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
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
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
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
* 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
Helena, MT 59620-0801
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
West Coast Road Show: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/aboutus/roadshowswest2006.html
Contact Jesse, Mike or Seamus at firstname.lastname@example.org
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
"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.