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Weekly Update from the Field November 30, 2006
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* Update from the Field
* Bison Calves Escape Quarantine Facility
* Colorado Ski Vacation to Benefit Yellowstone Buffalo
* Did You Know?
* Last Words

* Update from the Field
Dear Buffalo Friends,

It's been a very interesting week with much to tell.

Hebgen Lake has frozen and snow has been falling, blanketing the landscape while temperatures wax and wane between the 30s and -20s.   These frosty days and nights make for frosty buffalo.  We've been spending time with a group of huge bulls - thankfully in a Buffalo Safe Zone - who greet the morning with hoary heads, beards, and backs.  Unlike their displays of care-free energy during the verdant months of plenty, the buffalo move slowly now, taking their time, saving their fat stores, entering the long cold months ahead.  Not long from now, their massive bodies will have to work harder to get to the edible grasses beneath many feet of snow, and they will need to rest longer just to survive until Spring.  The only energy they can afford to spend is in looking for food.

A scant handful of buffalo have migrated over the imaginary Montana/Yellowstone line, and most of these buffalo have been shot by "hunters."  Since Montana's canned hunt began on November 15, seven bulls have fallen to the gun.  Three have been killed in West Yellowstone, while we have lost four near Gardiner.  In Montana, any buffalo that enters the state is subjected to harassment or death, and until February 15, gunners will be doing the dirty work of the Department of Livestock (DOL).  While the "hunt" will hopefully inspire hunters to advocate for buffalo habitat, these shaggy giants' lives are being taken long before respect or habitat has been given to them.  It is out of balance. This canned hunt puts the cart way before the horse.  Most of the hunters we have been able to talk with agree that bison need more habitat and that the DOL should be removed from all buffalo management activities.  Their voice is powerful in Montana, and wild buffalo will fair better with their additional advocacy.  Wildlife advocacy begs diversity.  Hunters have made positive impacts for many wildlife species, protecting habitat and ensuring the species' survival.  Many hunting organizations have been strong champions of wildlife habitat conservation throughout America.  Unfortunately for the buffalo, the trigger is being pulled before any positive actions are taken on their behalf.  Wild buffalo remain ecologically extinct in Montana and everywhere outside of Yellowstone National Park.  Since Yellowstone harbors the last continuously wild population, in essence an endangered species, it is critical that protection and restoration take precedence over hunting.

Last week, the day after Thanksgiving, two bull buffalo were shot by gunners; one in West Yellowstone and one in Gardiner.  On that same day Dale Koelzer passed away.  He was the owner of the property where the Duck Creek bison trap is located.  Dale Koelzer was infamous among buffalo advocates for his cooperation with DOL operations, providing his basement and land to agents and law enforcement as a base for running their West Yellowstone headquarters, and allowing them to maintain the Duck Creek bison capture facility less than 1/4 mile from Yellowstone National Park.  On his land -  set within a critical wildlife migration corridor - hundreds of wild buffalo have been hazed, captured, slaughtered, and shot over the years.  We are saddened that he never had a change of heart before his passing.  We send our blessings to his family and hold faith that with his passing an era is ending and positive change is coming.
Last week, as Dale's family was in town, Laura and I were watching a group of bulls that were just within Yellowstone's borders.  We were camped on a strip of National Forest land between Yellowstone and Dale Koelzer's property.  A man and a boy approached us from the Koelzer property.  The man asked if they could come into our camp, and we welcomed them.  He said, "Your 'favorite' person in the world just died - he was my grandfather." He introduced himself as Travis.  His son was with him and they wanted to talk about the buffalo - not about the politics - but about the buffalo themselves. We had good conversation.  We shared stories. We joked with each other.  We learned things from one another.  It was such a refreshing and human moment and it gave us a lot of hope for the future.  Travis and his son were so friendly and genuine; new generations with, perhaps, different ideas on how things should be. Laura and I were moved by our interaction with them, we later regretted we hadn't shaken their hands or offered embrace.  We don't know what will happen next, but we can't help but be a little optimistic.  Earlier that morning, those four bulls had been on Koelzer's property, and Travis and his son spoke to us about them and seemed pleased by their presence.  It gives us strong hope for the future.  Thank you, Travis and son, for coming and talking with us.  We look forward to building relationship, open dialogue, and a new direction.

On a bittersweet, closing note, below is tale about an amazing buffalo happening.  A tale we wish could have a different ending.  It speaks strongly to the arrogant interference of man with Nature.

Roam Free,
* Bison Calves Escape Quarantine Facility
On Monday, eight Yellowstone bison calves escaped the Corwin Springs quarantine facility, near Gardiner, just a few miles from Yellowstone National Park.  Our first reaction was to be overjoyed that these baby bison had busted out of their torture-prison.  But, the sad truth is, they are domesticated now.  Captured and orphaned by Yellowstone National Park and the DOL, their family members have been sent to senseless slaughter.  These young buffalo wear bright yellow ear tags, are fed hay, live in small corrals surrounded by double-electric fence (amazing they broke out!), and are routinely handled by scientists.  The Corwin Springs quarantine facility is run by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) and the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).  The government's goal is to "create a disease-free herd" and "restore" these "wild" bison to other public lands.

The government is succeeding in making them forget their wildness, and maybe that's part of their true intention.  Though we fantasized that they could dissolve their ear tags and make a bee-line back to Yellowstone, the buffalo calves didn't stray far at all.  A few walked back into the facility of their own accord, while the rest were easily hazed.  They are now used to being fed and watered, and they have no buffalo elders to help them learn what it is to be wild and free.  But somewhere inside of them they remember roaming with herd.  The lesson here is for the arrogant government agents and scientists: the quarantine study is a failed and miserable experiment benefiting no one but the mad scientist and the livestock industry.  Though we object to it entirely, quarantine by definition means isolation, yet the buffalo got out, and wild bighorn sheep and mule deer have gotten in.  Further, quarantine is the "answer" that the government gives to Native Americans when they request - instead of slaughter - that wild Yellowstone buffalo be returned to tribal lands.  Such a par-for-the-course insult, both to the buffalo and the Tribes.   And meanwhile, wild buffalo restoration is happening naturally every year and the government keeps standing in the way and killing the animals who follow the instinct to migrate.

Read BFC's press release from yesterday: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/media/press0607/pressreleases0607/112906.html
Watch BFC video footage of the Corwin Springs bison quarantine facility (scroll down to the fourth clip):
Contact the decision-makers involved and urge them to shut the quarantine facility down:
* Colorado Ski Vacation to Benefit Yellowstone Buffalo
Thanks to the generosity of a dedicated BFC supporter and many businesses, we will be holding a benefit online auction during the month of December for a week-long February ski vacation in Crested Butte, Colorado.  Bidding will begin early next week (check BFC's website for a link) once we've finalized the package.

The ski vacation is currently valued at approximately $6,000 dollars and includes a week's lodging (Saturday to Sunday) in a Gold Plus rated, 4-bedroom, 3-bath condominium located less than 500 yards from the Silver Queen Ski Lift; eight free lift tickets to the Crested Butte Mountain Resort; a $100 gift certificate to Marchitelli's Gourmet Noodle, a $50 gift certificate to The Brick Oven Pizzeria, a $50 gift certificate to Mountain Earth Grocery, and a 20% discount on Alpine Express shuttle service between the airport in Gunnison and Crested Butte.

More donations are being confirmed so please tell your ski-loving friends about this unique opportunity to take a fun-filled trip to benefit the crucial work of Buffalo Field Campaign, the only group working in the field to protect America's only continuously wild bison.
A special thanks goes out to all the Crested Butte and Gunnison businesses making this fundraiser possible and especially to BFC supporter Deanna, who launched the idea and made it possible with the donation of her slope-side condominium.
* Did You Know?
Did you know that hunters in Montana (and perhaps other states) are allowed to haze wildlife into areas where they can be shot?  Hunters are also sanctioned to construct temporary roads in our National Forest lands so they can more easily access their prey.

We saw the results of this first-hand last Friday.  A bull bison was walking down Rainbow Point Road, a little  stretch of pavement that leads to Horse Butte and Yellowstone Village.  Likely, the bull was heading to join some other bulls that have been living their lives in peace in a neighborhood "buffalo safe zone."

The bull was spotted by hunters and hazed about 25 yards into the woods of Gallatin National Forest, where he was shot and killed.  The hunters used chain saws to clear a path, cutting up dead-fall and small trees, to drag out the buffalo's body.   BFC patrols witnessed most of this, but the hunters and his many friends weren't receptive to our documentation and we agreed not to film.

The next day a couple other volunteers visited the kill-site; we wanted to pay our respects.  The destruction was obvious and there was a clear newly-constructed path to where the bull was shot.  It ended at a huge gut-pile that the ravens were eyeing.  And it seems FWP is telling hunters to leave all organ-meat due to the threat of brucellosis.  That's a crock, because elk and deer also carry brucellosis and this same rule doesn't apply to them.  So, there in the snow among so much blood and guts, we also saw the buffalo's heart.  Just laying there, cast aside.  It was enormous, larger than a human's head.  We imagined it warm and pumping living blood through the buffalo's massive body.

Never belive anyone who says buffalo don't have big hearts.... and please sing songs for the buffalo so that when they die, they can return again.
* Last Words
"From Wakan Tanka, the Great Mystery, comes all power. It is from Wakan Tanka that the holy man has wisdom and the power to heal and make holy charms. Man knows that all healing plants are given by Wakan Tanka, therefore they are holy. So too is the buffalo holy, because it is the gift of Wakan Tanka."
Flat-Iron (Maza Blaska) - Oglala Sioux Chief

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