* Update from the Field
Inside Yellowstone's Stephens Creek buffalo trap. Here, hundreds of America's last wild buffalo are imprisoned and artificially fed in a veritable livestock feedlot. BFC photo by Good Shield. Click photo for larger image.
Last Thursday, BFC was part of an escorted media tour of the Stephens Creek buffalo trap. It was a harrowing experience to witness hundreds of wild American buffalo fenced inside what amounts to a filthy feed lot within Yellowstone National Park. Since January, when Yellowstone started capturing wild buffalo, we had been calling the Park and requesting a media tour. Two months later it was finally granted. There is no question that Yellowstone waited so long to allow us to see inside the buffalo's prison so that we would not see the fresh and horrific wounds and the fear caused by capture operations and the stress of confinement. But we saw many scars and other evidence of the harm done to these gentle giants.
Wounds caused by rough handling and stress of captivity. These must have been quite severe when fresh, and it is no wonder Yellowstone waited so long to allow us to see what they have done to the buffalo. BFC file photo. Click photo for larger image.
We were there at feeding time for a vivid display of how Yellowstone National Park is compromising wild integrity and breaking their own laws by treating wild buffalo like livestock. As Yellowstone District Ranger Eric Morey explained the convenience of using the tractor to feed buffalo, we watched the buffalo grow excited as they chased after the tractor which spun out hay and spread it over the rain- and urine-soaked muck.
Here another buffalo shows visible scars from wounds sustained during confinement. White tags indicate they have been tortured through testing, and are now numbered. Many of the trapped buffalo showed at least a few scars. The natural grass the buffalo seek is everywhere around them, outside of these pens. BFC photo by Good Shield. Click photo for larger image.
Confining buffalo like this, in confinement and filth, can exacerbate the transmission of brucellosis between buffalo, as Yellowstone bison biologist Rick Wallen admits HERE. Yellowstone is adding to the problem they say they are trying to alleviate. These buffalo are self-willed, wild born, and unfit for cages or confinement. The Park's authority and integrity have been trumped by livestock industry politics, as park administrators abandon the very mission and principles upon which the world's first national park was established.
Appearing unable to reach a decision on the fate of the captive buffalo, Park spokespeople now say they might slaughter buffalo. The Park had previously said they would not send buffalo to slaughter. The most recent word is that buffalo that tested positive for exposure to brucellosis, those with immunity to the livestock disease, may be killed. Please take action and urge Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk to set all the buffalo free, respect their wild integrity, and let them access their native habitat!
BFC's hot pink road signs have helped save countless lives, buffalo and human. We do our best to help warn motorists when buffalo are on or near the highway, but more responsibility needs to be taken by the state. BFC file photo. Click photo for larger image.
Buffalo migration in West Yellowstone has been impeded by unseasonably deep snow and busy snowmobile trails that force the buffalo to take the highway's easy paths. BFC patrols have been out around the clock, posting our hot pink "Buffalo on Road" signs, trying to help warn motorists of their presence. But not everyone heeds our warnings. This week, on two separate occasions, two buffalo were hit and consequently killed by vehicles. Signs can only do so much, and it is beyond the point that Montana needs to seriously take on implementing safe passage infrastructure that enables wildlife to cross highways without having to set foot on them.
Earth, sky and buffalo. BFC file photo. Click photo for larger image.
There have been no hunters seen since the Nez Perce finished their hunt, and it appears that the buffalo hunts may be over. Hazing along the buffalo's northern range has also been relatively minimal for the first time this season, though some has occurred. Some of the buffalo hazed this week were some who have already attempted to migrate beyond the most recent line in the sand, near Yankee Jim Canyon. The buffalo are stronger than the fences that bind our minds, and we celebrate their determination to push the boundaries behind which man tries to confine them. Wild is the way.
* The Walk Across Turtle Island
BFC joins in solidarity as The Longest Walk takes a detour to pray for the buffalo and comes through Gardiner, MT. On the left, Good Shield holds barb's ski pole, which he beautifully decorated after her passing. This ski pole was the walking aid she always used, propping it outside the media cabin door as a sign of her there-ness. You are always with us, barb! BFC file photo. Click photo for larger image.
As the mid-morning Montana sun warmed the half-frozen landscape, the sound of the Yellowstone river rippled along to the sound of cars driving by the Corwin Springs capture facility. The drivers turned to look at a group of Native and non-Native youth and elders gathering by the side of the road to pay respects to their four-legged relatives, who's wounds were still fresh from being tortured by APHIS, DOL and Yellowstone the week before. The group of people, known as The Longest Walkers, had been marching for just over a month from the West Coast and would eventually arrive in Washington, D.C. Their mission and purpose is to bring awareness to the growing epidemic of diabetes, particularly in Native communities, due to the loss of traditional diet and the force-fed commodity GMO and high fructose "foods." They had stopped at many different Native reservations along the way, including some whose people had participated in the Yellowstone buffalo hunt. It became apparent that they had to stop in Gardiner for spiritual reasons.
Upon arriving at Corwin Springs, The Longest Walkers made tobacco offerings and prayers, and along with BFC volunteers, began their spiritual walk to Gardiner. In just about an hour and a half, the walkers arrived at the Park entrance and were greeted by a herd of thirty buffalo.
The Walkers moved past Yellowstone's arch and straight towards a family group of buffalo, waiting there to greet them. BFC file photo. Click photo for larger image.
As songs were sung the buffalo all stood and faced East, with one mother nodding her head along to the drum beat. Many good words were spoken and the buffalo seemed to know why they were there. After a closing prayer circle, the walkers headed to the Gardiner BFC camp, where a feast of wild game and good stories awaited them. The Walkers thanked BFC for what they do and everybody was left inspired and with good hearts. The entire day was truly an impromptu "making of relations" ceremony. This is just the beginning.
~ Good Shield
P.S. Please tune in to this incredible new video, A BFC Volunteer Perspective, Featuring Good Shield
* Shout Out for Summer Volunteers!
As the days grow longer and more and more bison leave the Park in search of sustenance our presence remains vigilant. We are also planning and preparing for our summer tabling program. The Buffalo Field Campaign is currently looking for personable and enthusiastic participants that are interested in setting up and maintaining information tables in Yellowstone and Teton Parks this summer. We ask for a minimum three week commitment from perspective volunteers so that we can adequately train and prepare you to educate and interface with the public. During summer volunteering with the campaign one can expect to hand out literature, participate in discussions with the public, correct misinformation about wild bison, talk about bison "management" and policies, advocate for habitat and truly wild free roaming bison, and much more. You can also expect to spend your time hiking, camping, and exploring some of the most beautiful park and forest lands our nation has to offer.
If you have time this summer and are interested in being a positive voice for wild bison please contact me at volunteer"at"buffalofieldcampaign.org and we can plan your volunteer experience. Thank you so much for your support and continued work for the buffalo.
Buffalo Field Campaign
* WHAT YOU CAN DO
If only the buffalo could set themselves free like this calf did, but they need your voice! Take action to set the buffalo free! There are many things you can do that will make a big difference for our shaggy friends. Photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.
1. Contact Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk and welcome him to Yellowstone, tell him to set the trapped buffalo free, pull out of the Interagency Bison Management Plan, stop harassing and killing wildlife and work towards habitat-based solutions for America's last wild buffalo! Please also tell him to have the Park set up a web cam at the Stephens Creek buffalo trap so that we can keep an eye on our friends. Take Action Now!
2. NEW! Please contact Gallatin National Forest Supervisor Mary Erickson and ask her exactly what the Forest Service is doing to fulfill their legal mandate to provide year-round habitats maintaining wild buffalo populations. Hundreds of thousands of acres of National Forest habitats exist for wild buffalo contiguous to Yellowstone National Park's north and west boundaries. These critical public lands are a small part of the buffalo's ancient migrations to wintering range and spring calving grounds in the Paradise, Gallatin and Madison river valleys. Please ask Supervisor Mary Erickson and the U.S. Forest Service to manage habitats to support these gentle, nomadic giants. Supervisor Mary Erickson needs to stand up to the state of Montana and no longer allow the state to dictate where and when buffalo are allowed to roam our National Forests. Ask her as Supervisor of the Gallatin National Forest to reallocate habitat permitted for grazing cattle to support the keystone ecological roles migratory populations of wild buffalo fulfill on land that is their birth right. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 406-587-6758
3. Contact your Members of Congress and urge them to intervene with the Park on your behalf and to support federal funding to protect America's last wild buffalo and their habitat. Ask them to support the re-direction of funds wasted on the Interagency Bison Management Plan towards habitat-based solutions that honor the wild integrity of our national heritage. Write your Representative Write your Senators
4. Contact Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and THANK HIM for the 90-day stay of execution, tell him he did the right thing. Please also remind him that wild buffalo must be allowed to access habitat in Montana. Brucellosis is not the issue, but habitat for wild buffalo is the solution. Remind him that until Montana embraces and respects wild, free-roaming bison, the state will continue to be globally shamed by these actions against America's last wild buffalo! Remind him that tourism sustains Montana. email@example.com 406-444-3111
5. Sign BFC's Petition to National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis urging him to abandon the failed Interagency Bison Management Plan. Sign the petition.
6. Write Letters to the Editor to newspapers in your region to help raise awareness and bring an end to the unjust treatment of America's last wild buffalo. Write on for the buffalo!
7. Vote for wild buffalo and all wildlife with your money by Boycotting beef.
8. Volunteer with BFC by joining us on the front lines! volunteer"at"buffalofieldcampaign.org 406-646-0070
9. Watch & Share This Video to inspire yourself and others to Protect the Wild Bison
THANK YOU! Please spread the word to save these herds by telling everyone you know what is happening to the country's last wild buffalo and what they can do to . Knowledge is power!
* By the Numbers
AMERICAN BUFFALO ELIMINATED from the last wild population in the U.S. The last wild population is currently estimated at fewer than 3,700 individual buffalo.
2010-2011 Total: 221
2010-2011 Government Capture: 630
2010-2011 Government Slaughter:
2010-2011 Died In Government Trap: 3
2010-2011 Miscarriage in Government Trap: 1
2010-2011 State & Treaty Hunts: 211
2010-2011 Quarantine: 0
2010-2011 Shot by Agents: 2
2010-2011 Highway Mortality: 5
2009-2010 Total: 7
2008-2009 Total: 22
2007-2008 Total: 1,631
* Total Since 2000: 3,932*
*includes lethal government action, trap-related fatalities, quarantine, hunts, highway mortality
* Last Words
Hold On To What Is Good
Hold on to what is good
even if it is
a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe
even if it is
a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do
even if it is
a long way from here.
Hold on to life even when
it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand even when
I have gone away from you.
~ Nancy Wood. From the book Many Winters, 1994 Taos Pueblo. Mike came across this poem in barb's office area, a week after she passed awy.
Do you have submissions for Last Words? Send them to bfc-media"at"wildrockies.org. Thank you for all the poems, songs, quotes, and stories you have been sending; you'll see them here!