Update from the Field
Friends of the Buffalo,
The days between Christmas and New Years have provided
a welcome respite on the Yellowstone border. Buffalo
Field Campaign (BFC) patrols continue to rise before
the sun to stand with the buffalo, and we've been basking
in the quiet time spent in their presence.
On Sunday morning, my birthday, Stephany and I woke
at 5:30, ate a hearty potato breakfast, and headed into
the field. The previous afternoon's patrol had alerted
us to the location of a group of five bulls and we made
our way to them as the day dawned. A cottony blanket
of mist clung to the Madison River and Hebgen Lake,
cutting visibility to a dozen yards or so.
We decided to climb to the top of Horse Butte, hoping
to lift ourselves above the fog. We reached the top
and our breath was taken away, as much from the spectacular
view as from the strenuous climb. Up on top the day
was clear, and the snow-covered peaks of the Madison
Range rose like craggy islands from the fog. We followed
the ridge for a few miles, walking in the footsteps
of a bison herd that had passed the same way a few days
The mist lifted in layers, periodically removing the
mountains and placing us in a dream-like world and blurring
the shapes of nearby trees, rock outcroppings, and one
another. Then, just as suddenly, the mist would dissolve,
the sky would become blue again, and the view would
be restored. We followed in the tracks of buffalo along
the ridge and finally down, off the Butte and back into
the thick fog at the valley's bottom. As we neared the
flats below, vague forms took shape. As we drew closer
these forms crystallized into five magnificent bulls,
each weighing nearly a ton and standing six feet tall
at the hump.
We found a spot of bare ground under the boughs of a
large Douglas Fir, and watched the buffalo as we snacked
on peanut butter sandwiches. With so much recent killing
it was a true gift to sit and watch, without fear, as
the buffalo grazed in peace on their native ground.
Now and then two of the bulls would take a break from
grass munching to gently spar, locking horns and pushing
one another about. As we sat under our tree watching
all in the world seemed right.
It has been nearly two weeks since the last buffalo
was killed and we haven't seen hunters in quite some
time. But we know at least two Montanans have yet to
fill their buffalo hunting tags, and they are likely
to do so before the first season ends on January 15.
The second season, running from January 16 to February
15, is set to result in 25 more buffalo being needlessly
At mid-day the afternoon patrol came out to take our
place and we hiked our way out along the base of the
butte. On the way we came across a stark reminder of
things to come. The site of the Horse Butte bison trap,
where over the years we've witnessed the capture and
shipment to slaughter of hundreds of buffalo, had been
recently plowed by the Montana Department of Livestock.
The trap site, located on national forest lands belonging
to all Americans, was surrounded by orange-painted stakes
indicating "no trespassing."
The current so-called hunt is being touted by Montana
as a first step in allowing greater tolerance for buffalo
in the state. Don't be fooled. Last year at this time
two buffalo had been killed. Under Montana's new "tolerance"
we've already seen 19 killed this year. And the plowing
of the trap site attests to the fact that the Department
of Livestock still calls the shots when it comes to
bison in Montana. The hunt is just another means of
killing buffalo. After it is over the all too familiar
hazing, capturing, slaughtering, quarantining and shooting
of any bison remaining in Montana will resume.
We are making the most of the relative peace of the
Holidays. When not out with the buffalo our volunteers
and coordinators are busy preparing for a long and difficult
winter and spring.
Thanks to everyone who has been sending gear, food,
supplies, and donations. The Buffalo Field Campaign
is everyone, everywhere, who cares about the Yellowstone
buffalo and takes action on their behalf. You make it
possible for us to be here with the buffalo and to share
their story with the world.
For the Buffalo,
Buffalo Field Campaign
* Volunteers Needed!
Buffalo Field Campaign is the only group working in
the field every day in defense of the last wild buffalo.
BFC volunteers stand with the buffalo from sunrise to
sunset, documenting all actions taken against them and
advocating for their lasting protection. We are the
eyes and ears of the world on this issue, and we need
wild buffalo champions to join us on the front lines
here in Montana. We are currently running two camps;
one in Gardiner and one in West Yellowstone. Take a
chance to surround yourself in the majesty of Montana's
wildness and help us document the atrocious actions
taken against the sacred buffalo. Take action in person
where the last migrating herd chooses to roam. Tell
their story, raise awareness, defend their right to
exist in freedom and help change the status quo. BFC
provides room, board, and gear to anyone who will stand
in defense of these gentle, shaggy giants.
For more information about becoming a BFC volunteer,
please contact Ryan at buffaloatwildrockies.org
or call him at 406-646-0070, or visit http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/aboutus/volunteeringatcamp.html
to learn more.
We look forward to your arrival!
* Important Actions to Take for the Buffalo
Please be a voice for the mighty bison! Below are three
critical actions you can take that will make a huge
difference for our buffalo brothers and sisters. It
is up to ourselves alone to champion their freedom,
their wildness, their right to exist and be buffalo!
Your voice DOES count, and if we don't take action,
who will? Please take a moment to rise up and advocate
for the last wild buffalo! Thank you!
1. Comment on Bison Quarantine Plan
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) is accepting
your comments on their plan to quarantine wild baby
buffalo. In cooperation with USDA-Animal & Plant
Health Inspection Service (APHIS), FWP wants to capture,
domesticate, and experiment on wild buffalo calves and
yearlings. Young buffalo will be stolen from their mothers
and raised in captivity all for the sake of scientific
experiment. In the end, the majority of the young bison
will be slaughtered.
Comments are being accepted through January 13, 2006.
Please visit http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/actionalerts.html
for details of the plan and the ugly realities of bison
You may also email Josh at bfc-advocate"at"wildrockies.org
for more information.
2. Continuously Apply Pressure to Governor Brian
As the saying goes, "it ain't over until it's over."
Until the slaughter of America's last wild bison is
over, until the only migrating herd left in the country
is free to roam unmolested, until Montana respects buffalo
as a native wildlife species, and until livestock interests
are stripped of management authority over bison, Montana's
governor must keep hearing from us all. You are being
heard, but please keep the pressure on - write, call,
fax, visit - until the buffalo roam their native lands
Governor Brian Schweitzer
State Capitol, P.O. Box 200801
Helena, Montana 59620-0801
3. Write a Letter to the Editor
Did you know that many people aren't aware that wild
bison still exist in America, much less realize the
tragic truth about what is happening to them when they
enter Montana's killing fields? Government agencies
are suppressing wild bison migration and are party to
bison slaughter all in an effort to appease livestock
interests. Using scare tactics and unsound science,
the government misleads the public, attempting to make
people belive that the Yellowstone bison herd is "overpopulated"
and "diseased." The truth is, wild bison are
endangered; cattle have overrun the country, taking
over the buffalo's native range, and they threaten our
native wildlife with disease and starvation. You can
help get the story of the last wild buffalo out into
your community and beyond by writing a letter to the
editor of your favorite newspaper(s). The editorial
page is the most widely read section of the paper and
it's a great way to reach thousands - sometimes even
millions - of hearts and minds. Please write a letter
to the editor to help educate and empower citizens nation-wide
about what's happening to the country's last wild buffalo.
Suggested national and Montana papers to write to, including
contact information and writing tips, can be found at
Please email a copy to bfc-media"at"wildrockies.org.
Thank you for taking action for the country's last wild
buffalo! Save the herd ~ spread the word!
* Last Words
Tree of Life, for the Winter Solstice
In death we are where the fallen bison
lies, his fellows gathered--watchers, helpless helpers,
sentinel, remembering after time his bones,
as elephants do.
Grief is the teacher,
the final tree whose roots entwine our blood.
It grows at the stone of our mothers and fathers--
call them, they are within.
We did not come to life alone,
neither will we come alone to death.
Thus we are made. Only the gates narrow--
metaphor the body takes and goes its way.
~ Carol Snyder Halberstadt, BFC Supporter
Carol said that this beautiful and dark poem was inspired
after watching BFC's footage of Montana's illegitimate
bison hunt. Thank you, Carol, for your words and continued