Update from the Field
As we walk in the land of the last wild buffalo, the
warming earth gives off fragrant scents of pine needles
and sage. Pink, yellow, and purple wildflowers; soft
white pussy-willows; fuzzy, velvety moss together with
multitudes of green and growing things charm us with
their annual, explosive mystery. Trekking along the
Madison River and out towards Horse Butte, wildlife
trails teem with highways of buffalo tracks; among them,
precious tiny prints left by the baby buffalo who have
been taking their first steps in recent weeks. We are
at once giddy with excitement and extra protective of
the buffalo families we are here to defend.
Two field patrols were blessed to witness birth and
recent birth this week. On Monday, Jesse and Peter were
checking for buffalo near the Baker's Hole campground,
and were rewarded with the rare and special glimpse
of a mother buffalo giving birth! Just a few short hours
later, Stephanie and I were on our way to Horse Butte,
when we spotted a mama buffalo and her brand new calf.
The baby was still wet and wobbly on her legs, umbilical
chord still visible. Mom and baby disappeared into the
forest, quietly together. Indeed, this is testament
to the deeper reason we celebrate Mother's Day at this
time of year. It's a shame that this is lost on the
agents who harass and kill buffalo - sons of mothers
themselves. Somehow they forget this bond that the whole
of the world shares, closing their eyes, shutting off
their heart to carry out their cruel work against the
last wild buffalo. The only "reason" they
can muster is their fear of losing control and, hence,
Yesterday, Department of Livestock (DOL), MT Fish, Wildlife
& Parks (FWP), National Park Service (NPS), U.S.
Forest Service (USFS), and Gallatin County law enforcement
put their muscle into kicking the buffalo out of Montana,
back into Yellowstone National Park. Agents first went
to Horse Butte and hazed about 30 buffalo moms and babies
off of their birthing grounds, east down the Madison
River, and back into Yellowstone. They were not gentle.
They ran the buffalo hard. Again, they managed to separate
a mom from her baby, but the mama buffalo's love for
her baby was stronger than her fear of the agents. She
left the haze to find her missing baby, and thankfully,
she did, but only to resume being hazed together. Agents
upon their horses, donned in chaps, cowboy hats and
spurs, obnoxiously shouting multiple "hee-yas"
at the buffalo, running them through the woods, down
steep and sandy bluffs, through sensitive wetlands,
over the bridge of highway 191, back into Yellowstone's
boundaries. They managed to scare a moose and every
other animal in the forest in the process. Done there,
they headed down 287 where they scared up five magnificent
bulls, ran them down the highway - losing two to the
blessedly thick willows! - forcing three back into Yellowstone.
Then they scared up another group of about 30 buffalo
- moms and babies included - off of a large grassy field
near Duck Creek.
Today, the agents were out again to round up the buffalo
that escaped yesterday's haze. View the footage at http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org.
Agents ran more wild buffalo off of their native ground,
buffalo families were pushed for miles to the highway
and on towards Yellowstone's boundary. The buffalo were
shoved across 191, and the little babies had a very
hard time getting over the guard rail. They were frantic
trying to stick with their moms, and some babies flipped
and fell trying to jump over the metal fence. It is
heart-wrenching to witness this, to see these beautiful,
native beings forced off of their homeland as if criminals.
Painful to see the tiny newborns trying desperately
to keep up with the herd, having to deal with this horror
in their first days of life. And there is no reason,
there is no justification; there is only greed, fear
and ignorance that drives the war against buffalo. But
the tides are turning ...
A neighborhood out on Horse Butte, Yellowstone Village,
is very fond of wild buffalo. The majority of the homes
don BFC's "Buffalo Safe Zone Signs." In fact,
the good people who live there love the buffalo so much
they formed the Horse Butte Neighbors of Buffalo (HoBNOB)
a few years ago, and they are making a positive impact.
In true community fashion, HoBNOB submitted an official
notice to the involved agencies, letting them know residents
are pleased to coexist with wild buffalo, and the agents
are unwelcome in the neighborhood. The notice stood
the test yesterday. Scattered about the housing area
were beautiful moms, babies, yearlings and some stunningly
huge bulls. We feared they would be caught up in the
haze, but HoBNOB's notice prevailed. Agents weren't
allowed to access the property to go near them! A major
victory for the last wild buffalo! Our gratitude to
HoBNOB and all the good buffalo neighbors on Horse Butte!
In another positive turn of events, a homeowner and
neighbor of the infamous Dale Koelzer has given BFC
permission to access her property for the documentation
and monitoring of buffalo harassment and capture operations
and DOL activities. Dale Koelzer's driveway - which
leads to a small, beautiful neighborhood - has been
forbidden to BFC for years. Yesterday, for the first
time in BFC history, we crossed that line - legally.
After years of watching Koelzer's house through binoculars,
across Duck Creek pond from the Perch, we now need only
our eyes to see the comings and goings and operational
activities of the agents. It was surreal to be so close
to the buffalo killer's headquarters and the Duck Creek
bison trap. Our vantage has increased a thousand fold.
The agents were shocked at our presence and visibly
distressed by it. They gathered around Gallatin County
Deputy Burns, as he used his cell phone to find out
if our access was legal. Indeed, they learned it is
legal. Things will be a little bit different from here
on out. How we wished all the BFC old-timers could have
been there to share in this moment!
Lastly, it seems that some of the media is beginning
to awaken to the truth, finally putting it into print
that wild buffalo are being unjustly persecuted and
singled out, shedding light on the fact that management
actions contradict the facts surrounding brucellosis.
Below is a must-read editorial written by the staff
of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Though we certainly
don't agree that buffalo will "never roam the Plains
in great numbers" we are grateful to the Chronicle
for their courage - and duty - in printing the truth.
You, wild buffalo friends, are such a huge part of these
turning tides. Your support and belief in our work have
kept us in the field documenting these actions and demonstrating
the contradictions. Your action, along with your financial
and emotional support will allow us to be here until
the wild buffalo are set free. Thank you for your undaunted
support and love for the last wild buffalo! To all of
the mothers and mothers-to-be: HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY from
BFC! On this special day, please say a prayer in your
way for the wild buffalo mothers and their babies, that
they will know freedom again and live their lives out
in unfettered beauty and wildness.
* Wild Mother's Day in West Yellowstone
Join us in West Yellowstone, Montana on Mother's Day,
Sunday, May 14th and stand in solidarity with the Last
Wild Bison. Every Spring the buffalo family migrates
out of Yellowstone National Park (YNP) on the western
boundary to their calving grounds, the Horse Butte Peninsula.
These public lands offer fresh spring grasses, southern
exposure and cool lake waters for the buffalo to utilize
during the birthing process. Yet the Montana Department
of Livestock (DOL) will use helicopters, ATV's and horsemen
to terrorize pregnant females, newborns, yearlings...the
whole family unit. In years past, DOL hazing activities
have caused abortions, deaths to pregnant females, injury
and death to newborns...even running less than a week
old calves into the thick mud flats of the Madison River!
Please bring your family and join us on the corner of
Highway 191 and Rainbow Point Road. We will offer free
coffee and free cookies in hopes to Free the Buffalo!
If you cannot celebrate the Buffalo with us in the field,
please take the time to write personal letters to Montana
Governor Brian Schweitzer and Yellowstone Superintendent
Suzanne Lewis (http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/politicians.html)
reminding them to honor, respect and cherish the Last
Wild Buffalo! This Mother's Day stand-up for the reproductive
rights of all species! This Mother's Day reclaim what
it is to be Wild and Free!
For the Buffalo,
Justine, Roman and Japhy Sanchez
* Incredible Editorial on Brucellosis
Our Opinion: Let's get consistent on brucellosis policies
5/10/06 - Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Bozeman, Montana
The layman who encounters the issue of brucellosis in
Montana wildlife is likely to come away with his head
spinning. Confusion reigns and not only on the technical
aspects of the disease. Brucellosis seems to be driving
public policy in highly contradictory ways.
Brucellosis is a disease that can cause domestic cattle
to abort their young. As such, livestock growers understandably
fear the disease and in fact spent years and millions
of dollars eradicating brucellosis from Montana cattle.
A state's loss of brucellosis-free status can cause
expensive problems for the livestock industry. That
has happened in Idaho and Wyoming.
Driven by brucellosis fears, the Montana Department
of Livestock successfully lobbied to attain management
control [over] bison that roam outside over [sic] Yellowstone
National Park. The DOL has conducted controversial hazing,
capture and slaughter policies on the bison that continue
to garner bad national publicity for the state.
Juxtapose this with the fact that a small but verifiable
percentage of Montana's elk are also infected with brucellosis,
and there appears to be a stark disconnect between how
the two species of wildlife are managed.
There has never been a case of a bison infecting domestic
livestock in the field, and yet the haze, capture, slaughter
policies persist. Meanwhile, the threat of brucellosis-infected
elk is tolerated on public lands with livestock grazing
allotments, as well as on private land, even though
elk are blamed for infecting cattle in Idaho and Wyoming.
Add to this the fact that the results of field testing
for brucellosis in wildlife can be confusing at best.
Positive test results can indicate exposure to the disease,
but not necessarily active infection. And other, less
serious bacterial infections can produce false-positive
results in some field tests.
Montana conducted its first - although limited - public
bison hunt in many years this past winter, heralding
a welcome return to some semblance of consistency with
other wildlife management policies. And Gov. Brian Schweitzer
has expressed the hope of expanding the hunt in years
Bison will never roam the Plains in great numbers; they
simply represent too great a conflict with human activities.
But, whatever policy we ultimately adopt for the management
of these animals should be driven by consistent, sound
wildlife management policies, and not the disease-driven
policy that is contradictory, confusing and giving Montana
an undeserved bad name on the national stage.
* Summer Opportunities with BFC!
As Yellowstone fills up with millions of visitors from
around the world who come each summer to admire the
splendor of the mighty buffalo and all the natural wonders
of our first national park, BFC is here to let them
know what the buffalo have suffered at the hands of
those mandated to protect them. Believe it or not, there
are people who actually believe the Park Service is
protecting the country's last wild buffalo! Therefore,
it is imperative that Park visitors understand the truth
of what the Park Service has been doing to the Yellowstone
buffalo to appease the desires of Montana's livestock
Buffalo Field Campaign has positions open for summer
tablers in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
from June 10 through September 5, 2006. We are looking
for 3-4 dedicated people who are well-versed on the
buffalo issue and enjoy talking to others about it.
You can help tell the buffalo's story and inspire action
from the millions who flock to the Parks to admire them.
If you've been wanting to experience the beauty of the
Yellowstone ecosystem and speak out for the buffalo,
we want to hear from you! Applicants should be hardworking,
outgoing, friendly folks who are comfortable camping
for up to five days at a time (in the parks - what a
dream!). A minimum commitment of one month is required
(and appreciated). BFC will provide a small stipend
as well as room and board.
Interested? Contact Stephanie Munce at buffaloatwildrockies.org
or call 406-646-0070.
* Last Words
Honoring Mothers, Human & Wild
By Kathleen Stachowski
BFC board member & extraordinary wild buffalo advocate