Update from the Field
One of the things you notice, once you've gone on a
few patrols, is how different one buffalo can be from
the next. The mature cow digging with her head for grass
in a meadow formed by the oxbow in the Madison River
has horns that curve sharply inward. The old bull scratching
his back on the lodgepole pine tree in the saddle of
Horse Butte has a certain and unmistakable swagger to
his gait. These differences of character and appearance
also manifest themselves in the behavior of bison groups
and family units. Some groups graze back and forth along
the river between the park boundary and the Butte. Others
seem to prefer the south facing slopes of Horse Butte
itself. Still others strike off together in search of
Yesterday a group of 19 buffalo crossed the ice near
the Narrows and made their way toward highway 287, which
leads to the lower Madison Valley where grass is abundant
and the snow less deep. After crossing the ice, the
group headed west and bedded down on the frozen shorelines
of Hebgen Lake, not far from Buffalo Field Campaign
Headquarters. Later in the afternoon this group broke
into three smaller groups. Seven bison started heading
back across the ice to Horse Butte and were soon followed
by a group of six. A third group lagged about a half
hour behind. The leader of the group of seven, noticing
that the third group was so far behind, turned around.
The rest of the bison in her group followed and they
and the lagging group soon joined up in the highway
by the Happy Hour Bar. The second group continued across
the lake to Horse Butte, avoiding the fate of their
13 herd-mates who were soon chased by Department of
Livestock and Park Service agents approximately five
miles to the Duck Creek trap where they were captured
and shipped to slaughter. For photos of these bison
and more on their story, please see the "Photos
of the Week" section below.
Since February 8, 825 individual buffalo have been captured
by the Park Service and the Department of Livestock.
715 of these buffalo have already been slaughtered and
110 are currently being held in the Stephen's Creek
trap awaiting shipment to the slaughterhouse. Including
those killed in this year's hunt and those being held
in the trap, 990 bison have been removed from the Yellowstone
population since November 15. In the past seven days
alone, 164 bison have been captured and 209 sent to
It is easy, when the numbers climb so high, to forget
that each stands for a living, breathing buffalo and
that each is a member of a greater family unit, or group.
It is easy, when tallying the grim figures, to get temporarily
lost in statistics and forget that each of the bison
removed is a bison robbed from the landscape, a bison
that will never again walk through the snowy fields
along the Madison, never wallow in the Hayden Valley
or kick up it's hind legs and spar with other ornery
bulls during the rut, never bring a smile to the face
or lighten the heart of a Park visitor who spends a
blessed sunset in his presence.
BFC's presence ensures that the buffalo's stories are
told. Were we not here to document and share, through
words and images, what is happening the government would
be the only source of information and the slaughtered
buffalo would be just another statistic. As we have
for the past 11 years, BFC patrols will remain in the
field documenting every action against the buffalo and
working hard in the policy arena for the permanent protection
of wild bison and their habitat. View our video of Tuesday's
capture operation on Horse Butte on the top of BFC's
home page: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org.
We will continue to be here to share the buffalo's story
day in and day out, but we won't succeed without your
help. Please read on for actions you can take to help
stop the slaughter and, if you are able, please support
Buffalo Field Campaign with a donation today. Send a
check to the address at the bottom of this update or
make a secure online donation by clicking here: https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?id=1807.
for the Buffalo,
Buffalo Field Campaign
* Gardiner Report
There are lots of buffalo moving all over this enormous
landscape, but the cattle industry refuses to share
with native inhabitants. Since last week's update, 145
more buffalo have been shipped to slaughter over here,
and hazing has been a constant nuisance on Yellowstone's
landscape. Not only are buffalo persistently molested,
but elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, coyotes, and
many other wildlife species are repeatedly displaced
by the Park's actions. It's ironic how the Park takes
the position of "do as I say, not as I do"
because any citizen caught even appearing to harass
wildlife would be fined, if not arrested, while the
government causes chaos on the landscape, harassing
the wildlife they tell us to respect, and they get away
with it scot-free. Harassing wildlife in national parks
is a crime, unless, of course, you're the Park Service
catering to cattle interests over wildlife.
The past few mornings we have watched the empty livestock
trailers arrive at the trap to load up America's last
wild buffalo and ship them to slaughter like cattle
from a feedlot. Federal and state agents escort the
trailers carrying the sacred buffalo so that an industry
that perpetuates an invasive species can maintain control
of the land. On Sunday, however, the buffalo got one
in. We were watching a group of eleven bulls who were
hoofing it quickly out of the park and had made it onto
Church Universal & Triumphant property in what seemed
like minutes. These bulls were on an ancient mission,
heading out of the high country for the vast, grasslands
of the Paradise Valley. But they were cut short by three
Park wranglers on horseback and hazed to the southern
edge of the Stephens Creek bison trap. During this haze,
an amazing thing happened; from our perch over a mile
away, we heard a big bang and the next thing we knew,
buffalo were walking out of the trap! A group of about
twenty-four buffalo managed to escape their prison!
We cheered for them as we realized they had busted out,
rendering that holding pen inoperable; so not only did
those buffalo escape, but the eleven bulls that were
hazed were not captured either. Later that day we questioned
a Park Ranger who said that a big cow buffalo had been
pushing at the gate, and, sure enough, she broke through.
She set her family group free for a time. Such victories
mean so much during this time.
On that same day while watching the trap, we saw a lot
of agents on the catwalk of the corral portion. This
is where buffalo are separated by age and sex and held
before being loaded onto livestock trailers in the early
morning hours and taken to slaughter. While we were
watching through our spotting scope, we saw a DOL pickup
truck leave and head up a back road behind the trap.
In the back of the truck was a dead buffalo. We questioned
the Park about this, and they admitted that a larger
bull had gored a smaller bull so badly that the young
one had to be killed. Had BFC not been watching, no
one would probably ever know about this. Buffalo in
the wild, even during the rut, rarely hurt each other
and almost never to the point of death. But when they
are confined and ripped from their social communities,
they go mad with fear and aggravation, and in their
panicked state they can hurt each other fatally.
From the Front Lines in Gardiner,
Arlo, Lobo, Stephany and Steve
* Urge Yellowstone and Montana to Stop Slaughtering
Please take a moment to contact Yellowstone Superintendent
Suzanne Lewis and Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer
and urge them to stop slaughtering the wild bison under
These two individuals have the power to stop the slaughter.
Let them know you demand it.
Suzanne Lewis, Superintendent
Yellowstone National Park
Brian Schweitzer, Governor
State of Montana
* 2007-2008 Bison Hunt Over
The Nez Perce closed their hunting season last weekend,
bringing to an end the 2007-2008 hunt. Montana, Salish
Kootenai, and Nez Perce hunters killed 165 bison since
November 15. 58 bison were killed in the 2006-2007 hunt
and 46 in the 2005-2006 hunt.
* Photos of the Week
These photos and captions, by BFC coordinator Darrell
Geist, tell some of the story of a group of 19 buffalo
who crossed Hebgen Lake yesterday.
* Last Words
"I ask the rank and file in Yellowstone; rise above
the fear of job retaliation and remember why you joined
the Park Service.
To cower in the closets of your Ranger Stations, maintenance
sheds, and Mammoth administration buildings may secure
careers, but every year of compromise means adding another
year of personal slow death. Is it worth it? Lack of
initiative by park administrators to have employees'
concerns heard and documented lets employees know their
"leaders" are more like political lemmings
following Washington pied pipers. Perhaps 'political
servant' is more appropriate than public servant.
For the public, I ask you to question the Park on these
culpabilities. In fact question my statements. It is
the best way to come up with personal conviction. Your
questions means substantiating facts are disclosed.
The cover up of inhumane treatment especially needs
to be addressed."
--Bob Jackson, Yellowstone Park Ranger for 30 years
from: A Sickening Slaughter
Why is Yellowstone Destroying Its Bison Herd?
March 1 / 2, 2008