Sixty-nine Buffalo in Yellowstone's Trap, Torturous Testing Begins
* Update from the Field
* TAKE ACTION! Three Things You Can Do Right Now
* A Few 2011 Wild Bison Calenders Left; We Need Your Photos for 2012!
* Last Words
* By the Numbers
* Helpful Links
* Update from the Field
A wild buffalo trapped inside Yellowstone's Stephens Creek capture facility. The look in her eyes expresses what words cannot. BFC file photo by Kim Acheson.
Since Tuesday, January 4, Yellowstone National Park has captured sixty-nine wild buffalo. Various family groups - some that never even left the park - have been forced into the Stephens Creek bison trap inside Yellowstone National Park. The government began testing them for exposure to brucellosis on Wednesday. The buffalo will suffer the violence and torment of testing so that twenty-five brucellosis-free buffalo - randomly pulled from different family groups - can be selected by humans for the contemptible Royal Teton Ranch land scheme, what bison advocates identify as the ill-fated "Corridor to Nowhere." Yellowstone plans to haze these twenty-five buffalo into the fenced-in corridor this coming Wednesday where they will be expected to remain until they are hazed back into Yellowstone in early May. The Park will continue to hold the remaining forty-four buffalo in the trap, and will later haze them in the opposite direction, into Yellowstone. Their thinking is that this separation will prevent the two groups of buffalo from wanting to be together. Such cold human calculations are blind to the tearing apart of family groups and wild buffalo are not so easily persuaded away from each other.
Other hazing operations have been taking place near Gardiner, nearly every day, just across from the Stephens Creek buffalo trap, on the other side of the Yellowstone River. Family groups of migrating buffalo have actually been chased into areas of Gallatin National Forest where they can be shot by hunters. Fifteen more wild buffalo have been killed in the hunt.
It is a lonely and difficult world for a solitary buffalo calf. This little one - not even a year old - was recently orphaned after hunters shot its mother and other family members. BFC file photo by Stephany.
Near West Yellowstone, in the Hebgen Basin, the landscape holds the ghosts of buffalo. There is just one little calf, orphaned in the hunt, and it is being fiercely guarded by BFC and Yellowstone Village residents. The calf's lonely state is not only heartbreaking, but also quite life-threatening. The snow is at least three feet deep here, much deeper in some areas, and the little calf is going to have a very difficult time pushing the heavy snow away from the grass beneath. Without the safety and comfort of his family, without the added nutrition of rich milk from his mother, his future is bleak. BFC volunteers have been trying to help, shoveling snow away from areas near where the calf is grazing, in hopes this will help.
For decades Montana's livestock industry has dominated the lives of America's last wild bison based on a theory that bison exposed to brucellosis could threaten their cattle. The threat of brucellosis initially came from cattle, and wild bison have never transmitted the disease back. But, according to the rancher's arguments, bison free of brucellosis should be welcome to roam, right? Nope. The issue has never been about brucellosis. That's only an excuse, and a very effective scare tactic. Indeed, the issue has always been about the grass and who gets to eat it. Errol Rice, executive VP of the Montana Stockgrowers Association recently confirmed what BFC has always known, "Bottom line, our ranchers don't support bison relocation. Our ranchers are just very fearful that bison restoration will result in the elimination of cattle grazing." Make no mistake about it, this very statement is what the war against wild buffalo is all about.
An agent forces wild buffalo off of their habitat. The war against wild buffalo isn't about brucellosis, but about the grass and who gets to eat it, and the cattle industry would like to hoard it all. BFC file photo.
This fear - based solely on greed and ignorance - has driven mad debate and insane policies that threaten the very evolutionary potential of America's largest land mammal, one that has been here on this continent much longer than humans, an animal that is currently ecologically extinct. Hazing, capture, slaughter, quarantine, canned hunting, electrified-corridors, radio collars, tags, transmitters, vaccinations, slaughterhouses: these are the manifestations of Montana's fear. These are all the ugly faces of control, manipulation, and the slow and steady drive to eradicate the wildness from the Yellowstone bison.
Today BFC is not only on the front lines with the buffalo in Gardiner and West Yellowstone, we are also in Helena, Montana's capitol. In the cold, dark hours of early morning, Mike and Hunter traveled three hours over icy winter roads to represent wild buffalo at a Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission meeting, where they will speak out against yet another livestock model of buffalo mismanagement. FWP is proposing to relocate quarantined buffalo - kidnapped as calves from their wild families and raised for more than five years in captivity - on a fenced-in pasture where they would eventually be hunted. Catering to livestock industry pressure, this is the best Montana wildlife officials can come up with? This is what Montana officials call "wild"? Mike and Hunter will call them to task. We will give you a full report of the meeting in next week's Update. We will be frequenting Helena quite often this season, as the Montana legislature is poised to intensify the war against wild buffalo in the form of nine different bills that aim to give livestock interests more control. One bill's sponsor even has the audacity to attempt classifying America's last wild buffalo as livestock! We will be calling on you in the near future - especially Montana residents - to help us fight these bills. Many thanks to everyone who emailed the FWP Commission last week, insisting that Montana embrace fenceless and truly wild, migrating buffalo. Please keep the pressure on, and see below for other important actions you can take.
Straight from your heart, the message is the same: Let wild buffalo roam! America doesn't want Montana killing or harming the nation's last wild buffalo population. Livestock should be removed from the buffalo's habitat - especially on our public lands - so buffalo may migrate freely. Congress and the President can find habitat-based solutions and redirect the millions of U.S. tax dollars wasted annually on the harassment and slaughter of America's last wild buffalo. These buffalo are a national treasure, indigenous to most of North America and they must be protected now if they are to reach their evolutionary potential and maintain integrity as a wildlife species. The American bison is not currently protected as an endangered species, but is in dire need of such protections if they are ever to be truly restored, reach their evolutionary potential, and help heal the broken heart of North America.
------------------------------ * A Few 2011 Wild Bison Calenders Left; We Need Your Photos for 2012!
We have a small supply of 2011 calendars left!
It has been really cool to finally get to January 2011 and put up our first-ever Wild Bison Calendar! The frosty bull illustrating January is indeed a true portrait of current buffalo life. We have a small supply of calendars left and they will look great on your wall! Order now!
These first-ever BFC Wild Bison 2011 calendars were such a huge success that we are going for it again in 2012! We are looking for high quality digital images of wild buffalo for every season, so if you have photographed the wild buffalo of Yellowstone, please consider submitting your pictures for BFC's Wild Bison 2012 calendar! Please email Stephany for photo submission guidelines, more information, or with any questions.
------------------------------ * Last Words
"I have been following the BFC for almost a year. I have donated money and written letters and signed petitions. I have called my Senators. I wrote a letter regarding the issues with relocation of the bison and the brucellosis debacle.
I am very much with you all in spirit, since I cannot be there in person. In my life I have seen one bison up close, maybe a length of two arms dividing us. Without movies or a national geographic program or an old photograph, the sight of a plain covered in bison would never be comprehensible to me.
There are some sights that require to remain. There are species that mean much to Americans, for reasons we cannot always voice. Bison are just meant to be. There must be someplace in this continent where they can live unmolested.
I despair of the human animal. Most times our behavior toward other species is aberrant. It eludes me.
I will continue to do what simple acts I can."
~ Laural Mancini
BFC supporter Laural Mancini recently sent us these powerful words of support and love for the buffalo. We have been extremely touched by the deep feeling and understanding they convey. We are in this together, for the buffalo, for as long as it takes.
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!
------------------------------ * By the Numbers
AMERICAN BUFFALO ELIMINATED from the last wild population in the U.S. Fewer than 3,900 wild buffalo are all that remains.
2010-2011 Total: 61
2010-2011 Government Slaughter: 0
2010-2011 State & Treaty Hunts: 60
2010-2011 Quarantine: 0
2010-2011 Shot by Agents: 0
2010-2011 Highway Mortality: 1
2009-2010 Total: 7
2008-2009 Total: 22
2007-2008 Total: 1,631
Total Since 2000: 3,772*
*includes lethal government action, quarantine, hunts, highway mortality