Update from the Field
Temperatures in Western Montana have plummeted in the
past few days. Volunteers in West Yellowstone sustained
lows of -45, while Gardiner temps dropped to -20. Snow
and ice blanket the landscape while chilly winds bite
with sharp teeth. The cold hard bones of the Crone's
hand lay their grip on all in sight. It is a season
both beautiful and deadly; especially deadly if you
are one of the last wild buffalo. Those bearing witness
are hard pressed to not let the cold creep into their
own still-beating hearts. The pain of watching these
gentle giants gunned down again and again is sharp and
intense and mourning comes to each of us in different
Montana's illegitimate bison hunt has so far claimed
the lives of 14 bull buffalo, members of the country's
last wild herd. Since we last wrote, five more friends
have been shot dead near Gardiner. Volunteers in Gardiner
have been witnessing the most death, watching from close
range as our gentle friends die as a result of Montana's
ignorance and greed. One gunner, a twelve-year old boy
accompanied by his parents, took more than three hours
from the first shot to the final fatal bullet to bag
his prize. As we've come to learn during this hunt,
wild buffalo do mourn. Again and again volunteers have
witnessed other herd members coming to the fallen buffalo,
trying to help them get up again, or standing in silence
when they realize they wont rise anymore. According
to some Native American traditions the dead buffalo
is considered not good to eat if other buffalo behave
Montana is still trying to ignore reality and celebrate
this hunt. They pat themselves on the back and claim
it's a "normal" hunt, one they are quite proud
of. But everyone else knows it's a deadly joke, a farce,
and it's totally illegitimate. There is no place in
this state where wild bison are free to exist in peace
at any time of the year. On the contrary, elk and deer
(cows also infected these animals with brucellosis)
are free to come and go, and have healthy resident populations.
Wild buffalo, however, are ecologically extinct in Montana.
This means they don't - aren't allowed to - naturally
exist within Montana's borders. Whenever they cross
the man-made line and enter Montana, they are immediately
subjected to hazing, capture, slaughter, quarantine
and now shooting. How can Montana hope to save face?
Yesterday in West Yellowstone volunteers witnessed Department
of Livestock (DOL) agents delivering a semi truck full
of hay. They dropped it off at Dale Koelzer's, where
the Duck Creek bison trap is. Maybe the hay is for the
horses they'll use to haze buffalo with in the spring.
Or maybe they may again try to lure hungry buffalo off
of National Forest and Park Service land, into the trap.
Maybe Shane Grube has some friends with bison hunting
permits that have yet to fill their tags. Or maybe it's
just that trapped buffalo must have hay to eat. Who
can tell what the DOL has in store? We are watching.
For now, DOL agents can sit back, relax, inspect livestock,
and enjoy the holidays; right now they've got others
doing their dirty work. Do the bison "hunters"
know they are pawns in the state's buffalo-eradication
game? Field patrols in Gardiner have been attempting
to educate them, and it seems a few are beginning to
understand that Montana's ill-treatment of the last
wild buffalo leaves much to be desired.
Meanwhile, with the hunters mostly swarming through
Gardiner and the DOL busy with other tasks, back in
West Yellowstone a natural and beautiful thing happened:
a mixed group of nearly 20 buffalo migrated out to Horse
Butte. They traveled through the night, crossing the
Madison River's south shore towards the north bluffs.
They made their way to Horse Butte where they grazed,
played, and slept in peace for a few days, then when
they were ready, they slowly made their own way back
into the park. The DOL has suspended hazing operations
in certain areas during the hunt, so these buffalo were
virtually ignored by all but BFC volunteers who watched
them from a respectful distance. Had the DOL been out
hazing, likely the buffalo would have turned around
and come back to the Butte until they decided they were
finished. As it was, the buffalo - left alone by hunters
and the DOL - simply got to be buffalo. No one's brucellosis-free
status was "threatened" during this natural
bison migration. This is as it should be - as it could
be - as it will be. Hold on to that vision.
* 12/15/05 - National Call-in Day!
Please mark your calendars for THURSDAY, DECEMBER 15,
and join us in a nation-wide call-in day to Montana
Governor Brian Schweitzer.
The 15th marks one month into Montana's illegitimate
"hunt" of the country's last wild buffalo.
The governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer, has the power
and authority to cancel the hunt and create a "new
Montana" that welcomes wild buffalo, values them
as a native wildlife species and respects them as the
national treasure they are.
The Humane Society of the United States, the Animal
Welfare Institute, and others will be helping in this
effort. With everyone's participation this will be a
powerful action and we'll make Gov. Schweitzer's phone
ring off the hook! Please urge your friends, family
and co-workers to participate. We will send a special
alert the night before to remind everyone to join in.
WHAT: National Call-In Day to Montana
Governor Brian Schweitzer
WHEN: Thursday, December 15, 2005 -
WHERE: Call 406-444-3111
WHY: To pressure Montana to CANCEL
the bison hunt and bring lasting protection and respect
to the last wild herd.
WHO: Everyone who cares about wild
buffalo! Please pass this alert on to others.
On this same day from 2:00-3:00 pm, BFC will hold a
press conference in Helena, Montana inside the state's
capitol building. We will state our opposition to the
hunt, offer common-sense solutions, show video footage
from the field, and deliver to Governor Schweitzer the
thousands of post cards that supporters like you have
signed, urging Montana to protect and respect the last
wild buffalo. For more information contact bfc-media"at"wildrockies.org.
THANK YOU for taking action to help the last wild buffalo!
* BFC Wish List
The Buffalo Field Campaign is the only group in the
field with the buffalo every day, documenting every
action taken against them. We are the only organization
that has made the commitment to being the eyes and ears
of the people, for the buffalo. Help keep BFC in the
field! Please consider making a monetary or in-kind
contribution to BFC today. Your donation will enable
us to continue standing in defense of the last wild
buffalo, bearing witness to all actions taken against
them, and raising awareness around the world.
Make a Secure Online Donation to BFC:
Peruse BFC's Wish List for needed in-kind contributions:
Thank you for making a difference!
* Last Words--Two Great Letters to the Editor
Letters to the editor are a great way to reach a lot
of people in your community and beyond. The two letters
below were published in two of Montana's most widely-read
papers. Just about everyone that picks up a newspaper
reads the editorial section. Please consider sending
a letter to the editor of your favorite paper, or check
our web site for tips, newspaper contact info and more:
12/6/05, Helena Independent Record
End bison hunt
I am writing to express my strong opposition to the
resumption of bison hunting in Montana. I find it appalling
that your state would allow Yellowstone bison - animals
who have virtually no fear of humans - to be hunted.
The Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks has also
failed to meet its own standards for the management
of big game species like bison. You can't even claim
that the bison hunt will reduce the risk of brucellosis
transmission from bison to cows because the risk is
already immeasurable. As you know, there has never been
a confirmed case of bison transmitting brucellosis to
a cow under natural conditions.
Montana has failed to heed the lessons of history. To
protect Yellowstone's bison and spare your state from
another round of national and international ridicule,
I implore you to stop the hunt now and work for the
development of a more ethical and fair management plan.
Being a frequent visitor to your beautiful state, I
am embarrassed by this latest decision. My time and
more importantly, my dollars, will now be spend in more
civilized areas of the U.S.
11/27/05, The Missoulian
November 15th. Cool, 6-degrees, in Gardiner, Montana.
The 15th marked opening day of the first Yellowstone
bison hunt Montana has had in 15 years. I had very mixed
feelings about the hunt, encouraged by my hope that
it was the first step toward treating Yellowstone's
bison like wildlife, discouraged by the lack of habitat
the bison would be granted outside the park beyond the
After watching a short clip of yesterday's hunt on the
Buffalo Field Campaign web site, caught on film by field
personnel, I was saddened and disgusted. This was no
hunt at all. These are animals with virtually no fear
of humans, animals that one can walk right up to any
day of the year. A recent study shows that the bison
are even more tolerant of humans when snow is on the
ground, which will likely be the case for the entire
hunt. I don't oppose hunting. I enjoyed a wonderful
elk burger just last night, but I am against what I
saw yesterday. According to witnesses, it took four
shots, and over 20 minutes to kill this buffalo, and
I would just ask people to watch the video for themselves.
Watch the spectacle. This is not a hunt. It's a circus.
I would ask any honest hunter out there to tell me the
last time he shot an elk or a deer and had the rest
of its clan hang around trying to stop him. This was
the scene in Gardiner on this disastrous day.
Once these bison are given sufficient habitat outside
the park, and enough room to roam, perhaps the hunt
could be an effective way of controlling the population
while allowing hunters to participate in an ancient
practice. But this season's hunt will be another black
eye in Montana's management of bison.