Update from the Field
Greetings Buffalo Friends,
It has been a most intense, difficult and crazy week
for the last wild buffalo. All in separate incidents,
buffalo have been shot, captured, sent to slaughter,
run over and hazed through ice. Strong prayers are greatly
needed for our wild buffalo friends and relatives, and
for our volunteers who continue to witness so much death
and monstrous actions against the sacred buffalo.
On Friday in Gardiner, the National Park Service (NPS)
was busy harassing wild buffalo, protecting livestock
interests instead of the flora and fauna they are mandated
by the American people to protect. Park Rangers came
out on horseback, dressed in cowboy finery, just miles
from the hunt zone, and forced wild buffalo off of their
winter range. Two groups were hazed into the Park and
then the rangers picked up another large group that
had never even left the Park's boundaries. All in all
350 noble wild bison were caught up in the haze, herded
like cattle by John Wayne park rangers and pushed far
into the Park's boundaries towards Mammoth. Area pronghorn
- a species of special concern - were also harassed
in the operation, and likely many other wildlife species
were as well. What price beef production?
On Saturday, we got a call from Mike up in Gardiner
telling us that he just witnessed the 18th buffalo get
shot. With sadness, we also breathed a strange sigh
of relief because this meant the last of the non-Indian
permits for Phase I of the hunt. Since the Crow Nation
and Nations of Fort Belknap pulled out of the hunt,
we wrongly assumed that other tribes would follow suit
and no more buffalo would be shot during this portion
of the bison hunt. But, just a few short hours later
that same day, we got another call from Gardiner saying
that there was a 19th buffalo shot. As it turned out,
the Little Shell Band of Chippewa did decide to use
Read our press release: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/media/press0506/pressreleases0506/010906.html
On Monday, Ryan and Brittany discovered a bull buffalo
laying down in the middle of Forest Service Road 610
that runs along the Horse Butte Peninsula. They watched
him for a bit, giving him room and the right of way,
but when he didn't move for a while they soon found
out why; The buffalo had two broken back legs. They
had been snapped in half and he was clearly unable to
move. We called the local Fish Wildlife & Parks
(FWP) game warden who was a bit annoyed to have to "put
some clothes on" at 9:30 a.m. on a work day and
go out to deal with the situation. As we monitored from
the radio room, we also learned that a call had been
placed to the agency - by a snowmobiler - at 7:30 p.m.
the night before. Why did FWP not respond to the situation
immediately? Why did they wait until BFC called them
the following day? That bull needlessly suffered two
broken legs for over 15 hours. The game warden came
out and shot the buffalo five times. After the third
bullet, the bull was still alive and the game warden
turned to Ryan and Brittany and said something like
"is that enough for ya, do you want me to put another
in him?" After he was killed, FWP trucked his body
to an unknown non-profit organization in West Yellowstone
that wanted his head, and then the rest of his body
was flung to the local dump. It's ironic that less than
a month ago the media reported that snowmobiles had
no adverse impact on wildlife. No adverse impact? Tell
that to the dead bull who got his two back legs snapped
in half on a cold winter night and found his final resting
place at the town dump.
Demonstrating who's really in charge of the bison hunt,
on Tuesday we learned that FWP was planning to suspend
the bison hunt on the western boundary of Yellowstone
National Park. This decision was made under pressure
from the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) who is
the authorizing agency of the bison hunt. They feared
that buffalo were outside the hunt's so-called tolerance
zone, or hunt area, and the DOL wanted to flex their
authoritative muscle by cancelling the hunt to conduct
a hazing operation. Though close to yet another manmade
line, the buffalo were not, and have not been, out of
the "tolerance" zone. Regardless, the hunt
was suspended on the western boundary as of 1/2 hour
after sunset on January 11. Bison hunting will resume
on the opening day of Phase II, this coming Monday,
January 16. Yet during the suspension, there is no peace
for the buffalo.
Read our press release: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/media/press0506/pressreleases0506/011006.html
Just yesterday we got a call from Gardiner that Yellowstone
National Park Rangers had captured 208 buffalo inside
the Stephens Creek Bison Trap. Another 100 buffalo were
captured today. They will send them all to slaughter
without testing. The Stephens Creek Trap is located
inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park.
The NPS claims they had hazed the buffalo back into
the park repeatedly and that capture and slaughter was
their only option. The Chief of Public Affairs for Yellowstone
said, "we are working with our neighbors to protect
Montana's brucellosis-free status." Isn't the Park
supposed to be protecting wildlife? Ironically, the
NPS made this move without consent or cooperation from
Montana. Montana, fearing bad publicity while their
hunt is underway, was incensed over the Park's decision
to capture bison. Consequently, Montana refused to assist
the Park Service, so they had to get help from the Animal
& Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) - the
federal agency that makes and breaks the laws regarding
animal health. The NPS has violated their own agreement,
the Interagency Bison Management Plan, by sending the
buffalo to slaughter without testing. In the plan it
states that they must conduct their late-winter/early-spring
bison count BEFORE they can make the decision to send
bison to slaughter without testing. They have not yet
done the count. As of this morning, at least 24 of the
captured buffalo have been loaded onto livestock trailers
and sent to slaughterhouses. Forty buffalo may go to
slaughter tomorrow. The remainder are being held in
the capture facility over the weekend and possibly longer
before they, too, are sent to slaughter.
Read our press release: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/media/press0506/pressreleases0506/011106.html
This morning, our volunteers witnessed a horrible event.
The DOL did, indeed, come out to haze. The DOL's target
was a mixed group of about thirty buffalo that were
safely within the "tolerance zone" or hunt
area, so there was no reason for the DOL to even be
out hazing them. They approached the buffalo from across
the ice riding their snowmobiles and actually hazed
them onto thin ice. Twelve buffalo fell through. It
was a heart wrenching scene, to say the very least.
The volunteers who witnessed it are speechless. The
agents that caused this to happen sat and watched the
buffalo as they tried in vain to gain footing to free
themselves from the freezing waters. Two buffalo drowned.
After a long period of waiting, the agents finally took
action and used chain saws to create a pathway that
the buffalo could access. Using ropes they tied around
the buffalo's necks and horns, they pulled them out
of the water. Some of the agents were laughing as they
tried to pull the exhausted, freezing buffalo out of
the water. Shane Grube, the local DOL agent, was actually
seen patting his leg at one big bull, as if to say "come
'ere puppy" to the wild buffalo in freezing water.
One young buffalo that was brought to the surface of
the ice lay there shaking, its mother standing over
it, and agents were throwing snow at her trying to get
her away from her freezing baby. She did not move from
her baby's side. The fate of the ten buffalo that were
pulled out of the ice is unknown.
Read our press release: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/media/press0506/pressreleases0506/011206.html
With Strong Prayers for the Buffalo and All Our Relations,
* Quarantine Comment Deadline EXTENDED!
Many thanks to Josh and D.J. and everyone who sent in
letters to FWP requesting that they extend the comment
period on their Bison Quarantine Environmental Assessment.
FWP granted the request and agreed to extend the comment
period for another 30 days.
The new deadline for comments is February 13, 2006
Please take action to help prevent wild baby buffalo
from being stolen from their mothers and families, held
in captivity and used in scientific experiment.
Information about the quarantine plan, information about
quarantine, and the contact info for sending in your
comments can be found at:
You may also email Josh at bfc-advocate"at"wildrockies.org
with questions. Please send him a copy of your comments
as well. Many thanks for being a voice for the last
* The Buffalo: A Perspective from Down Under
Wilderness areas are all unique places - the tundra
of Patagonia, Australia's arid and then wet Kimberley,
or the vast ecosystem of Yellowstone. Yet somehow they
are all united by an indescribable feeling, something
wild and calming on the soul. They are able to hang
on to a sense of true nature and connect us to who we
are - remind us of our selves and what it is to be alive,
regardless of borders or cultures.
As an Australian visiting Yellowstone I felt instantly
at home with the buffalo - moved by their majesty, grace
and stubborn will to survive. That sense of survival
and disregard for time and manmade borders unites wild
animals everywhere. The buffalo don't belong to any
one people or place - they belong to, and are a part
of the world. That they are treated as they are is an
offense not just to Americans, but to all people.
Humanity's insane destructive and controlling desires
threaten all kinds of wild places. Conflicts between
the fragile game of a healthy ecosystem and the whims
and egos of human politics and power are everywhere,
especially on the fringes of Yellowstone where these
regal creatures - their spirit so much a part of the
landscape - are harassed, shot and tortured almost daily.
It sickened me.
To a foreigner, as to an American, the buffalo are a
powerful symbol of the continent; a portent of how things
were, how this huge landmass was a vibrant, healthy
place long before white man's paws scarred it. They
are a symbol of what America would like to be - wild
and free, powerful and strong. Sadly, the daily intrusion
into their lives is probably even more a symbol of America,
of that desire to control and dominate and, of course,
protect business interests.
Sadly, America does as much outraging of the world as
it does inspiring them these days. The paradox of the
country is that so few can destroy so much, but good
stories there are. A passionate, caring and dedicated
group of volunteers are there, early morning to sundown,
watching the buffalo. Good vs evil on the plains of
Montana - now that's America.
Despite the anger and frustration of what's going on,
being with the buffalo everyday was an amazing opportunity.
It gave me an intense feeling of history - not that
idea of history as a record of change, but of history
as an ongoing, constant place. Amazing, breathtaking
animals. Animals who have lived, foraged and walked
these routes for millennia. These are animals who, frustratingly
for human egos, don't need us.
Ironically, it us who need them. We need the buffalo,
their sense of calm, their sense of place and their
sense of being. There they are, the last herd of wild
buffalo, drifting across Horse Butte, epic creatures,
symbols of an ecosystem which tells us the world is
healthy. But more than that, more than a country's symbol,
more than beasts roaming the plains. Their survival
and health retains a link that us, as humans, must hang
on to. Their peace, majesty and humility is not something
we can afford to torment or wipe out. More than anything,
we need them to be wild.
BFC Volunteer and Human Being Extraordinaire
(Garry volunteered with BFC for much of December and
January. He was on his Summer Vacation and chose to
stand in defense of America's last wild buffalo. Garry
spent time in West Yellowstone and also in Gardiner.
He is such a pleasure to be around and everyone misses
him. We hope he'll come back and join us on the front
lines in the not-too-distant future. Thank you, Garry
with two R's! You inspire us!)
* Send Some BuffaLove this Valentines Day
Roses are red,
Bison are brown.
Here's ONE valentine
You'll WANT to hunt down!
Valentine's Day is on the near horizon. On this day
dedicated to love, we invite you to honor your loved
ones with a gift truly from the heart. Instead of (or
in addition to) candy, flowers, and trinkets, let Buffalo
Field Campaign send a valentine in your name. It's cheap,
it's easy, yet it means so much!
* Last Words
"Initially, critics said BFC's vigilance would
never last. But while tree sitters in old-growth forests
of the Pacific Northwest have come and gone, BFC is
anchoring one of the longest continuous environmental
protests in U.S. history."
Todd Wilkinson, April 2004 from a news story called
"Yellowstone Bison: To Shoot or Not to Shoot?"