* Update from the Field ~ Take Action!
Last week, up to 100 bull buffalo trapped inside Stephens Creek were at risk of being shipped to slaughter, but your persistent action has halted Yellowstone from taking such action! Thank you! BFC file photo. Click photo for larger image.
Your actions have again made a huge difference! Last week we learned that Yellowstone was considering sending up to 100 bull buffalo to slaughter. Shortly after we let you know and encouraged your action, the Park Service amended their decision. The latest word from Yellowstone is that no buffalo will be shipped to slaughter this season! The Park has said they will begin to release buffalo from the traps starting this week. At least eighteen calves have been born in confinement and hundreds of buffalo have been trapped since late-January. While we celebrate the Park's decision not to slaughter, we cannot let up until they are all set free! Please keep the pressure on the park to release all the trapped buffalo now. Thank you for your persistence and many thanks to our attorneys at Western Watersheds Project for their steadfast legal support! TAKE ACTION to keep the pressure on!
Chasing buffalo off of their chosen ground, especially in winter and spring, can cause great harm to buffalo, forcing them to use up the energy stores they so desperately need to survive. Here a DOL agent aggressively hazes buffalo across the cold waters of the Yellowstone River. BFC file photo. Click photo for larger image.
Nearly all of the hundreds of buffalo that were roaming in the Gardiner basin have been repeatedly chased off of their winter range and into the higher elevations of Yellowstone where the snow is still very deep and the grass is hard to find. Some buffalo have been returning to habitat outside the park where they are able to find life-giving grasses. During one recent hazing operation, BFC patrols tried to prevent buffalo from being hazed off our rental property in Gardiner. Volunteers formed a human barrier between the agents and the buffalo, trying to protect the bulls from the agents and letting the riders know neither we nor our landlords wanted the agents there. Ignoring this, the agents persisted in harassing the bulls by yelling and throwing rocks at them, and the bulls then ventured onto another property where the DOL was able to chase them across the Yellowstone River into the Park.
The calendar says it's spring, but here in the high country the buffalo are still feeling the strong grip of winter. West Yellowstone received another eight inches of snow the other night during a spring blizzard. Times are hard for our shaggy friends this year. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.
Throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, winter has been intensely persistent, taking a heavy toll on all area wildlife. Montana wildlife officials have been quick to recognize that winter conditions are so harsh for elk that they are pro-actively taking steps to keep critical habitat closed to protect elk from human disturbances, yet these same agencies are actively engaged in displacing hundreds of buffalo from the Gardiner Basin.
Sometimes the path of least resistance is a dangerous one. Here a couple of tired and hungry buffalo walk down Highway 191 looking for any available grass along the way. BFC has been running highway patrols all day, every day, deep into the morning hours, putting up our "Buffalo Ahead" signs to warn traffic that the gentle giants are on or near the road. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.
As it does in Yellowstone's interior, hard, crusty snow still covers most of the ground in the Hebgen Basin near West Yellowstone and spring storms continue to dump snow. The buffalo have long since used up their winter fat stores, but grass is still very hard to find. BFC volunteers have seen a fair amount of winter-killed buffalo and the living giants we encounter are clearly struggling to survive, moving slowly, looking very thin and sluggish. Many are simply not going to make it, yet Montana's livestock interests will nevertheless insist on forcing buffalo out of Montana.
This little baby buffalo and its family got to enjoy a little bit of warmth and sunshine a few days ago. The cold and snow maintain a stubborn presence, but slowly, the spring tides flow in, and none too soon. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.
Regardless of winter's grip, south-facing slopes on Horse Butte are beginning to open up a little and calving season is upon us. Buffalo are giving everything they've got to reach these less-snowy hills of their western calving grounds. Every day smiles are brought to our faces as we spot a few more newborn buffalo. Buffalo mothers are having to work extra hard to find enough food to produce the rich milk their babies need to grow strong, but they are powerful animals and will do whatever it takes to protect and nurture their young. We celebrate the coming of the next buffalo generation and we hope with all our hearts that the waxing sun will prevail sooner than later, melt all the snow and bring forth the good grasses the buffalo are made of.
* Update from Capitol Hill - Take Action!
On Tuesday, April 26, members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Rep. Mauice Hinchey and Rep. Raul Grijalva, sent a letter to NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis expressing the great concern that Congress has for the welfare and management of Yellowstone's wild buffalo herds. Specifically, the letter urges the Park Service not to send any buffalo to slaughter this year and to work toward replacing the current IBMP with a new plan "that places the conservation of bison and the end of invasive livestock practices, including the unnecessary hazing, capture and slaughter of bison, as top priorities." The letter further requests that NPS, "work closely with the current IBMP's Native American partners in the development and implementation of a new bison policy."
For many years the US Congress has taken a serious interest in this issue. Efforts have included letters to past NPS Directors, two Congressional bills requesting a moratorium on the hazing, capture, and slaughter of Yellowstone buffalo along with significant changes in management. Several attempts have been made through the appropriations process to restrict funding for the National Park Service to slaughter buffalo, the Government Accountability Office conducted an investigation and commissioned a report, and the buffalo slaughter was the subject of a recent Congressional Oversight Hearing.
Buffalo Field Campaign has played an instrumental role in these actions and with a consistent presence in Washington, DC, we will continue to encourage Congress to hold the Park Service and other federal agencies accountable. Your support is vital in these buffalo-protection efforts! Please contact your Members of Congress and keep the pressure on them to take positive action for America's last wild buffalo! TAKE ACTION!
* Urge Governor Schweitzer to Keep His Word!
While Montana Governor Schweitzer has done the right thing by vetoing a handful of harmful bills that would have had dire impacts on wild buffalo, there is one bill - SB 212 - that he has amended, and that still adversely impacts wild buffalo by attempting to treat them like livestock. It would give Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks "shoot on site" authority. Please contact Governor Schweitzer to thank him for vetoing the bad buffalo bills and let him know that you oppose SB 212 and encourage him veto it as well. TAKE ACTION!
* Citizens Urge for Prosecution of Gardiner Buffalo Killer
The Park County Attorney's office reports that they have been overwhelmed with phone calls from Gardiner-area residents who are asking for the prosecution of the individual who shot four bull buffalo on April 15th, killing at least two. A third bull buffalo was found dead earlier this week, but wildlife officials say necropsy findings were unable to connect this bull's death to the shooting incident. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials have completed their investigation and will turn over their case report and prosecution suggestions to Park County today. BFC commends the Gardiner residents who have taken a stand against such violence in their community and who have risen up as strong voices for the buffalo. We are hopeful that the Park County Attorney will prosecute this individual to the fullest extent of the law. If you would like to lend your voice, please contact Park County Attorney, Brett D. Linneweber at 406-222-4150 and insist that this individual be charged and convicted of these crimes!
Read a Reuters news story about the incident, which ran in papers as far away as the United Kingdom, and also an article from Montana's Billings Gazette.
* Volunteer with BFC this Summer!
As the harsh winter snows begin to melt and the life-giving grasses start to green we can sense the approach of summer. We are forming our summer tabling crew and are seeking volunteers to come help us educate visitors to Yellowstone on bison issues and what we do as a Campaign. BFC provides food, lodging, camping in and near the Park, gear, and transportation to and from the park will be provided. We ask for at least a three week commitment in order to accommodate training and orientation. This is a great opportunity to get involved and advocate for the last of the American free roaming buffalo! If you are interested please contact me, Tony, at volunteer"at"buffalofieldcampaign.org and I can answer any questions you may have.
* 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 3,600 individual buffalo. These numbers do not reflect winter kill estimates, which will be significant this year.
2010-2011 Total Buffalo Killed: 223
2010-2011 Government Capture: 659
2010-2011 Government Slaughter: 0
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: Killed by Angry Residents: 2
2010-2011 Highway Mortality: 5
2009-2010 Total: 7
2008-2009 Total: 22
2007-2008 Total: 1,631
* Total Since 2000: 3,934*
*includes lethal government action, trap-related fatalities, quarantine, hunts, highway mortality
* Last Words ~ Todd Wilkinson's Tribute to barb abramo
"Horrified at how Yellowstone National Park bison were being killed for simply crossing an invisible line into Montana, [Phil] Morton and [barb] abramo were impressed by the fearless resolve of the younger people affiliated with the Buffalo Field Campaign. ... abramo knew BFC's strength came from the fact that it had defied skeptics, persisting all these years in calling attention to Montana's Draconian treatment of bison. By not going away, the organization has helped usher forth increased tolerance for the iconic animals and forced a re-examination of how brucellosis is approached."
~ Todd Wilkinson, from his tribute article about our beloved barb abramo, "Bison's kindred spirit to rise Mother's Day."
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!