* Update from the Field
2006 began on a bitter note along Yellowstone's northern
boundary. On New Years Day, in Gardiner, the 17th bull
bison was killed in Montana's illegitimate bison hunt.
Our diligent and dedicated volunteers again documented
as another one of our friends fell to the bullet.
Also unfortunately for the buffalo, Monday the 2nd was
not a holiday enjoyed by every federal employee. Yellowstone
National Park rangers in Gardiner once again did the
bidding of Montana's livestock industry; they restricted
the buffalo's migration and forced them back into the
confines of Yellowstone National Park. A group of 90
buffalo were hazed by two Park Rangers on horseback,
and then another group of 16 were hazed by the same
two riders plus an NPS truck. It was a sad and telling
scene as our volunteers documented federal employees
marching wild buffalo off of their native landscape,
herding them like livestock through the famous Roosevelt
Arch that reads: For the benefit and enjoyment of the
people. Inside park boundaries, buffalo do benefit the
enjoyment of the people, yet outside of this gigantic
zoo-like enclosure, they suddenly become "a nuisance
animal in need of disease control." Wild buffalo
are a nomadic species, moving in search of available
forage. By forcing wild buffalo back into an area they
chose to leave, an area lacking necessary winter forage
found in lower elevations, the Park Service does a cruel
disservice to the country's last wild buffalo, threatening
their winter survival and disrespecting their wild nature.
In contrast to events in Gardiner, here along the Park's
western boundary in West Yellowstone, we have had a
relatively enjoyable beginning to the new year. While,
sadly, we've had to say good-bye-for-now to some incredible
people, new volunteers have begun to arrive. Trekking
from places like Oregon, Connecticut and Arizona, they
have come here to stand in defense of the last wild
buffalo. We've also enjoyed some good snowfall and incredible
days out in the field in the company of wild buffalo.
A large mixed herd of buffalo that we've been monitoring
for weeks has been enjoying their nomadic nature and
native habitat outside Park boundaries on the Horse
Butte peninsula. They gently graze here and there, moving
up and down the peninsula, leaving the landscape intact
and richer for their presence. This part of Gallatin
National Forest is a favorite spot for wild buffalo;
when they are here they complete the landscape. For
weeks we have been watching them move along the gigantic
Butte, enchanting area residents and visitors, enriching
the Madison River corridor. Our patrols had recently
spotted them on the northernmost tip of the Butte, then
watched as they amazingly crossed the ice of Hebgen
Lake just north of it. Then yesterday, some message
only herd by wild buffalo turned them on their heels
back eastward. They started by crossing back over the
ice and continued their path east, heading down the
groomed snowmobile trail along the base of the massive
hill. Various patrols saw the mixed group at different
points along the Butte, moving quickly with intention
on their buffalo mission. Josh and I were on skis doing
a recon of the north Madison River bluffs at this time,
heading west towards the Butte. Just up ahead we saw
the beautiful dark shapes heading in our direction.
We stepped aside, off the trail, and one by one thirty-eight
wild shaggy giants passed us by on their way back east,
possibly heading back towards the Park, all of their
own accord. We were graced with mamas (two sadly donning
collars) protectively accompanying their calves and
yearlings. With them were impressive young bulls just
beginning to show their immense buffalo stature, and
gorgeous pregnant females preparing to bring forth new
buffalo-life. They would stop, look at us with their
big, wet, dark eyes, and realizing we were no threat,
move on in their chosen direction. As the herd passed
us by, we relished in the beauty of the buffalo, how
lucky we are to be in their company, and how incredibly
cute the little shaggy babies are. But we were also
bitterly reminded that these very buffalo calves may
soon be stolen from their mothers and locked into small
pastures unfit even for livestock. Domestication and
scientific experimentation may become their future.
If the federal and state government have their way,
a looming quarantine plan (see below) will capture hundreds
of bison calves and yearlings and send the majority
to slaughter all in a gross effort to create a "disease-free"
herd of buffalo. It is a great shame that money generated
from the cruel livestock industry takes precedence over
the ecologically beneficial and aesthetically pleasing
presence of native wild buffalo.
Department of Livestock (DOL) agents have been busy
lately, wasting time and U.S. taxpayer money to plow
buffalo capture facility areas at Duck Creek and Horse
Butte. At least on the Park's western boundary no hazing
operations are allowed while Montana's illegitimate
hunt is underway, but come February 16, agents will
again be out in force to harass, capture and slaughter
the country's last wild buffalo. Phase I of Montana's
bison hunt ends on January 15. There's just one non-Indian
permit left to fill for this phase of the hunt, and
to date, no tribal members have chosen to participate.
Phase II begins January 16, and will last for one month.
It will be a bloody month for these gentle giants, but
BFC will be watching. With your continued support we
remain on the front lines and no action against the
last wild buffalo will go undocumented or unchallenged.
With the Buffalo,
* One More Week to Send Quarantine Comments
There is just one more week to send your comments to
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) on their plan
to quarantine wild baby buffalo. In cooperation with
USDA-Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS),
FWP wants to capture, domesticate, and experiment on
wild buffalo calves and yearlings. Young buffalo will
be stolen from their mothers and raised in captivity
for the sake of scientific experiment. The plan calls
for putting 25 buffalo on a mere 30 acre pasture for
two full years. This is intense confinement for some
domestic livestock, not to mention wild and free buffalo!
In the end, the majority of the young bison will be
Comments are being accepted through Friday, January
13, 2006. Original comments are the most powerful. Many
thanks to those of you who have already sent in your
comments and shared them with us.
Please visit http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/actionalerts.html
for details of the plan and the ugly realities of bison
You may also email Josh at bfc-advocate"at"wildrockies.org
for more information.
* A Beautiful Letter from a BFC Volunteer
Greetings from the desert, my beautiful buffalo people!
While I read of -45 temperatures and cutting winds,
I walk outside in a T-shirt. I mention this not to incite
envy, but to let you all know that I think of you often...
My life and my journey has taken me far... far away
from the achingly clear and calm -40 mornings and the
brilliant bluebird, sun-warming-your-face afternoons
of Montana. Still, I see some continuity.
Sometimes I will gaze across the endless creosote brush
scrublands, and the near-monoculture growth of creosote
reminds me of the noble and endless lodge pole pines.
I'll watch a red-tail swooping down to catch a kangaroo
rat, and I'll think of the bald eagles nesting on the
shores of Hebgen Lake. I'll take in a rugged mountain
view from my tent door as I go to sleep, and I remember
peeling garlic on the cabin porch gazing across to Coffin
Ridge, and the rest of the Mountains. But most of all,
the work that I do now is largely to protect the Mojave
desert tortoise (gophenus agasizzi). And when I see
one of these wise ancients, strolling across the road;
caring none for the works of man but only to continue
living his/her life in the way they have for thousands
of years ... I am reminded of the noble Buffalo. I am
reminded of long mornings or afternoons sitting with
some of the best damn people I've ever met, grateful
to be so privileged as to be in the presence of the
buffalo. Thank you for your dedication, thank you for
your tireless efforts, thank you for standing with the
buffalo. I hope... no, I am sure! that one day my path
will take me back your way. Hopefully by then, the buffalo
can choose their own path, too.
Peace and Love,
(Thank you, Patrick! We miss you! We are grateful for
the work you're doing to protect the Desert Tortoise,
and we patiently await your return to the land of the
wild buffalo. ~ BFC)
* Last Words
"I believe it was James Thurber who, in one of
his essays, took issue with the practice of projecting
onto animals the most undesirable of human characteristics.
However unfair it may be to animals, it is at least
a convenient way of trying to understand our fallibility...
what's the difference between a cow and a buffalo? Apparently
when it rains and the wind blows, cattle will turn their
backs to the storm. Horses will also do the same. The
proud buffalo, on the other hand never turns its back
and always faces the troubles head on. And how about
us, are we like the cow or the buffalo?
There's so much escapism in our culture nowadays, so
much evasion of personal responsibility. How rare is
it for anyone to step forward in any quarter and say
"Yes, yes. I'm at fault. I was wrong, and I will
be held accountable." A buffalo never turns its
back, but always faces trouble head on. We need more
buffaloes and fewer [cows] those who simply run away
whenever there's trouble. My hero is the buffalo."
~Reverend Charles Harper