* Update from the Field
"The Last Wild Buffalo Hunt to be Held in America." Historic archive image.
The annual migration of wild bison advocates is in full swing as people converge from the four directions upon Buffalo Field Campaign Headquarters near West Yellowstone, Montana. For a decade and a half BFC volunteer patrols have been documenting the management of America's last wild bison in the field and working to protect the bison and their habitat. As our 2010-2011 field season gets underway this week, nearly a foot of snow has fallen here just outside Yellowstone's western boundary, hinting of a heavy winter and a challenging time for migrating bison. Winter herself is a formidable enough challenger, yet wild buffalo face a far greater danger from a cattle industry-driven management plan designed to keep Montana's landscape bereft of wild bison through hazing, shooting, capture, and slaughter.
In addition to the management plan, the annual Montana bison "hunt" began November 15 and will last through February 15, 2011. It is the only hunt of an ecologically extinct species and one of the longest-running hunts of any wildlife species in the state. As of this writing there are no wild bison in Montana and BFC patrols haven't observed any approaching the ecologically meaningless Yellowstone/Montana border. Wild bison are not allowed year-round access to their habitat in Montana and they are chased from or killed upon their native ground by the hundreds every spring. As if the management plan weren't bad enough on its own, any buffalo that migrate into Montana prior to February 15 will be shot by hunters. Under the unique bison hunting regulations, the more buffalo that migrate into the state, the more tags Montana's Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) will issue to kill them.
FWP's hunt regulations boldly state that one of the main objectives of the hunt is to "control bison in Montana" to address the scientifically unfounded and wildly exaggerated fears of Montana's livestock industry that native bison threaten cattle with the disease brucellosis. Wild bison have never transmitted this disease--which cattle originally carried to the Americas--to livestock. Elk, believed to have transmitted brucellosis to cattle, are allowed to enter and exit Montana year-round with out being subject, as the buffalo are, to intrusive government actions.
But this is about to change. Under pressure from the livestock industry Montana recently announced plans to capture and test up to 500 cow elk for brucellosis exposure. Exposure is no indicator of infection, and elk and bison often develop resistance to the disease. Unlike bison, who are killed when they test positive, none of the captured elk will be sent to slaughter regardless of the test results. This is yet one more contradiction belying Montana's anti-buffalo prejudice.
Buffalo Field Campaign believes that efforts to prevent the spread of livestock diseases, including brucellosis, should be directed at livestock. Anyone familiar with the history of the American West will recognize the slaughter and harassment of Yellowstone bison and elk as the latest battles in a centuries-old range war. Brucellosis is used by the livestock industry to sway public opinion against wild bison (and now elk), to control their movements, and to keep their habitat open to cattle.
As the snow piles up outside the BFC cabin we are making ready for another winter, our 14th in the field. As Montana and the federal government prepare to waste our tax dollars to harass and kill native elk and bison, we draw strength and prepare to protect the bison and elk in the field, the courts, the legislatures, and in the media.
But we can't do it without you. Join BFC on the front lines this season, support our work, contact your members of Congress, the media, and everyone you know, to urge their help for America's last wild buffalo.
*VIDEO: A Night With the Buffalo
While Mike and Noah were traveling the west coast on BFC's 2010 Road Show, they met up with the B-Media Collective, a "Portland based video art collective that stands in solidarity with local and global people's movements through the socialization, documentation, creation, and exchange of media between communities in the global north and south." In support of BFC's work, the B Media Collective took BFC's video footage, and created a Road Show video to help spread the word. Watch this 10-minute piece, A Night With the Buffalo, here.
* Holiday Gift Idea: 2011 Wild Bison Calendars
You, your friends, family, and colleagues can celebrate wild bison 365 days a year with this breathtaking calendar featuring the photos of BFC supporters and volunteers. These calendars make terrific gifts, so get your 2011 Wild Bison Calendar while they last!
* The Evolution of Migration
BFC, other genuine bison advocates, and First Nations buffalo cultures know that actions taken against the last wild, migrating population of American buffalo - under the Interagency Bison Management Plan and Montana's so-called bison hunt - pose a serious threat to their migratory instincts. By killing and harassing the animals that are first to migrate, and by chasing buffalo off of their chosen ground in the midst of their migration, the U.S. and Montana government is slowly - and knowingly - aiming to diminish this instinct that is so critical to the wild integrity and ecological influence of buffalo. To help illustrate this point, we wanted to share this important article with you, "How Mass Migration Might Have Evolved," which appeared in Wired Science in the early fall. Parting encouragement here is that wild bison *do* still migrate, and adds significant strength to why it is so important to protect America's last wild buffalo.
* Last Words
"Bison in Yellowstone National Park carry bacteria that cause a disease known as brucellosis or bang's disease. The disease-causing bacteria can be transmitted from bison to cattle. If domestic cattle are infected, there are negative effects to individual cattle producers in the form of a loss of production, loss of markets, and costly preventative measures, including vaccination. Brucellosis in Yellowstone National Park bison is one of the primary reasons that attempts are being made to control bison in Montana."
~ Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP), Bison Hunt Regulations 2010. This cattle-based propaganda language demonstrates that FWP is catering to livestock interests with this this so-called hunt, and is using it as another tool to keep wild buffalo out of Montana. Read the full bison hunt regulations here.
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.
2010-2011 Total: 0
2010-2011 Slaughter: 0
2010-2011 Hunt: 0
2010-2011 Quarantine: 0
2010-2011 Shot by Agents:
2010-2011 Highway Mortality: 0
2009-2010 Total: 7
2008-2009 Total: 22
2007-2008 Total: 1,631
Total Since 2000: 3,709*
*includes lethal government action, quarantine, hunts, highway mortality