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Weekly Update from the Field September 21, 2006
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* Update from the Field
* Contact Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer
* West Coast & South West Road Shows Continue
* Last Words

* Update from the Field
Dear Buffalo Friends,
Our thoughts are with the bull buffalo that were imprisoned in the Duck Creek capture facility last night, after having been captured at 1:50 yesterday afternoon.  As I write, frozen rain is falling on the West Yellowstone area, and buffalo are on their way to slaughter.

Yesterday was a tough day for us in the field, as we witnessed the first bison capture of the season.  Our patrol day began at 8:30 am, when we arrived in Yellowstone Village on Horse Butte to find Department of Livestock (DOL) agents unloading two horses.

We found two bulls not very far up the road, and they were among the most beautiful buffalo we'd ever seen.  The larger of the two was deep black, with a shiny coat and thick fur on his front legs.  They were both wonderfully healthy and in their prime.  And they held their ground firmly.
It was hours before the agents were able to get the bison out of the subdivision.  Eventually, the buffalo reached the property adjacent to the capture facility, (a safe zone where agents are not allowed to harass them), and began to graze peacefully, as if they hadn't just been chased eight miles through thick forest.

After a few minutes of waiting impatiently, the livestock agents pulled out their ATVs and began circling the property, hooting and hollering and making as much noise as they could.  When that didn't work they took out their shotguns and began firing cracker rounds--loud explosive charges--hoping the noise would cause the buffalo to move.  When that didn't work, they loaded up even louder cracker rounds that exploded with deafening booms that could be heard for miles around.  This got the buffalo going, and once they were on Dale Koelzer's property, where the Duck Creek bison trap is located, the agents began chasing them towards the park.  We had been told earlier that the plan was to chase the bulls into the park, but as they reached the entrance of the capture facility, the agents on ATVs sped past the buffalo, turned, and began to chase them away from the park.  That's when we knew we had been lied to (again) and the agents were intending to capture the bulls.  After about 10 or 15 minutes of being chased in circles around the trap, the buffalo were captured, the gates closed, and their fates sealed.

We stood stunned on the opposite shore of the creek overlooking the capture facility.  One of us was a brand new volunteer, having just arrived yesterday.  Welcome to Montana.

We sat watching the capture facility for five hours, waiting for the transport to arrive that would bring these magnificent creatures to their deaths.  But it never came.  The sounds of the bulls kicking madly at the walls of their prison were the only clue we had that they were still alive as we left our positions at sunset.

Though we knew that we had to get up well before sunrise for this morning's patrol, we had a difficult time getting to sleep, and we stayed up late talking about buffalo we had known and loved; honoring the spirits of these two doomed brothers.

At around 7 this morning the report came over the radio from the patrol on duty that the two bulls, along with a third that was captured separately, had been loaded onto trailers and shipped north out of town.

The Department of Livestock won't answer our questions or return our phone calls about what they plan to do with these bison, but they are no longer here, and the slaughterhouse is the only place they can be heading from here.

Ironically, it was the buffalos' tenacity; their strong will to resist the force of the agents that the state vet, Tom Linfield, blamed on their decision to capture them.  He called the bulls "fractious," meaning hard to manage.  But that's just the kind of quality that we expect in a wild animal, and strive for in ourselves. May we forever fight these attempts to domesticate us, cage us and turn us into slaves of commerce, as these buffalo help us remember the wildness of our souls.
Today we honor these buffalo as heroes, and mourn them as brothers.  Peace.

P.S. You can read BFC's press release from yesterday at http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/media/press0607/pressreleases0607/pressreleases0607.html.
* Contact Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer
Montana claims their war against wild buffalo is due to the cattle-borne disease brucellosis.  Cattle gave brucellosis to buffalo, yet the livestock interests say they "fear" buffalo "may" transmit brucellosis to their cattle.  Yet even where wild buffalo and cattle have coexisted for decades (Grand Teton National Park), this has never happened.  Cattle brought the disease to our wildlife, so why aren't we protecting them from livestock diseases?  Elk also carry brucellosis, yet they are (rightfully) free to come and go across Montana's borders.  Moreover, bull buffalo, yearlings, and non-pregnant females cannot transmit brucellosis.  Pregnant buffalo pose only a theoretical risk.  Regardless of the facts, the science, and the natural right of native buffalo to roam their ancestral lands, Montana maintains it's nefarious zero tolerance policy against wild buffalo and enlists the federal government to aid them in the battle.  Montana's governor, Brian Schweitzer, earned his election, in part, on promises that wild buffalo would "enjoy more tolerance" when he took office.  He made public statements that the DOL is "ill-equipped" to manage wild buffalo.  He's also been recently quoted in the media stating that he wants a new plan and aims to increase tolerance for wild buffalo.  How long must the buffalo wait, Governor? 

So far, the only "tolerance" Montana or its governor has shown wild buffalo is the slaughterhouse or a canned hunt.  A cattleman himself, Governor Schweitzer has done nothing to show tolerance for wild buffalo and we hold him responsible for the continued death and harassment the country's last wild buffalo suffer at the hands of the Montana Department of Livestock and all involved agencies.  He talks the talk, but just when does he plan to walk the walk?  How many more buffalo will needlessly die before any real action is taken?

Please contact Governor Schweitzer today and remind him what the definition of "tolerance" is.
Governor Brian Schweitzer
State Capitol
Helena, MT 59620-0801
Phone: 1-406-444-3111
Fax: 1-406-444 5529 Email: BrianSchweitzer@mt.gov

Remind him that wild buffalo, not cattle, are the natural, native, rightful roamers of this land.  Remind him that there's never been a documented case of wild buffalo transmitting brucellosis to domestic cattle and that bulls cannot transmit the disease.  Let him know you see this war for what it is:  a centuries-old range war, all about the grass and who gets to eat it.  If you are Montana resident, please say so.  If you are from elsewhere in the country or around the globe, remind him that the Yellowstone herd is the last wild herd residing in an ecosystem of World Heritage significance.  Tell him you will not spend one dime in Montana until wild buffalo are free to roam and respected as native wildlife in Montana.  If you are a hunter, remind him that habitat needs to come before a hunt and that livestock interests have no wits for or place in wildlife management. Remind him that wild buffalo are a living embodiment of this country's strength, beauty and wisdom, and that Montana alone is responsible for it's destruction.  Tell him how distasteful you find it that Montana shows the world how they feel about buffalo by using a buffalo skull on license plates and quarters as the signature of the state.  Tell him you, too, envision a "new Montana," one where wild buffalo are not just tolerated, but respected and valued as the awesome beings so critical to the health of the land and the people.
* West Coast and Southwest Road Shows Continue
BFC's road shows are still going strong, yet our buffalo warriors are beginning to wind down the long journey of spreading the word to save the last wild herd.  Check out the schedule and please try to join us and also encourage others to attend a presentation near you.

West Coast Road Show: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/aboutus/roadshowswest2006.html
Contact Jesse, Mike or Seamus at jesse@thisside.net

South West Road Show: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/aboutus/roadshowsouthwest2006.html
Contact Josh at bfc-advocate"at"wildrockies.org
* Last Words
"It doesn't make any sense to haul (the bison) up and bring them to slaughter," Schweitzer told the ranchers as they sat around a large conference table.
~ Governor Brian Schweitzer, Bozeman Chronicle, April 13, 2006

"Under the current law, they don't have to test [the bison]... they can haul them directly to slaughter.  That's the best place, I like them the best because they don't come back."
~ Dale Koelzer, May 17, 2006.  Koelzer is the owner of the private property where the government-run Duck Creek bison trap is located.

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