Update from the Field
May 15 is the "zero tolerance" date for wild
bison outside of Yellowstone National Park, according
to the Interagency Bison Management Plan. Although the
plan is an "adaptive management" plan which
allows for discretion to be applied in hazing bison
back into the Park before May 15, after Saturday the
plan calls for bison to be "captured or shot to
ensure none remain outside the Park in the western boundary
area during the applicable temporal separation period."
Never mind the lack of public lands cattle allotments
on Horse Butte or along the Madison River. Fortunately
the Horse Butte Trap was dismantled and hauled away
earlier this week, but the stakes for the last free
ranging bison are about to be raised.
It is surprisingly difficult to find a buffalo outside
of Yellowstone National Park these days. The relentless
hazing has left little opportunity for the buffalo to
follow their instincts. I miss hiking through the aspen
groves and meadows of Horse Butte and finding small
herds of buffalo roaming free, calves playfully running,
mommas watching over their young, bulls butting heads.
Buffalo these days are rarely left alone long enough
to make the full trek to their calving grounds on Horse
Why do the cattlemen feel the need to keep native wildlife
off of our public lands in Montana? Why can't wild buffalo
be left in peace during their calving season? Why does
the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) insist on
wasting millions of our tax dollars every year to play
cowboy, chasing down wild bison with horses, ATV's and
helicopters? Where exactly are the cattle that they
are busy protecting?
Despite these lingering questions, the militarization
of the Yellowstone border continues. A helicopter drones
overhead today seeking out the handful of fugitive buffalo
with the courage to follow their instincts. DOL agents
scour the national forests in search of grazing buffalo
mothers and their calves. How many government agents
does it take to track down less than a dozen buffalo?
It's a trick question when you have a fat budget to
spend before the buffalo return to the Park in the coming
The DOL chased seven buffalo mothers and their calves
at full speed back into the Park today. Livestock agents
also trespassed on private property during today's haze
amidst angry local residents. A lone bull buffalo who
had been peacefully grazing in the area for days was
hazed through private property on Horse Butte without
any warning given to the property owners. "Whether
it be on ATV's, horseback or helicopter, the fact that
the DOL chooses to force the buffalo through a populated
area shows a blatant lack of respect for the safety
of myself, my neighbors, friends, visitors and tourists
alike," said Karrie Taggart of Horse Butte Neighbors
of Buffalo. "One day someone is going to get hurt
because of this costly, ineffective practice of hazing
even though there are no cattle in the Horse Butte area."
And so days spent in peace with wild buffalo have become
rare. The other afternoon I was fortunate enough to
spend time in a fresh snow watching eight momma buffalo
with eight calves on the Madison bluffs near the Park
boundary. It was a peaceful, inspiring sight--buffalo
grazing intently with watchful eyes, calves jumping
around, suckling at their mothers, bounding to catch
up with each other. The snow added a layer of quiet
to the scene, blanketing all in the white of innocence.
But there is no innocence left for the buffalo. If they
make it through the harsh winter, they are faced with
relentless hazing all spring, confined to Yellowstone
Reservation by force, denied access to their calving
grounds by the greed of Montana's powerful livestock
We took this message to Helena on Saturday where we
had a successful vigil for the buffalo on the lawn of
the state capitol. The 278 gravestones were a stark
reminder of this season's death toll, of the blood on
Montana's hands, of the continued madness of "bison
management." Nearly fifty people gathered to pay
their respects. Many of the gravestones held press releases
recounting the season's slaughter or photos of buffalo
being tested, heads locked in clamps and noses held
up by pinched rings. There was a mood of solemn prayer
as people knelt in front of the gravestones to read
the stories or examine the photos, a surreal metaphorical
cemetery to honor those buffalo that lost their lives
this season because Montana refuses to tolerate wild
buffalo in the state. We formed a circle, passed burning
sage around, and told stories about the buffalo, about
what we have learned from them, about our visions of
a future where buffalo can roam wild and free in Montana.
You can view some pictures from the event at:
Special thanks to Colin, Dave, and Nancy of the Humane
Society of the United States and Patti and Devanie for
helping to make the event such a success. And thanks
to everyone who came to the vigil and all of you who
supported our Week of Action for the Buffalo in your
As we spend long spring days bearing witness to the
continued harassment of the last wild bison in America,
it can be hard to maintain perspective. If wild bison
are not allowed to roam free in Montana, where can we
expect them to roam free? It tests the limits of reason
or cynicism. But we are like the buffalo. We face challenges
to our survival in all directions. And like the buffalo
nation, we will persist. We will continue to resist
through our actions until the wild is free. We thank
all of you for your actions in defense of the buffalo.
It will take all of us to live the dream of wild buffalo
roaming free on our public lands. Until that day, I
will linger in the bittersweet comforts of spring afternoons
spent in the inspiring presence of these mighty buffalo.
For the buffalo,
* Survey Shows Americans Oppose Slaughter of
A nationwide survey finds that 75 percent of Americans
disapprove of slaughtering buffalo wandering outside
the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. The National
Park Service (NPS) and the Montana Department of Livestock
(MDOL) have killed 278 buffalo this year and hazed and
harassed wild buffalo nearly every day this spring.
The Yellowstone herd is the last remaining continuously
wild, genetically pure herd of buffalo in the United
The survey was commissioned by The Humane Society of
the United States and conducted by Penn, Schoen and
Berland Associates in April 2004. Out of 900 adults
in the United States, 75 percent of respondents said
that they disapproved of the policy allowing the slaughter,
with 59 percent of those polled indicating that they
"strongly disapprove." An even higher proportion
of respondents oppose the use of federal funds to implement
the program to kill the buffalo. The poll has a margin
of error of ± 3.3 percent.
"It's a travesty that this lethal policy continues
year after year despite such strong public opposition,"
said Wayne Pacelle, CEO-Designate of The Humane Society
of the United States.
Part of the buffalo population in Yellowstone National
Park migrates outside the park boundaries onto public
Forest Service land in winter and spring in search of
better forage and to escape the deepest snow. During
the summer months, several ranchers also graze their
cattle on nearby private land. With a few cattle grazing
near traditional buffalo migration routes and calving
areas, the MDOL claims that cattle are at risk of contracting
brucellosis, a disease that may cause spontaneous abortions
However, as noted by Chuck Clusen, director of the Natural
Resources Defense Council's National Parks Project,
"there has never been a documented case of brucellosis
transmission from wild bison to domestic cattle."
In fact, the risk of such transmission is negligible.
"Most wild bison that migrate into Montana never
even come close to cattle, and yet they are hazed, captured
and slaughtered," said Ted Fellman of the Buffalo
Field Campaign. "When people learn that the threat
of brucellosis transmission is exaggerated by the livestock
industry to justify the continued slaughter of the last
wild bison in America, they overwhelmingly disapprove.
It is time to give voice to that disapproval and stop
The NPS and MDOL are among several federal and state
agencies using a bison management plan that allows state
and federal agencies to haze the animals back into Yellowstone
when they cross the unmarked boundaries. As the harsh
winter weather drives more buffalo from the interior
of the park, government agents typically switch from
hazing the animals to capturing them. All buffalo testing
positive for antibodies to brucellosis--a test that
does not determine whether animals are currently infected--are
sent to slaughter. Many of the bison who were sent to
slaughter in the past two springs were not even tested
first. In the past ten years, the NPS and MDOL have
shot or sent to slaughter 2786 Yellowstone buffalo.
The Hinchey-Bass Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act
(H.R. 3446) would prohibit state and federal agency
officials from hazing, capturing, or killing Yellowstone
buffalo until certain conditions have been met. The
bill has 101 cosponsors.
The bill is backed by many conservation, animal protection,
and wildlife organizations including Bear Creek Council,
Buffalo Field Campaign, Defenders of Wildlife, Endangered
Species Coalition, The Fund for Animals, Greater Yellowstone
Coalition, The Humane Society of the United States,
Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, National Parks Conservation
Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, and
The Wilderness Society.
Stop the slaughter of the last wild buffalo
Call your Congressional Representative today!
* Support the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act
The National Park Service and Montana Department of
Livestock have already killed 277 wild Yellowstone buffalo
this season. The Park Service has killed nearly 500
wild buffalo inside Yellowstone National Park in the
past two years. In the past ten years the Montana Department
of Livestock and National Park Service have slaughtered
2,778 buffalo in and around Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone buffalo slaughter is slated to cost taxpayers
nearly $3 million a year until 2015.
Please take action today to stop the senseless slaughter
of an American icon. Support efforts to protect the
Yellowstone herd. The Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation
Act (HR 3446) calls for a three year moratorium on the
hazing, capturing and killing of Yellowstone buffalo;
expands the range that buffalo are allowed to roam;
requires the dismantling of the Stephens Creek Trap
inside Yellowstone National Park; and gives the Park
Service sole jurisdiction over buffalo within the Park.
Thanks to your efforts, HR 3446 continues to gain momentum,
with 101 House co-sponsors.
for talking points and to see if your Representative
has signed on. If they haven't, give them a call and
strongly urge them to do so. If they have, please thank
them and encourage them to speak with their colleagues.
You can contact your Representative by calling the Capitol
Switchboard at 800-839-5276, and asking to be transferred
to his/her office. Or you can use http://www.house.gov/writerep
to look up your Representative and send them an email.
It only takes a few minutes to help the buffalo.
A Senate version of the bill will be introduced soon.
Take a minute to contact your Senators and inform them
about this important legislation. You can contact your
Senator by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 800-839-5276,
and asking to be transferred to his/her office. Or you
can visit http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
to look up your Senator and send them an email. It only
takes a few minutes to help the buffalo.
If you live in Washington State, your help is especially
needed. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray are
two potential champions. Contact them today and let
them know how you feel about the Yellowstone buffalo
slaughter and the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act.
717 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Patty Murray
173 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Thank you once again for your support. Together we will
stop the senseless slaughter of America's last wild
* The Buffalo Field Campaign Needs Your Support
Longtime BFC supporter Melanie Kelley is auctioning
a beautiful and original buffalo gourd, created and
donated by the artist Shalot, to benefit the work of
the Buffalo Field Campaign. The ebay auction ends Saturday,
May 15, 8pm PDT as item #3721965770.
Make your bid! This is a unique opportunity to
support BFC's field efforts.
What are wild buffalo worth to you? What does it mean
to you to know that your grandchildren will be able
to experience wild places with wild buffalo roaming
Of course these things are priceless. We cannot put
a price on maintaining viable rangeland for the last
wild buffalo in America. But we can put a price on BFC's
efforts to stop the slaughter of the Yellowstone buffalo.
It takes about a dollar a day to feed a volunteer. That
means that if we have 30 volunteers, it costs just over
$30 a day to feed camp, or about $250 a week. It costs
about $3.50 for a mini-DV tape for our video cameras.
On a hazing day we usually have at least 5 patrols in
the field documenting the harassment of the last wild
buffalo, using about $17.50 worth of tape. Every VHS
tape that we send to a supporter to show what is happening
to Yellowstone's last wild bison costs us about $1 for
It costs money to maintain our field presence on behalf
of the buffalo. We are extremely frugal here in West
Yellowstone. We don't have fancy offices or high paid
staff. But we do have dedicated volunteers working long
days to stop the slaughter of the last wild buffalo
in America. Can we count on you to help by making a
donation? Donations are tax deductible and go directly
to front lines work.
You can make a secure donation online at our website
(www.wildrockies.org/buffalo) or directly at: https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?id=1807
Or you can send a check to us at:
Buffalo Field Campaign
PO Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
On a budget -- $1-$15 to keep the videos flowing.
Count on me -- $15-$100 for a day/week of footage.
Big thanks -- $30-$250 to feed BFC volunteers for a
Thank you once again for your support. Every little
* Call for Summer Outreach Volunteers
As our spring season draws to a close, we are starting
to look ahead to another summer here in West Yellowstone.
As many of you know, the massive springtime migrations
end around late May or early June, and our daily patrols
are no longer necessary. This is the time of the year
when we focus on outreach, talking with tourists in
Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks about the
slaughter of the bison. We are currently looking for
six to eight volunteers interested is spending a summer
at the Campaign. You can expect to spend three to five
days a week tabling, helping with projects around the
cabin on slower weeks, and hiking, fishing, or whatever
else suits your fancy. In return, all volunteers receive
free room and board, as well as a little pocket money.
A commitment from June 1 until Labor Day is preferred
(with the option to come earlier and stay later), but
if you can only stay for part of the summer, please
apply anyway. All interested people should send a resume
and cover letter, or contact Chris (our summer office/volunteer
Hope to see you this summer!
With the buffalo,
* Last Words
What is life? It is a flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It
is the little shadow which runs across the grass and
loses itself in the sunset.
Crowfoot's last words (1890) (Blackfoot warrior and