I am requesting that Yellowstone National Park,
Gallatin National Forest and Montana Fish, Wildlife
and Parks remove themselves from this quagmire and let
Montana Department of Livestock and the Animal and Plant
Health Service roast in hell for their actions.
Do this before the killing once again plunges us into
national disgrace over one of our national symbols.
We can balance our buffalo numbers on public land by
managing them as wildlife, with discrete, fair chase,
efficient, money-making public hunts that will be a
fair harvest open to all and participated in by many.
As biologist Jim Posewitz said, "Montana still
has the opportunity to do it right. After that is accomplished,
let the other states feel free to follow."
Joe Gutkoski, secretary
American Buffalo Foundation