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Weekly Update from the Field December 1, 2005
* Thank You!!
* Update from the Field
* This Sham of a Hunt
* Call the Governor; Call the National Park Service
* Volunteers Needed! Stand in Defense of the Last Wild Buffalo!
* Last Words

* Thank You!!
The Buffalo Field Campaign wishes to extend to each of you who have recently made a contribution our sincerest thanks and appreciation. It is because of individuals like you that BFC is able to bear witness, being the eyes and ears of the world in the plight of the last wild buffalo. With your generous support we are able to maintain our presence in the field, be a strong voice in the policy arena, and draw local, national and international media attention to the injustice caused to this noble animal. 

You make the difference. Your generous support ensures that the actions taken against these sacred, gentle beings will not go unnoticed or unchallenged. Your contribution keeps us in the field and keeps the buffalo's story alive. Your help will bring lasting protection to this icon of tenacious strength and powerful spirit. 

THANK YOU for keeping us in the field!

With heartfelt gratitude,
Everyone at Buffalo Field Campaign
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* Update from the Field
As we move into the third week of Montana's canned bison hunt, the lives of three more members of the last wild buffalo have been taken. On Friday, two more bulls were gunned down in Gardiner (see below). On Monday a bull was shot in West Yellowstone on the Horse Butte Peninsula. As if they were sanctioned as some kind of border patrol, gunners swarm the boundary between Yellowstone National Park and Montana, anxious to make their easy kill. In addition to Montana, the hands of the National Park Service are also red with buffalo blood.
When wild bison cross the Yellowstone National Park boundary and enter Montana, they unknowingly forfeit certain protections. This wrongly assumes that the buffalo are relatively safe within Yellowstone's borders. However, not even the world's first national park, icon World Heritage Site and biosphere reserve, provides sanctuary for the last wild buffalo.

On Monday, during the height of Montana's "celebrated" bison hunt, National Park Service rangers assisted Montana's livestock industry by harassing a herd of 104 wild bison as they were migrating to seek winter forage. Later that afternoon, when the herd had been forced back within Yellowstone's boundaries, one bull decided he was tired of being pushed around. He gave the cowboy-rangers a bit of a challenge. So they shot him. He was inside the Park's borders.

This onslaught is coming from all directions. It's coming from the state of Montana and it's coming from the federal government, including the agency that's mandated to protect the wild buffalo: the National Park Service. There is no place where a wild buffalo is truly safe from human induced danger in any location, at any time of year. 

The weak justification for actions against the last wild buffalo come down to one thing: money. It comes down to the cattle industry's powerful stronghold on the nation's wild lands and wildlife and the government agencies that choose to serve them. It comes down to livestock taking precedence over native wildlife. It comes down to the grass and who gets to eat it. Brucellosis - a European livestock disease that cattle infected many native wildlife species with - is just an excuse used to justify/support/endorse government actions against the wild, no matter the cost. Is brucellosis such a concern because of the harm it will cause people? No, that danger ended with the pasteurization of dairy products. Plain and simple, brucellosis can lower calf-production and that translates into lower profits. Brucellosis can cause a female cow to miscarry one calf, one time; then the normal birthing cycles resumes. But that one calf is money in the pocket of the cattle industry and they don't want to risk losing one dime. So the wild buffalo pays, as does the wolf, the mustang, the badger, and the coyote. The last wild buffalo are innocent, yet they are the only species targeted in such a way and so they die so the cattle industry can make a bigger buck. The government agencies sell it to the public by using words such as "disease" and "overpopulation." These terms certainly fit cattle, but they are lies when used to describe wild buffalo.

Please raise your voice in opposition to this injustice! Take action to defend the last wild buffalo. Take up your pen or pick up your phone and hound these government agencies until they have no choice but to free the wild. Put on your boots and stand in defense if the last wild buffalo.
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* This Sham of a Hunt
Driving 300 miles on a Thanksgiving Day road trip is not unusual, unless at the end of it, you sit down to dinner with eight other people, most of whom you've never met. But Buffalo Field Campaign folks have a way of becoming instant family, bound together by a strong commitment to Yellowstone's wild bison.

My husband and I were in Gardiner to help monitor the hunt. In Friday's pre-dawn darkness we parted - he to spend a cold but uneventful day with a group of nine bulls, and I to join three other volunteers patrolling drainages northeast of Gardiner. Twice that day I documented deaths of the shaggy creature who draws us back to Yellowstone again and again. A narrative of one of those deaths appears below.   

While BFC is not an anti-hunting group, make no mistake: There is no "honor" or "tradition" in this sham of a hunt. Yellowstone's wild bison are not welcomed in Montana, where the state's policy of zero-tolerance awaits them with hazing, capture, quarantine, and slaughter administered by the entitlement-bloated Montana Department of Livestock, and occasionally, by the National Park Service itself. The addition of a bogus hunt to this line-up of on-going persecution should enrage every legitimate hunter and wildlife advocate in America.

Until Montana recognizes this magnificent national treasure as native wildlife, until Montana designates habitat for wintering, birthing, and establishment of a resident herd, and until Montana calls off its Department of Livestock, Buffalo Field Campaign will be there - in the field, every day - to hold Montana accountable.

A typical scene from Yellowstone country, yet heart-breaking in its timeless beauty: Three
bull bison bedded down in grass and sagebrush; a fourth grazes nearby. In front of us 50, maybe 60 yards away, they observed our intrusion with little concern.
 
The tag-holder, a young woman, dropped to the ground and supported her rifle on a blue backpack. She settled in while the three men in her crew coached her on the shot. During the eternity before it fired, I fumbled the camera with trembling hands.  Is this what Montanans consider fair-chase hunting? I wondered.  Shooting an animal not even on his feet? The shot exploded.

Whether he was hit that time, I don't know. The resting animals stood up, more startled, it seemed, than frightened. Her target walked slowly to the right. Unlike other ungulates, bison typically don't flee; our continent's largest terrestrial mammal has the luxury of facing down his foe. It's likely that Yellowstone bison figure the wolf as their most lethal threat, yet they will stand their ground against fang and claw, and usually come out unscathed. But bullets don't back down, and the second shot rang, then a third. If there was a fourth, I don't remember. 
He fell, and the scene became an impressionistic blur: clouds thickening behind Electric Peak, pungent perfume from low, gnarled sagebrush. A bright patch of snow, brighter splashes of blaze orange. Congratulatory calls of "Good shot!" from the crew. As the bison lay dying, the silence was broken now and again with incongruous giggles from the shooter. Nervous relief, perhaps.

Do bison grieve? Decide for yourself. The remaining three slowly gathered around their fallen
brother. One, in particular, seemed especially distressed; he pawed the motionless shoulder as if to rouse him. Getting no response, he nudged the body with his head, then with the shank of his horn. Again and again he nudged and butted and pushed; finally, in an act of utter pathos, he lay down in resignation next to the body. Foam, tinged pink with blood, frothed from a bullet hole.

The crew was unhappy with this turn of events; the tag-holder complained that the meat would spoil. "How long are they going to stay?" she asked in exasperation. "They need time to mourn," my BFC companion replied, exasperation in his own voice. 

She drove them off with a couple of shots and duct-taped her tag to his horn.

Kathleen Stachowski
BFC Board Member
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* Call Governor Schweitzer; Call the National Park Service
Call, write, fax or visit Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and tell him to stop the hunt, respect wild buffalo as a native wildlife species, honor wild buffalo within Montana's borders, and strip the Department of Livestock from any involvement with the country's last wild buffalo!
Phone: 406-444-3111
Fax: 406-444-5529
Web: http://governor.mt.gov/contact/comments.asp
Mail: State Capitol, P.O. Box 200801, Helena, MT 59620-0801

Write, fax, email Yellowstone National Park and tell them you are ashamed of their actions against the wild buffalo. Demand that they stop defending Montana's livestock economy and start protecting the wildlife and wild lands they are sworn to protect! Tell them to get their hands out of wild buffalo harassment and slaughter and to start speaking up in defense of these native gentle giants. Tell them to become a voice that protects wildlife from the ill-effects of the cattle industry!
Fax; 307-344-2005
Web: http://www.nps.gov/yell/pphtml/contact.html
Mail: P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168
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* Volunteers Needed! Stand in Defense of the Last Wild Buffalo!
If you are serious about wanting to help protect the last wild herd of buffalo in America, please consider joining us on the front lines in their defense. Field patrols are needed to help document actions taken against the buffalo here in West Yellowstone, and up on the Park's northern boundary in Gardiner, Montana.

Volunteers are provided with room and board, video equipment, and winter gear. All you need to do is get here. Please bring with you a serious commitment to help defend the last wild buffalo.

Please contact BFC's Volunteer Coordinator, Ryan, at buffaloatwildrockies.org or 406-646-0070 for more information. We look forward to your arrival!
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* Last Words
"Cease being intimidated by the argument that a right action is impossible because it does not yield maximum profits, or that a wrong action is to be condoned because it pays."
~ Aldo Leopold


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