* 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
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.
* 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
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
* 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
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