Update from the Field
Dear Friends of the Buffalo,
Thankfully, the buffalo traps have remained empty this
week. In both Gardiner and West Yellowstone hazing has
been the main plan of action for government agents.
Hazing, though a relief from slaughter, can still be
likened to a slow death because buffalo are being prevented
from accessing critical winter and spring habitat and
are caused intense and unnecessary stress. Our gentle
friends are refused to walk in the thousand-year-old
footsteps of their ancestors, simply because cows have
invaded the land where the buffalo once freely roamed.
On Tuesday in West Yellowstone, Department of Livestock
(DOL) agents attempted to haze about 35 buffalo that,
for nearly two months, have been blissfully living their
lives along the shore of Hebgen Lake. This is the same
group of buffalo that the agents hazed in January, causing
twelve to fall through thin ice into the freezing water
and two drowning. This time, as the agents tried to
force the buffalo's direction, the buffalo headed towards
the ice, so the agents - fearing a repeat of January's
catastrophe - abandoned the operation. The agents almost
attempted the same thing again today, arriving on four
snowmobiles, but quickly abandoned any effort to haze.
The buffalo are still there, grazing happily as they
have since even before that tragic January day. This
week in Gardiner, Yellowstone Park wranglers have hazed
three groups of buffalo that never even left the Park,
as they all too often do here on Yellowstone's northern
range. This morning, our field patrols watched as Park
Rangers pulled their trucks in front of a group of buffalo,
got out, and fired explosive cracker rounds from their
shotguns, scaring the buffalo further into the Park.
Even amidst all of this harassment and madness, the
wild buffalo maintain their noble integrity and magic.
On Saturday, we were fortunate to share in these moments.
Our friends Monica, Kevin, Gunner and Beverly came to
Gardiner and we went with them into the Park where we
could be in the presence of the buffalo and hold a prayer
ceremony for them, and the confused souls who do the
buffalo harm. We spotted a group in the hills and parked
along the road.
Immediately, we were harassed by a Park Ranger who,
rather than trying to assist us, questioned our motives
and asked if we knew if the area was closed or not.
It wasn't, we informed him (shouldn't he have known?).
After an intense exchange of words, he finally left,
and with drums, sweetgrass and good intention we made
our way towards the beautiful buffalo.
We were in the folds of the hills and found a spot by
a semi-dry creek bed where we could see the buffalo
without bothering them. As we drummed softly and prayed,
the buffalo began to respond. Kevin, a Lakota man, said
that the elder buffalo probably recalled stories from
their grandparents talking about these sounds of celebration.
The buffalo moved towards a hill and disappeared behind
it, and as our ceremony went on, one by one they emerged
from behind and atop the hill. In the lead was a huge,
beautiful blond-colored female, the group's matriarch.
We stopped drumming to admire this procession. Slowly
they continued in our direction. Young bulls sparring
and bucking, curious calves, pregnant mamas-to-be. We
were celebrating together!
They kept coming closer, until we could hear the clanking
of their horns as they sparred and the gentle grazing
of the grass. Monica picked up her drum and began the
beat again. They moved ever closer, towards the creek
bed. A hill stood to our left, and many in the group
approached the hill and were directly across from us,
grazing away. The drumming stopped and we revelled in
the buffalo's sounds. It was amazing! It was also Beverly's
first time in the presence of buffalo - such a gift.
Suddenly, from the far side of the hill, the blond matriarch
appeared walking the length of the group. As if to gather
her children, she said in words only heard by buffalo
that it was time to go. They all did an about face in
unison and moved back towards the direction where they
had been when we started, coming full circle. Our prayers
had been heard.
These moments are pure buffalo magic and we wish we
could take each of you into the field to share these
experiences. We wish this also for those who do the
buffalo harm, for if they could truly see and feel,
they would make different choices. The buffalo family
is strong, and we aim to learn to be more like them.
We packed up our drums and headed back towards the truck,
grateful, awakened and inspired. Strengthening our resolve
to do whatever it takes to help the buffalo become free
beings once again.
With the Buffalo,
* PEER Challenges the Park Service's Killing
Spree and Use of the Buffalo as Emblem
The National Park Service (NPS) has shamefully slaughtered
nearly 900 wild buffalo,but not everyone who works in
Yellowstone agrees with the management scheme or it's
secretive ugliness. Thankfully, they have a place to
make their voices heard... anonymously. That place is
PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
PEER supports resource employees who are courageous
and idealistic enough to seek a higher standard of environmental
ethics and scientific integrity within their agency.
Thanks to the courage of certain Park employees pained
with wild bison maltreatment and slaughter, this week
they took a stand. PEER initiated a press release revealing
insider information on the horrors of the Yellowstone
bison slaughter and, along with BFC, is challenging
the agency's use of the buffalo on their badges. The
Park Service falls under the Department of the Interior
(DOI), who also uses the buffalo as their emblem. Yet,
as BFC and PEER have pointed out, neither the NPS nor
the DOI deserve to wear this powerful symbol of freedom
as they haze, capture and slaughter the very animals
they are sworn to protect.
Take part in the exciting contest and help PEER and
BFC come up with a new emblem for the National Park
Service and Department of Interior that reveals their
true nature and what they really protect. What symbol
best fits their priorities, actions and treatment of
America's last wild buffalo? Perhaps it's a cow, or
maybe a snowmobile. It could even be a cell phone tower
or gas station, as Yellowstone caters to the whims of
modern convenience by scarring Yellowstone's majestic
landscapes with such human infringements.
Check out the PEER/BFC press release:
Learn how you can help change the symbol of the NPS
& DOI to reveal their true nature:
BFC is grateful to PEER and the brave souls who are
taking a stand from within for the mighty bison. Thank
you! Learn more about PEER here: http://www.peer.org/about/index.php
* Ask Fish, Wildlife & Parks an Important
Today, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) issued
a press release advising horn and antler hunters that
certain areas would remain closed to human activity
in order to protect big game species during the critical
winter months. While we applaud such efforts to reduce
wildlife disturbances, we find it a bit hypocritical
in light of FWP's participation in bison hazing operations,
including the one in which two bison drowned. In Montana,
though still not valued as native wildlife, wild buffalo
have "dual status" as both an "animal
in need of disease control" and a "big game"
species, meaning constant harassment.
Read this excerpt from today's FWP press release:
"The closures are necessary to protect species
like deer and elk during the critical winter period.
These big game animals need to conserve all of their
energy for survival and any activity that forces them
to move, escape, or otherwise expend extra energy may
mean the difference between surviving and not surviving."
So, the question is, if the aim of FWP is to protect
"big game" species from being harassed during
harsh winter months, and wild buffalo supposedly have
"big game" status in Montana, why do they
engage in and participate in the outrageous disruption
of the buffalo by hazing them? Ask them why buffalo
are not afforded the same protection that this agency
gives to other wildlife like deer and elk. Perhaps they'll
tell you that buffalo aren't protected because they
have brucellosis. Well what about the elk, who also
have the disease?
Please contact FWP's Melissa Frost at 406-994-6931;
ask her the reason for the double-standard.
* BFC is Heading to Washington DC!
BFC's Josh Osher will be meeting with members of Congress
during the week of March 20th - 24th in an effort to
gain support for HR 2428, the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation
Act. Congresspersons will also be encouraged to support
upcoming efforts to protect the buffalo during the Congressional
appropriations process. As we discovered in years past,
the most effective way to get support from Congressional
Representatives stems from calls and letters from constituents.
Many Representatives may decide to cosponsor HR 2428
based on your calls and letters alone. Please contact
your U.S. Representative and both of your U.S. Senators
and encourage them to act in defense of the buffalo.
BFC's meeting schedule will be posted on our web site
as it takes shape.
Calls and letters from folks who live in the district
of the Reps. that we will meet with are very important.
For more information on HR 2428, visit our web site
To find out how to contact your U.S. Representative
and Senators, go to the bottom of our Speak Out! Page:
For more information or questions, feel free to contact
Josh at bfc-advocate"at"wildrockies.org.
* Protect the Buffalo through BFC's Ebay Auction
BFC supporters now have a new way to help us protect
the buffalo via ebay's nonprofit auctions. And until
March 12 you can bid on a one-of-a-kind bowl created
by award-winning artist Melanie Kelley. This beautiful
gourd bowl took Melanie over 100 hours to craft. To
view it for yourself (you must) or place a bid on this
or other items currently supporting BFC, click on the
Auction ends March 12, 5 PM EST.
* Last Words
"As has been recognized from the beginning, there
is no reason for Yellowstone National Park to be involved
in a brucellosis eradication program from the standpoint
of best achieving the basic purposes of the park.
"Trapping, handling, testing, vaccinating and elimination
of bison reactors from park herds is seriously at odds
with preserving the one truly wild bison [herd] left
in the United States and providing opportunities for
visitors to see and photograph them."
William Barmore, Bison and Brucellosis in Yellowstone
National Park: A Problem Analysis, July 1968.