* Update from the Field
We sat waiting by the Park border, the wind howling, snow blowing. Several trucks with state and tribal hunters sat in waiting as well, only a few hundred yards from the northern border of Yellowstone National Park. Fourteen wild buffalo-- seven moms and seven calves--faced the storm, grazing and milling about. We waited, the hunters waited. Then suddenly, inexplicably, the buffalo turned and ran away from the border, away from the hunters, away from the gut piles of their brothers and sisters killed over the previous weeks. They ran more than a mile deeper into the Park where they rested, grazed, and slowly moved further away from the killing fields of Beattie Gulch.
This scene, which we gratefully observed, repeated itself several more times over the past week. Buffalo approached the border with hunters at the ready only hundreds of yards away only to turn back and head further into the Park leaving behind frustrated hunters who would go home empty handed. Unfortunately, not all of the hunters were foiled this week. Four young bulls and the lead female of their family group were taken by “harvesters” from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) just outside the Park border. Another CKST harvester also killed an old bull that had been wandering alone in the Eagle Creek area.
While I am glad to report that only a handful of buffalo were killed this past week, I am sad to say that it was probably only a small reprieve for these most persecuted of North American wildlife species. The Nez Perce, the Confederated Umatilla Tribes, and the Shoshone-Bannock tribes have yet to begin their harvest season in earnest. Many wild buffalo are now moving, as they follow their ancient instincts from the deeper snows of Yellowstone's interior to the banana belt of the region, the Gardiner Basin. Here they will find the grasses easier to reach, the landscape easier to move through. They make the obvious decision to go to areas where they will expend less energy and increase their chances of surviving the harsh Yellowstone winter.
The buffalo may be learning where is safe to go and where the harvesters wait for them to cross the imaginary line with rifles at the ready. But as winter deepens and more buffalo enter the basin, they will inevitably cross that line in search of more grass and more room to roam. They will be killed and when the tribal harvesters have taken their fill, the National Park Service, at the behest of the Montana Department of Livestock and the industry elites they represent, will capture the remaining wild buffalo. Many will be trucked to slaughterhouses by the very same tribes that have already taken too much from this last herd of wild buffalo. Some will be given to the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to become subjects of cruel and inhumane experiments.
Even in the midst of this tragic tale, beauty and hope abound. There is hardly a place in North America that is more spectacular and teeming with wildlife than the Gardiner basin. Eventually, wild buffalo will enjoy the freedom already shared by the multitudes of deer, elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, eagles, ravens, and coyotes. Eventually, enough people will come to realize that wild buffalo deserve a home and deserve respect. Eventually, we will overcome the oppression of the livestock industry's stranglehold on the land and its wild inhabitants. Our victory is as inevitable as the changing of the seasons, as inevitable as the migration of wild buffalo.
For now, we take solace in small victories, the buffalo that survived today, the ones that will live to pass on their knowledge to their kin. We do our part and pass on what we see and experience. We bear witness both to the ugly and the beautiful, knowing, deep in our hearts, that it does matter. Knowing that we must continue this work until wild buffalo roam free.
In solidarity with the wild buffalo,
Buffalo Field Campaign
* VOLUNTEERS NEEDED! Intense Field Season Expected in Wild Bison Country!
If you ever have dreamed of standing with buffalo and fighting for their rights to be wild, NOW IS THAT TIME! BFC is in need of caring people who are willing to make this sacred sacrifice to help the buffalo. Buffalo Field Campaign invites you to join us on the front lines, here on the edge of the world's first national park, to defend America's last wild, migratory buffalo. State, federal, and even some tribal governments are planning to capture and kill hundreds of wild bison in the coming months. They aim to reduce the already vulnerable population of America's last wild, migratory buffalo to a mere 3,000 animals.
We need more people to stand with us and tell, show and be here for the buffalo. Please, if you have ever thought about coming out we need help from now until the end of May. BFC provides room, board, gear, and training while the wildlife and wild lands provide incredible inspiration. Please visit our volunteer page to fill out an application or email our volunteer coordinators or 406-646-0070. Bring your passion and your ideas. See you on the front lines! Thanks for giving us the honor of standing with these sacred beings and please come experience it for yourselves, it will change your life.
WITH THE BUFFALO,
* TAKE ACTION!
Please visit BFC's Take Action Page for a variety of action alerts that enable you to make your voice heard for America's last wild herds!
* SUBMIT YOUR PHOTOS & ART WORK to BFC's 2015 Wild Bison Calendar!
WE ARE NOW ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS FOR 2015, so if you have high resolution photos, artwork, poetry, quotes, or interesting natural facts about wild buffalo, please contact Stephany for details.
Don't miss out on BFC's 2014 Wild Bison of Yellowstone Country Calendar! This is likely our best calendar yet, with absolutely stunning photos of wild buffalo in their native habitat, incredible artwork, and inspiring quotes, facts, and poetry.
Thank you to everyone who has made our Wild Bison calendars such a huge success! This is one of our favorite projects as it allows all of us to celebrate wild buffalo 365 days a year!
*By the Numbers
The last wild, migratory buffalo populations are currently estimated at fewer than 4,500 individual animals, living in and around Yellowstone National Park. Wild, migratory bison are ecologically extinct throughout their native range in North America.
Total Buffalo Killed: 97
Buffalo Released from Capture:
Held for Government Experiment:
Died in Government Trap:
Died in Government Research Facility**: 1
Miscarriage in Government Trap:
State Hunt: 16
Treaty Hunts: 81
Sent to Quarantine:
Sent to Research Facility:
Shot by Agents:
Cause of Death Unknown:
Total Killed in Previous Years*
Total Killed Since 2000: 4,355
*includes lethal government action, trap-related fatalities, quarantine/experiments, hunts, and highway deaths
**bison stolen from the wild and placed in research facilities (such as for GonaCon) have already been counted as being "eliminated from the population" so bison that have died in a government research facility are not reflected in the total.
* Last Words of Buffalo Inspiration
"The buffalo gave us everything we needed. Without it we were nothing. Our tepees were made of his skin. His hide was our bed, our blanket, our winter coat. It was our drum, throbbing through the night, alive, holy... Not the smallest part of it was wasted... His mighty skull, with the pipe leaning against it, was our sacred altar. The name of the greatest of all Sioux was Tatanka Iyotake - Sitting Bull. When you killed off the buffalo you also killed the Indian - the real, natural, 'wild' Indian."
--John Fire Lame Deer, Lakota Sioux
Please send us your submissions for Last Words. Thank you for all the poems, songs, quotes and stories you've contributed! Keep them coming!