* Update from the Field
Buffalo tracks in the mud on Horse Butte. All that is left of our gentle friends. BFC file photo.
We have reached the time of year when the landscape starts to feel lonely. Most of the buffalo have been hazed off of their chosen ground, into Yellowstone National Park, where the grass is not as green, the park visitors hound their every move, and many, many of their kind have already been pushed. We continue patrols after the huge hazes of last week, finding one lone bull here, a small family group there. For the most part, the land is empty of our buffalo friends. Where once people could enjoy the priceless company of North America's largest land mammal throughout our national forests, the intolerance of Montana's livestock industry forces people to pay $25 to see them in Yellowstone.
One very special buffalo has gotten the area's attention lately, however, and it's one of those wonderful cases of reprieve that we all need to celebrate. A huge, majestic bull buffalo has been spending his time in and around the town of West Yellowstone over the past few weeks. He has been hazed and continues to return to the green lawns, school fields and shop-front shrubbery of West Yellowstone. Memorial Day weekend, of course, brought many visitors to the little town, and many of those visitors have probably never been around a wild bison before, so our bull buffalo friend found himself sought out by visitors who continued to get just a little too close (or in some cases, a lot too close!).
A wonderfully respectful flier distributed by West Yellowstone's Visitor Center in an effort to aid the bull buffalo in town.
We got word over the weekend that the plan had been put forth to kill this majestic animal, just after the Memorial Day crowds had left. We knew that he had many friends in town, though, and we went to work, reaching out to our allies in the area, to the media, and most of all, to the visitors who were coming out to enjoy his presence. Other residents put out their own materials, too, to ask for tolerance and space for this bull. We even offered to the town the service of our patrols staying in the the area of the bull to ask visitors to keep their distance, and to educate them a bit about the plight of the wild bison.
This beloved "town" bull was given a few different names by the people who adored him. Rose Patnode created and distributed this flier to help save "The Colonel" from death.
Within a matter of days we got word from the Chief of Police and from the Town Council that they would absolutely not kill the bull, and that while he will be pushed again to the confines of Yellowstone National Park, he would be safe while in the streets of West Yellowstone. It is a victory for one beautiful bull buffalo, and one that comes from all of our diverse allies pulling together.
Unfortunately, Tuesday's news of victory was followed by Wednesday's hazing. Approximately 60 buffalo - mamas with their yearlings and newborn calves - were hazed by horsemen and helicopter from the south side of the Madison River - the cattle-free public land of Gallatin National Forest - to well inside Yellowstone National Park. This was another fourteen-plus mile day for these moms and calves, one group of whom swam across the rain-swelled Madison in an attempt to escape the haze, only to be harassed again on the other side by more horsemen. Once again, these wild buffalo were chased from their chosen ground; once again, a helicopter and horsemen disrupted not just the buffalo, but countless species of wildlife within the Yellowstone ecosystem; and once again, the law enforcement working on the scene "for our safety" kept us far back from their operations, preventing us, for the most part, from effectively documenting and witnessing this harassment of wildlife.
But, like the buffalo, we persist. We are out there again today, documenting as agents haze the few remaining buffalo off of cattle-free Horse Butte, forcing them for miles deep into Yellowstone. We are watching the agents' every move, cameras in hand, letting them know that we will always be here to stand with the buffalo they harass; despite their overwhelming law enforcement presence, despite their threats and orders, despite their abuse and citations.
At the end of the day some part of us hopes to find one or two buffalo who have escaped the haze, one or two to spend a quiet moment with; these animals that teach us so much. Another part of us, though, hopes to find the landscape empty, lonely again, so they have no one to haze tomorrow.
Buffalo mom and calf alone on a lonely landscape. BFC file photo by Ken Cole. Click image to view full-size. .
* Victory for Wild Buffalo in Montana!
On May 27, 2010, Montana District Judge John Brown ruled against the Montana Stockgrowers, who filed suit to force or kill all wild buffalo that remain in Montana after May 15 of each year. Though the decision came too late for the hundreds of wild buffalo who had been inhabiting the western landscape outside Yellowstone National Park, Horse Butte residents and the EarthJustice legal team prevailed over rancher interests, for the buffalo. What will this court ruling mean for wild buffalo next year? Learn more!
* BFC 2010 Newsletter Coming Soon!
Buffalo Field Campaign will be mailing our 2010 Newsletter next month and we want to make sure you receive one. If your mailing address has changed since you last heard from us, or if you're not on our list of supporters and would like to receive a newsletter, please contact us with your current address. Also, please let us know if you would like us to send multiple copies that you can distribute to friends, family, and in your community. Send your name, address, zip code, and email address to email@example.com and we'll be sure to update our records.
* BFC Looking for Summer Outreach Volunteers
Buffalo Field Campaign still has a few openings for summer education and outreach volunteers. If you can commit to spending three weeks with us, most of which will be spent inside be grandeur of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, to help educate Park visitors about what's happening to America's last wild buffalo, please get in touch! Drop a line to volunteer"at"buffalofieldcampaign.org or call 406-646-0070 with questions or to apply. Thank you!
* Last Words
"Only seven years ago we made a treaty by which we were assured that the buffalo country should be left to us forever. Now they threaten to take that from us also."
~ Sitting Bull, Hunkpapa Lakota Medicine Man and Chief (1831-1890)
Do you have submissions for Last Words? Send them to bfc-media"at"wildrockies.org. Thank you all for the poems, songs and stories you have been sending; you'll see them here!
* Kill Tally
AMERICAN BUFFALO ELIMINATED from the last wild population in the U.S.
2009-2010 Total: 6
2009-2010 Slaughter: 0
2009-2010 Hunt: 4
2009-2010 Quarantine: 0
2009-2010 Shot by Agents: 2*
2009-2010 Highway Mortality: 0
*Two bulls that were drugged by APHIS on 5/4/10 were shot by DOL
later that evening.
2008-2009 Total: 22
2007-2008 Total: 1,631
Total Since 2000: 3,708*
*includes lethal government action, quarantine, hunts, highway mortality