This young bull was in the hunt zone near Gardiner, MT where several buffalo in his immediate herd were shot.
Photo copyright 2011 Jim Macdonald/BFC. Click here to view a slideshow of photos from this week.
* Update from the Field:
Park Service Captures 400 Bison; BFC Files Emergency Injunction to Stop Slaughter
Friends of the Buffalo,
On Friday the Park Service released the 62 bison that they captured in the Stephens Creek trap starting the first week of January. Sadly, this was a hollow gesture. On Monday Park Rangers herded approximately 300 bison, including many of those released just three days earlier, into the trap. On Tuesday they captured 21 more. Wednesday another 20 were trapped. Today BFC field patrols report that 45 to 50 additional bison were captured, bringing the approximate number of bison currently confined in Yellowstone’s trap to 390.
These buffalo, members of America’s only continuously wild population, are currently confined behind cold steel walls where they are being treated like cattle. Feeding them hay and alfalfa, running them through squeeze chutes, and testing them for antibodies to brucellosis, Yellowstone officials have announced they will slaughter some, and possibly all, of these irreplaceable creatures.
Twenty-seven more buffalo have been killed by state and tribal hunters along the Park’s western and northern boundaries, bringing the total number of hunt kills documented by BFC patrols to 128. A buffalo died from wounds suffered inside the Stephens Creek trap on January 12 and another was shot by Department of Livestock agents on January 24th, bringing this winter’s total kill to 130. If the Park Service decides, as they have hinted, to slaughter all the buffalo in the trap, this would represent the loss of more than 520 bison, or 15 percent of the entire population. And it is barely February.
A Yellowstone Park Ranger chases buffalo toward the Stephens Creek Trap in Yellowstone National Park. Photo copyright 2011 Jim Macdonald/BFC
Click here to view a slideshow of photos from this week.
Alarmed by the prospect of such a heavy loss and its impact on the genetics of America’s only continuously wild bison population, BFC teamed up with some of our closest allies this week to file an emergency legal injunction to prevent the Park Service from sending the buffalo to slaughter.
We have been waiting for a final decision from federal Judge Charles Lovell on the merits of our lawsuit challenging the Interagency Bison Management Plan since September and have been forced to file this injunction by the Park Service’s recent actions. We are asking the court to stop the agencies from killing bison in and around Yellowstone National Park and to discontinue the use of traps like the one at Stephens Creek to capture, confine, and ship bison to slaughter.
In addition to running field patrols in both West Yellowstone and Gardiner and our urgent work in the courts, we have been making many trips to Helena to testify against a slew of anti-bison bills in the state legislature. HB 214 and SB 207 would classify all wild bison in Montana as livestock, SB 184 would permit “the use of bows and arrows” to hunt wild buffalo in Montana, and SB 148, which fortunately appears to have died in committee, would have made it legal for Department of Livestock agents to enter private property without notifying and against the objections of the landowner to haze wild bison. We've set up a web page to track these and other buffalo bills in the 2011 Montana legislature and encourage your timely involvement and participation in protecting America's last wild buffalo.
Buffalo Field Campaign is doing everything we can to prevent a repeat of the winter of 2008, when more than 1,600 bison were killed. But we are only as strong as you, our supporters. Please pick up the phone, send an email, support our efforts with a tax-deductible donation, or join us in the field to help us protect the buffalo. We can not do it without you.
Please take a moment right now and urge Yellowstone's Acting Superintendent Colin Campbell and your US Senators and Representative to stop the slaughter of the Yellowstone bison, America's only continuously wild population.
Colin Campbell, Yellowstone National Park
Use this link to find and contact your US Senators and Representative.
Share this email with them and urge them to take immediate action to protect our last wild buffalo.
For the Buffalo,
Buffalo Field Campaign
* ‘Corridor to Nowhere’ Fails to Provide Habitat and Wastes Millions of Dollars
For some of the buffalo currently awaiting their fate in the trap, the first month of 2011 was a living nightmare. Never has management of the wild Yellowstone bison been such a heavy-handed and intensive failure. One group of buffalo in the trap has had it particularly hard, having already been captured, tested, marked, tagged and—for the females—invaded with vaginal telemetry devices at the beginning of January as part of an ill-conceived plan we call the Corridor to Nowhere. Described in more detail in last week’s Update, this project has been doomed from the start to be a wasteful failure.
After enduring all the horrors of the trap for two weeks, 25 buffalo were “released” and chased by horses down a narrow, electric fence-lined passage further away from the park to a place called Cutler Meadows, an overgrazed pasture denuded of life from years of cattle grazing that impacted soils and killed off native grasses. For anyone to actually think that wild bison, the very definition of a migratory species, would stay in this area exhibits a striking lack of understanding for the nature of bison. The fact that the National Park Service, MT Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, National Parks Conservation Association, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Montana Wildlife Federation supported and paid $3.3 million for such an ill-conceived plan shows how little these agencies and groups understand the nature of wild bison.
Almost as soon as they were hazed to Cutler Meadows the buffalo started to leave. A group of 11 wasted no time in swimming across the Yellowstone River for a reunion with family members that have been penned inside a quarantine facility for several years. The buffalo inside the pens came to the fence and stood near their still wild kin. Agents on horseback quickly arrived and hazed the group back across the Yellowstone River. The buffalo then re-crossed the river only to be hazed again. Agents used cracker-rounds (explosive charges fired from guns), more powerful explosive charges, and even threw rocks at the buffalo in their attempts to chase them back to Cutler Meadows.
The next day buffalo crossed the river again and were again hazed back. And the next day. And the next. Every day for more than a week the buffalo left Cutler Meadows and every day government agents chased them back. One of the buffalo, refusing to be hazed, was shot. Another ran into the hills and has not been seen since. On January 28 the agents decided they’d had enough. Using the quarantine pens as a trap, they captured a group of 13 bison, loaded them onto cattle trailers, drove them across the river and released them. The buffalo, also having had enough, of this so-called tolerance headed south toward the Park, where they joined up with 90 other bison. All of these buffalo, along with hundreds of others, were captured this week and now find themselves back in the trap at Stephens Creek.
Please take immediate action to prevent their slaughter
* VOLUNTEER! Please Join BFC on the Front Lines!
Buffalo Field Campaign's multifaceted approach to helping protect our nation's last free-roaming population of bison often leaves us spread thin for volunteers. We are finding ourselves in need of experienced volunteers to join us on patrols of the Yellowstone boundary. The last call for return volunteers was answered with a tremendous and much needed response. THANK YOU!!!!! If you can again - or are able to for the first time this season - come home to Horse Butte, Sandy Butte, the Madison River, your community, your Campaign, and to your buffalo. We all need you and miss you.
* Last Words
We can live with the animals. Buffalo are part of the overall picture. If you don't want them, go get a farm in Iowa.
~ Hank Rate, bison-friendly rancher, from Bozeman Daily Chronicle article "Gardiner-area Ranchers Weigh in on Nearby Bison"
Have a submission for Last Words? Send 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. which currently numbers fewer than 3,800 animals.
2010-2011 Total: 131
2010-2011 Government Slaughter: 1
2010-2011 State & Treaty Hunts: 128
2010-2011 Quarantine: 0
2010-2011 Shot by Agents: 1
2010-2011 Highway Mortality: 1
2009-2010 Total: 7
2008-2009 Total: 22
2007-2008 Total: 1,631