* Update from the Field
Dear Buffalo Friends,
An interesting thing happened last week. Two mixed groups
of approximately 80 buffalo migrated out of Yellowstone
towards Horse Butte and along the Madison River. We
have had very little snow, and temperatures have been
mild, so it is interesting that these buffalo arrived
when they did. Typically we experience bulls arriving
first, either solo or in bachelor groups, then the mixed
groups start coming out much later in the season, as
early as January or as late as April. This fall arrival
of the mixed groups goes to show that we just don't
know enough about wild bison behavior to make any solid
predictions as to what they might do, or when, or why.
We can't know enough because the buffalo are never allowed
to simply live their lives, always being harassed or
killed whenever they step foot into their native Montana.
The buffalo have so much to teach us and the powers
that be refuse to let them.
Nine of those eighty buffalo were killed in the hunt
last week; two the day before Thanksgiving, and seven
the day after. Following these kills, the rest turned
around and went back into Yellowstone. Exactly what
the cattle industry wants. Currently, there are no wild
buffalo in Montana.
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, seven buffalo were
shot by members of the Confederated Salish-Kootenai
Tribes, who are hunting under treaty right for the first
time in nearly 150 years. BFC fully supports tribal
sovereignty and treaty rights, and while we do feel
it is premature to kill the buffalo, we know that these
treaty hunts will bring significant change in due time.
We look forward to the day when First Nations take a
leading role in defending wild buffalo and their habitat,
and help change the way wild bison are treated by the
government and cattle industry.
We were present with a Salish-Kootenai hunt party on
top of Horse Butte when they shot a bull and two young
cows. Gibson and I had been sitting with and admiring
this family group for a while. They were just walking
along the Forest Service road, visible to all, grazing
and sparring and just being buffalo. On the horizon
we saw two trucks coming over the hill. We knew they
were hunters. We knew that the day was about to change
and we took some very deep breaths to prepare ourselves
to stay strong. Previously, BFC had been asked by members
of the Salish-Kootenai tribal government to be absent
during their hunts, so we were also prepared to be asked
to leave. But the gentlemen of this party welcomed us
to stay. We conversed for a while about the current
management scheme and how the control of the livestock
industry over buffalo must end. We talked about the
buffalo's need for habitat and freedom to roam, to live.
We talked about the tribe's frustration with the government's
control of the buffalo on the National Bison Range,
on the Flathead Indian Reservation, where the Salish-Kootenai
now live. We talked about a lot of things, and then
Baz, one of the hunters, smudged us with sage, and then
they made their kills.
The mourning ritual of buffalo is probably one of the
most intense things in this world to witness. They are
such strong family, so similar to elephants, and to
us if we could only see. With tails up and shocked expressions,
they circle and run around their fallen comrades; with
their great heads, they literally try to lift the fallen
back up again. Calves run back and forth to their mothers,
to the kill site, back to their mothers. The buffalo
standing try again to pick up the fallen. Over and over
they try. They cry out loud. The sounds they make cause
the earth to tremble; enormous bellowing growls, a roaring
that makes your bones vibrate and your spirit shiver.
Baz and two others in the party wanted to give the buffalo
their time for this ritual. Unfortunately, another in
their party, a tribal government man, was not as patient
and he began to haze the buffalo away from the kill
sites beeping his horn and driving towards the mourning
buffalo. But the buffalo didn't go far and they kept
trying to come back to the fallen at every possible
Gibson and I were torn. We held deep sadness in our
hearts for these buffalo, for all that they suffer,
yet we also couldn't help but feel a certain awe and
respect for the reawakening relationship between the
buffalo and the Salish-Kootenai. As our dear friend
Monica RavenHeart said to me a couple days later, "Remember
the voice and the spirit inside the ancient bones? Imagine
the spirit of the buffalo just killed enveloping the
hunter and anyone else nearby. Never underestimate what
is really happening when you see a buffalo fall. If
it was not its mission it would be deep in the park
pushing snow. Those who come forward, come forward as
warriors and great wise beings... you honor them by
acknowledging their mission." Is that why this
mixed group caught us by surprise, coming out so early
in the year? Were these buffalo warriors carrying a
message, willing to sacrifice themselves in order to
be heard, felt and understood?
Before we left, Baz spoke with us again and gave us
an interview which you can see here http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org.
Make no mistake. While we fully support tribal treaty
rights, there is no question or denial that we feel
it is very premature to kill these buffalo. We celebrate
with the tribes while we mourn with the buffalo. The
buffalo suffer so much and have nowhere to live, be
wild, and free. We also understand that the treaty hunts
invoke an obligation to the buffalo. With the advent
of the Nez Perce and Salish-Kootenai treaty hunts, there
is a relationship re-establishing itself which we late-comers
to this continent cannot immediately understand, and
perhaps some of the hunters themselves do not yet understand
it either. As we hold fast to our defense of wild buffalo,
and our vision of these prehistoric beings reclaiming
their stolen lands, filling up the empty valleys and
prairies once again, we must be patient and trust that
the ancient bond between the tribes and the buffalo
is reawakening into something powerful. An ecological
perspective will build and all who are tied to the buffalo
and the land will clearly see that the battlefield has
changed and we are all in this together. I was recently
reminded to look long and hard at how the Nez Perce
have helped bring back the salmon, the ferret, and the
wolf. The buffalo are next.
* Many Ways to Support Buffalo Field Campaign
Contributions from supporters are the lifeblood of Buffalo
Field Campaign, enabling us to be the only group working
in the field and on the policy front to protect America's
last wild bison. We are incredibly adept at accomplishing
a great deal on a very modest budget. For example last
spring, working in concert with you, our active supporters,
we were able to generate significant public pressure
and prevent the slaughter of 300 bison, including 100
newborn calves. Images of this herd, captured by videographers
and photographers on BFC's daily patrols, played a critical
role in this success.
Unfortunately, it does cost money to keep volunteers
well trained, equipped, housed, fed, and in the field,
as it does to send representatives to countless bison-related
hearings, meetings, and gatherings throughout Montana
and across the country. As a reader of BFC's Updates
From the Field you are probably aware of the many ways
to plug in and take an active role in the movement to
protect America's last wild bison. Supporting BFC with
a tax-deductible monetary donation is a major way for
you to ensure that we can remain here with the buffalo
keeping you plugged in, well-informed, and active in
the struggle to protect the wildness of this irreplaceable
icon on North America.
Big buffalo hugs go out to Ron Hunter at Patagonia and
Aaron Crocker for answering our recent plea and donating
computers! Your generosity and help will greatly increase
the effectiveness of Buffalo Field Campaign. We are
still in need of a MacBook computer and firewire hard
drives on which to edit and store our irreplaceable
video footage. Video has always been at the heart of
our bison-protection efforts, allowing us to share with
the world the plight of the buffalo.
Please make a tax-deductible contribution today. You
can contribute online via the secure groundspring server:
or by sending your contribution to BFC, P.O. Box 957,
West Yellowstone, Montana 59758.
For the Buffalo!
Buffalo Field Campaign
* Agencies to Hold IBMP Open House
The five agencies responsible for carrying out the infamous
Interagency Bison misManagement Plan (IBMP) will hold
an open house for the public on Tuesday, December 4,
in Bozeman, Montana. The event will go from 4:00 pm
- 7:45 pm, at the Holiday Inn located at 5 Baxter Lane.
The five agencies include the Montana Department of
Livestock, the National Park Service, the Montana Department
of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, the National Forest Service,
and the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service.
Last year they held a similar open house, where the
public was invited to explore all the various tactics
being used by these agencies, including the continued
hazing, test-and-slaughter, quarantine, vaccination,
and all other undesirable ways they are "managing"
the last wild buffalo in the U.S. After this tour of
information, we broke out into discussion tables, where
the public's voice was heard, the vast majority of those
present held the same message: Let the Buffalo Roam!
If you can make it to this meeting, please join us and
bring friends. Very likely the cattle industry will
have a lot of representation there this year, since
they have failed to properly manage their cattle and
brucellosis was found in a herd last spring; the industry
is looking for any way to blame it on the buffalo and
the elk. If you are unable to attend, there is still
opportunity for you to speak your voice for the last
wild buffalo. Contact information for all the IBMP agencies
can be found on our web site at http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/politicians.html.
* Buffalo in the News
11/29 - Butting Heads: Politics of race and environment
clash at Bison Range
The Next Great Hunt (excellent piece on bison restoration
and genetic integrity)
Plenty Magazine, Dec-Jan 2008 issue
11/27 - Meeting on park bison planned, Billings Gazette
11/27 - Interagency partners to hold bison discussion
Times News (ID)
11/27 - Guest Opinion: Cattle industry not the only
consideration in brucellosis debate (EXCELLENT!)
Bozeman Daily Chronicle (subscription only; text pasted
I'm a home and business owner living on Horse Butte.
Having experienced first hand the Montana Department
of Livestock's (DOL) aggressive conduct and arrogant
attitude toward me, and my neighbors, forced me to educate
According to Public Health Assessment of Potential Biological
Terrorism Agents prepared by the federal Centers for
Disease Control, brucellosis is a category B bacterium,
while Anthrax, a much more serious bacteria, is placed
in category A. In the CDC brucellosis overview, brucella
melentesis and brucella suis are considered more important
than brucella abortus in terms of public health security
and preparedness. They say wild bison do not pose a
human health danger.
Yellowstone bison carry a gene known as natural resistance
associated macrophage protein 1 (NRAMP1). The DNA sequence
of NRAMP1 has been partially conserved in these bison.
Conserving this trait is an important consideration
for long term brucellosis management.
By consuming products of birth and abortion, carnivores
remove the bulk of infectious materials from the site
exposing any remaining brucella abortus on soil and
vegetation to light and desiccation, to which they are
The National Academy of Science concludes that predation
and scavenging by carnivores biologically decontaminates
the environment of infectious B. abortus with efficiency
unachievable any other way.
They conducted a model run simulating bison test and
slaughter program. After brucellosis was eliminated
from the model population, reinfection of bison from
elk led to an increase of sero-prevalence to pretest
and slaughter levels. Transmission of brucellosis from
elk to bison will prevent long-term eradication.
DOL's bullying resistance to compromise has me asking
why they're so determined to have their way. Arrogance
like this is normally used to hide something.
Cattle cause mad cow disease. It gives rise to a new
variant of the always fatal brain wasting Creutzfeldt-Jakob
disease in humans.
Nearly all meat is contaminated with dioxins, a chemical
related to Agent Orange and DDT. Ninety-five percent
of human intake of DDT comes from dairy and meat products.
Multiple studies link consumption of animal products
to heart disease.
It takes the equivalent of a gallon of gas to produce
a pound of grain-fed beef. To sustain the yearly beef
requirements of an average family of four requires the
consumption of over 260 gallons of fossil fuel. When
that fuel is burned it releases 2.5 tons of additional
carbon dioxide into the atmosphere - as much as the
average car emits in six months.
An estimated 85 percent of U.S. agricultural land is
used in the production of animal foods, which in turn
is linked with deforestation, extinction of species,
loss of soil productivity through mineral depletion
and erosion, water pollution and depletion, overgrazing
and desertification. This is just the beginning! Cattle
are more trouble than they're worth.
As a former consumer of your product, I'm sorry for
the hardships ranching families are encountering. However,
I'm of the opinion that your very own industry has done
you a grave disservice by not taking elk into account
years ago. On your behalf the Montana Stockgowers Association,
and their attorney John Bloomquist, choose to ignore
the fact that deer, moose, pigs, beaver, wolves, coyotes
and bighorn sheep carry brucellosis. Why?
They instead push the fear of bison on you then logic
looks away. Fear is what works. They depend upon it.
Doesn't it seem more logical to control disease within
an already controlled environment? Millions of dollars
could've been spent on behalf of ranchers by investing
in research for cattle vaccines with efficacy rates
close to 100 percent. Why didn't they?
The cattle industry isn't the only economic builder
in Montana. Gov. Brian Schweitzer has a responsibility
to tourism, education and health care also. He has no
other choice but to take all our interests into account.
Give him some moving room, would you?
Karrie Taggart is a home and business owner who lives
on Horse Butte near West Yellowstone.
* Last Words
"If you've come here to help me, then you are wasting
But if you've come because your liberation is bound
Then let us work together."
~ Australian Aboriginal Elder, Lilla Watson