* Update from the Field
Spring isn't just coming, it's here - a month early
and in full force. Daytime temperatures are starting
to soar. Osprey are arriving; woodpeckers can be heard
banging away for bugs. Volunteers are donning sun-reddened
faces and shedding layers in the field; ice and snow
are melting and in its place - mud and new shoots of
green grass. After a season of shoveling through snow
and ice for winter forage, buffalo are hungry for that
sweet, good green grass, and they are on the move to
get it. Right now there are buffalo everywhere on the
West side of the Park boundary. Of course, we should
be celebrating the life force of the Spring Migration,
but instead, the taste is bittersweet.
On Sunday night, while three bull buffalo were trying
to cross Highway 191 at Duck Creek, one was struck and
killed by a truck. Two patrols were out helping warn
traffic that the buffalo were crossing. Unfortunately,
the speed limit is ridiculously high, the vehicle was
going too fast to slow down and didn't heed our warnings.
It was a sad night for everyone, especially the four
volunteers who were there with the buffalo, warning
the oncoming traffic. We mourn for the loss of that
bull, we mourn for the two bulls who lost their brother,
and we mourn for our human brothers who had to witness
the tragic event. But thanks to their presence, the
two other bulls made it safely across, and we are happy
to report that, at present, they are doing just fine.
Over the past couple of weeks, the Horse Butte Peninsula
has been graced by the presence of nearly 90 buffalo,
mostly females and yearlings, the latter frisky with
the warm weather, youth, sunshine and nutritious grasses.
Patrols have spent some incredible moments with these
buffalo, keeping company from afar, watching the young
ones sparring and kicking it up, running and playing
and feeling the season coming on. It is an awesome sight
to see buffalo run on their own - just because they
can, just because they want to. Their energy is so high
right now, you can't help but catch their fever. Mature
female buffalo are readying their bodies to give birth
to the next generation, and all is as it should be.
But, so long as the greedy livestock industry and their
government puppets are in charge, all good things will
come to pass...
On Monday, trouble came to town in the form of the Department
of Livestock (DOL). With buffalo nearly everywhere,
including a mixed herd of nearly 90 females and yearlings
on Horse Butte, we were ready. On Monday night, much
to the chagrin of our Fir Ridge patrol, two bull buffalo
entered Dale Koelzer's yard, where the DOL and agents
have the Duck Creek buffalo Trap. During the night,
a third joined them. They left together, then again
re-entered the property. On Tuesday, more agents arrived
and they quickly hazed the three bulls before heading
to Horse Butte to disrupt the ecosystem. Tuesday was
a hard day for the buffalo. After they were done with
the Duck Creek bulls, the DOL headed to the Butte and
proceeded to harass the huge herd, running them off
of the land grazed by their ancestors. With a so many
wild buffalo to try to control, the DOL were bound to
have some trouble, and they did; the buffalo entered
the Bald Eagle Closure - no human activity allowed in
order to protect bald eagle habitat - so they agents
couldn't get to them. Unfortunately, all but about 10
buffalo left that sanctuary, and the DOL proceeded to
haze them nearly eight miles, all the way to the Park
border. Along the way, they lost some. One of our patrols
reported seeing a motherless yearling, scared and confused,
running fearfully, trying to find the rest of the herd.
Our volunteers are keeping an eye on this little one.
As I write this, patrols in the field just reported
over the radio that the DOL hazed yet again; another
three bull buffalo were chased off of Koelzer's property,
back into the Park. Just south at Cougar Creek, more
buffalo are trying to cross the road, and a Park Ranger
is hazing them. All this effort to keep buffalo off
of National Forest lands that are NEVER,
at any time of the year, occupied by livestock.
There are now only two DOL agents in town, but they
are ignoring some of the buffalo that are out of the
park, and we are skeptical of the worst. Why haven't
the agents done the usual and stuck around to shove
them off as they love to do? We fear it's because they
are getting ready to put up the Horse Butte buffalo
Spring. It is a bittersweet time to be with the buffalo,
but there's no place we'd rather be until they are truly
wild and free. The buffalo who choose to come out of
the park are the ones who carry on the migrations, following
their instincts and the ways of their ancestors. Their
motto truly is "live free or die."
For the Buffalo,
* Make Change with your Buffalo Nickels!
Less than 200 years ago buffalo numbered 30-60 million
in this country, roaming from coast to coast. They fed,
sheltered, and clothed a nation. They were held in the
highest regard by the First Peoples of this land.
When explorers Lewis and Clark set out on their westward
expedition for the U.S. Government, they encountered
buffalo so numerous they darkened the plains, like a
vast ocean. The new nickel released into circulation
by the U.S. Mint depicts a bull buffalo on the flip
side to commemorate and celebrate this ecological richness,
and the 500,000 buffalo alive in the country today that
supposedly demonstrate a "conservation success."
Yet the vast majority of the country's buffalo aren't
even pure buffalo - they contain cattle genes. They
are not wild. They do not migrate. They are fenced in.
They are raised and treated as livestock.
Today the reality is that there are only 15,000 genetically
pure buffalo left in the country, and only 4,200 of
these - the Yellowstone herd - are wild and unfenced
and have continuously occupied their native range. To
be truly wild, they must be free and that means the
buffalo need room to roam, unmolested. But as evidenced
by the actions of the Department of Livestock (and participating
federal agents), Montana refuses buffalo freedom. If
this is how we are going to treat the last wild herd
then we feel there is nothing to celebrate. It's time
to put our money where our mouth is.
If you hold any of these new buffalo nickels, we call
on you to make change. Send your buffalo nickels to
Montana's Governor Brian Schweitzer. Give him your five
cents about the buffalo and tell him to put your buffalo
nickel toward purchasing habitat for wild buffalo in
Send your buffalo nickels to Governor Schweitzer at:
Office of the Governor
PO Box 200801
Helena MT 59620-0801
* Montana House Committee Hears from Buffalo
On Monday, the Senate agriculture, livestock and irrigation
committee heard testimony on HJ22, a resolution from
the State of Montana asking that USDA's Animal and Plant
Health Inspection Service (APHIS) be named the lead
agency for a new plan to eradicate brucellosis in the
"Greater Yellowstone Area bison and elk herds,
and in their environment". The committee heard
testimony from several proponents of the resolution,
the usual suspects - Montana Stockgrowers Assn., the
Montana Farm Bureau, and the Montana state veterinarian,
declaring that APHIS must act to save Montana's poor
livestock industry from the menacing threat of buffalo
that enter the state from Yellowstone National Park.
Fortunately, a number of buffalo and wildlife advocates
also spoke up to enlighten the committee about the true
cost of attempting brucellosis eradication - the total
destruction of America's last and only wild, genetically
pure buffalo. Among the opponents was Chippewa-Cree
State Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, who aptly summarized
the situation in stating, "that if this brucellosis
comes from a cow, then what are we doing murdering the
buffalo." Unfortunately, the Montana Legislature
doesn't seem to hold the same reverence for the buffalo
as the Senate unanimously passed the brucellosis (buffalo?)
eradication resolution. Not requiring the Governor's
signature, the resolution will travel next to Washington,
DC and the desk of that great protector of the wild,
George W. Bush.
P.S. Stay tuned next week for a report on the House
hearing for S.B. 353, the buffalo neuter bill. If you
are a resident of Montana, PLEASE contact your House
representative and tell them to vote "no"
on S.B. 353. See our special alert from Tuesday for
details or email
for details and information.
* Donate to BFC & Bid on Buffalo Mask
Times are hard, and we need your help to keep our volunteers
fed, housed and in the field defending the last wild
herd of buffalo in America. Please consider making a
tax deductible donation to BFC today. It is hard for
us to ask, but the truth is, without your generous donations,
it would be impossible for us to be here with the buffalo.
We thank you for keeping us in the field defending America's
last wild buffalo!
There are two more days left to bid on the buffalo mask!
The mask is a beautiful hand-crafted one-of-a-kind with
faux fur and glass and stone beadwork. The winner will
also receive a copy of Buffalo Medicine by April Christofferson.
Many thanks to Mel and April for your generosity. View
a photo of the mask and place a bid here:
The gourd mask will be EBay Item number 7303557668
through March 12.
* Last Words
"The migration phenomenon and its ecological impact
are engaging the attention of biologists. Many long-distance
movements of mammals in North America have been cut
off by fences, cities, roads or population decline.
The American bison, for instance, used to migrate hundreds
of miles, but no longer. Now, bison that try to leave
Yellowstone National Park are shot for attempting to
follow their migratory instincts."
From an article about butterfly migration
by Dan Whipple, Blue Planet: The flight of the monarch
Published March 9, 2005