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Weekly Update from the Field December 8, 2005
* Update from the Field
* 12/15/05 - National Call-in Day!
* BFC Wish List
* Last Words--Two Great Letters to the Editor

* 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 ways.

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 this way.

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 - all day
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.
Larry Myers
Cleveland, OH

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 hunt. 

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.

Mike Leach
Gardiner, Montana

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