Update from the Field
Spring is trying her best to come back to West Yellowstone.
Her green gifts couldn't come sooner for the buffalo
who are locked, by force, into a snow-crusted landscape.
Little by little, though, more and more grass reveals
itself. There have been warm rainy days, thunder, lightning,
hail, sunshine and rainbows; yesterday and today, more
snow and it's still falling. This is Spring this side
of Yellowstone. Winter doesn't give up her grip easily
here. Yet the waxing sun will champion Spring's return.
Just in time for the buffalo's rebirth, the re-greening
of Mother Earth. And as a sure sign, bluebirds, osprey
and pelicans have returned, the ice of Hebgen Lake slowly
turns back into water, while sagebrush peeks its fragrant
head through the receding snow. This Winter has been
an especially hard one for Yellowstone-area wildlife.
The Park has reported a high rate of winter-killed elk
and buffalo. The silver lining here is the much-needed
sustenance provided for wolves and waking grizzlies.
This is the nature of Nature, and if it were the only
challenge the buffalo faced, it would be enormous enough.
But man's greed and urge to control makes surviving
the winter the least of the buffalo's worries.
Yesterday, along Yellowstone's western boundary, eighteen
buffalo were hazed back into the Park by agents from
the Department of Livestock (DOL), National Park Service
(NPS), Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP), and
a Gallatin County sheriff. A pregnant mom and two babies
were hazed down the asphalt of highway 287. Four agents
on ATVs ran the buffalo down the pavement. They enjoyed
themselves, laughing and having snowball fights with
each other. Just another day on the job, boys! A good
time for them, at the expense of the buffalo, the ecosystem,
and your tax dollars. Forcing the buffalo down Duck
Creek Road, they picked up a beautiful bull and forced
him into the haze. They pushed the four buffalo to the
end of Duck Creek Road then buzzed over to a neighborhood
called Upper Bear Trap, where a group of fourteen buffalo
had taken refuge in a large patch of grass near an unoccupied
house. They were run down highway 191 and up Duck Creek
Road, joining the four others. The agents left and returned
with their snowmobiles to push the buffalo through the
snow and over the Park's border. The buffalo gave them
a great challenge! They would not easily submit to the
whims of the agents. Buffalo scattered throughout the
lodgepole pines as agents raced around trying to round
them up. Agents fired cracker-rounds, hooted and hollered,
whining machines cutting through snow and running over
baby trees in our national forest. While the mechanical
cowboys wreaked havoc, a mom and a baby dodged the haze
and tried to make their escape back down Duck Creek
Road. DOL and NPS agents stood in the way with their
big trucks, and, on foot, attempted to "shoo"
the buffalo back towards the haze. But the agents were
scared and the mom and baby were determined. The buffalo
bolted past the trucks and the two agents ran. The buffalo,
running for their lives, were quickly pursued by an
agent on his obnoxious machine.
Rounded up like cattle, they were shoved through deep
snow to join the others who were being forced off of
their land, into the box that man made. BFC patrols
documented everything. The operation, as always, was
ruthless and cruel, but the buffalo gave the agents
a heck of a time.
As soon as the agents left, the buffalo began to make
their way west again. Nature intended for them to be
free-roaming and buffalo will go where buffalo will
go. Today, they're heading along Duck Creek, east, of
their own accord and free will. We will be keeping a
very close eye on this group, because they are now in
grave danger of being captured and slaughtered.
In Gardiner, along Yellowstone's northern boundary,
300 buffalo are still being held in the Stephens Creek
trap by the Park Service. Our Gardiner camp will remain
until the buffalo are released. We are so grateful to
Mike and Kim who have been there since November, when
the buffalo hunt began, and, of course, George, who
is always there for the buffalo in Gardiner. Our 300
buffalo friends are being held captive until Park employees
feel enough grass has emerged for the buffalo to be
content within the Park's man-made border. As if they
know what buffalo want; all they do is prevent them
from getting it, and will kill them for trying! Captivity
takes it's toll and Park officials have reported a few
stillbirths in the trap. It's likely that these miscarriages
come from the stress of crowded captivity. While the
300 buffalo prisoners await their release, Park wranglers
continue to haze other groups of buffalo who choose
to walk the land of their ancestors. Much of the land
immediately adjacent to the Park is now privately-owned
by people who are not yet willing to co-exist with buffalo,
even though they occupy part of North America's largest
wildlife migration corridor. The Church Universal and
Triumphant (CUT) still forbids wild buffalo from accessing
critical habitat. Nearly 900 buffalo have died because
CUT insists on raising less than 200 cattle on its land.
It is these cattle that the Park Service claims to be
protecting through the slaughter of nearly 1,000 bison.
But the tide is turning. On Tuesday evening the Gallatin
Wildlife Association (GWA) and the Montana Department
of Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) held a meeting to
discuss buffalo restoration in Montana. Well, a speck
of Montana, anyway - but it's a start! FWP, at the urging
of GWA, conducted an assessment for bison in the Upper
Gallatin River Drainage. It's not the Madison Valley,
but it is good habitat. There are many challenges afoot,
most of these, of course, workable with cooperation.
The point is, the discussion is underway. A year ago,
a conversation like this would never have happened outside
of buffalo advocates. The tide is turning. Many thanks
to Glenn Hockett & the GWA for making this discussion
happen. We are seeing the change and the trail for the
return of wild buffalo is being blazed.
* BFC Patrols Certified to Help with Bison Highway
Among the buffalo's many challenges, as you know, are
the highways. As the spring migration flows, more buffalo
will be along the roads and in danger. Travellers are
also in danger, because buffalo are very big, don't
run, and are nearly impossible to see at night. BFC
has always helped warn motorists of their presence.
Last weekend, some folks took an extra step by participating
in a certified highway flagger course. This certification
will enable us to more effectively and safely warn traffic
of the presence of buffalo. Now that we've got the training,
we need the safety equipment to carry out the service.
If you can help us purchase any of the following equipment,
please email Stephany at bfc-media"at"wildrockies.org.
Many thanks for helping to keep the highways safe for
buffalo and people!
BFC HIGHWAY SAFETY WISHLIST (ANSI/OSHA approved):
- (4) 48" x 48" "Buffalo Crossing"
- (4-8) retro-reflective safety vests
- (2) stop/slow paddles
- (4) flashlights with glow cones
- (4) 24" red, retro-reflective flags
- (4-8) retro-reflective hard hats
* BFC Takes the Buffalo's Message to Washington,
BFC recently concluded a successful visit to Washington,
DC that included 35 meetings with Congressional staffers
and a briefing on Capitol Hill attended by many additional
House staffers. Many thanks to D.J. Schubert of the
Animal Welfare Institute, Nancy Perry and Lauren Silverman
of the Humane Society of the United States, and BFC's
Marian Osher. Thanks also to Anne Georges of Rep. Maurice
Hinchey's office and Jennifer Warren of Rep. Charles
Bass' office for their continuing support of Yellowstone
buffalo in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Our efforts in Washington focused on two primary objectives.
First, we worked to educate Representatives on the current
plight of the buffalo and the need to provide them with
immediate protections. We demonstrated that the current
bison management plan is failing to meet its primary
objectives while costing taxpayers millions of dollars
annually, with no end in sight to this wasteful and
brutal program. In asking for co-sponsorship of HR 2428,
The Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act, we illustrated
how simple common sense solutions coupled with a halt
to the current hazing, capture and slaughter regime
would work toward a long-term resolution of this ugly
We also engaged our Montana delegation in meetings with
staff members from the offices of Rep. Denny Rehberg,
Senator Max Baucus, and Senator Conrad Burns. The purpose
of these meetings was to search for common ground from
which we might move forward toward a long-term resolution.
We could all agree that the current slaughter and this
ongoing controversy are not good for Montana. We attempted
to demonstrate that there are avenues by which Montana's
prized brucellosis-free status could be protected that
include free roaming wild buffalo in the Greater Yellowstone
Area. While we certainly didn't reach any momentous
agreements, there was an indication that paths toward
a resolution are still open and achievable.
Overall, this year's trip to the halls of Congress was
a positive step toward an eventual resolution that will
benefit wild buffalo for future generations. This process
never moves as quickly as we like, but we must keep
up the fight on all fronts if we are going to succeed
for the future of the buffalo. As Brock Evans, co-author
of the Endangered Species Act, likes to say, it's going
to take "Endless pressure, endlessly applied!"
Many thanks also go out to all of you who took the time
to call or write your Representative and Senators. During
several meetings, we learned that constituents had been
calling in support of the buffalo during the past weeks.
This makes a considerable difference in getting your
Representative to take action and cosponsor HR 2428.
Please continue to keep up the pressure with Congress.
Call or write your Representative and Senators today!
for more information.
* Send a Handcrafted Mother's Day Card and Protect
the Yellowstone Bison!
May brings Springtime in Yellowstone! Warm sun, gentle
rain. Mountain bluebirds will stir the sky as the Earth
dons her flowery, green robe. A mother bison nuzzles
her newborn, a knobby-kneed, fuzzy, orange baby cuddled
at her side. This beautiful scene repeats itself throughout
the park and its environs, a tribute to the enduring
force of nature and the mother-child bond.
The birth of a new generation of Yellowstone bison is
all the more poignant this year, when the herd has suffered
such great injustice and so many lives have been lost.
Buffalo Field Campaign is here throughout the darkest
days and nights. But now we're ready to celebrate the
season of renewal, and we invite you to join us!
BFC will send a hand-made Mother's Day card to the recipient(s)
of your choice for a modest donation. For a minimum
$10 contribution, we'll send a 4-1/4"x 5-1/2"
card; for a minimum $35 contribution, we'll send a larger
photo card. The sentiment in both reads: "Springtime
in Yellowstone...when mother bison nurture their newborn
calves in a timeless bond of love. Buffalo Field Campaign
is here to protect and defend them. A gift has been
made in your honor by _____ to further this important
work and to celebrate this special bond. Happy Mother's
BFC Mother's Day cards are a great tribute to any and
all the important and nurturing women in your life (and
perhaps a few men, too!). But please order early--we'll
time the mailing so the card arrives close to Mother's
Day, Sunday 14 May 2006. Order now through Wednesday
3 May 2006.
To order go to
specify "Mother's Day Card" along with the
name and mailing address of the special person you wish
it to be sent to.
* Buffalo in the News
March 4, 2006 - Room to Roam: Freeing Yellowstone's
Planet Jackson Hole (Wyoming)
March 24, 2006 - Slow Down, No Matter What the Signs
West Yellowstone News (Montana)
March 27, 2006 - Op-Ed by Monica RavenHeart
Printed in full in the Livingston Enterprise (Montana)
* Last Words
"As they travel across their ancient lands
with wisdom and grace so grand,
their killers carry on their ignorant slaughter
with the innocent's blood upon their hands.
But it is the buffalo who ultimately will survive -
their magnificence and glory cannot be denied.
Ignorance and greed will one day vanish and
the killers are the ones who will be confined."
- An anonymous poem written on the label of "Prairie
Land" handmade olive oil soap