* Update from the Field
A bull on Gallatin National Forest land, high in the hills above the town of Gardiner, the only place in Montana where buffalo are currently allowed to live year-round. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.
For a little while this spring, hundreds of wild buffalo were able to enjoy more of the Gardiner Basin than they have ever been able to in at least 150 years. Unfortunately government agents have conducted multiple hazing operations every day since our last Update, ending the short-lived tolerance. Many buffalo avoided hazing because it is simply their time to migrate south, towards traditional calving grounds and warm-season habitat. Where eight hundred buffalo roamed two weeks ago, only a few groups now remain. Most are migrating south toward the Blacktail Plateau inside Yellowstone National Park.
BFC file photos by Stephany. Click photos for larger images.
A few larger hazing operations were carried out near Gardiner because Montana wanted to 'clean up' buffalo from public and private lands surrounding Highway 89. Interestingly, elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and deer are a constant presence along the roadway, which dissects the heart of the Gardiner Basin, one of North America's largest wildlife migration corridors. A few of these hazing operations originated on private land but swept up other buffalo grazing our public lands, pushing them off of Gallatin National Forest and into Yellowstone National Park, south of the Park's Stephens Creek bison trap, as shown above.
BFC file photos by Stephany. Click photos for larger view.
In some areas of Gardiner the Yellowstone River separates the Park from private lands. These designations mean nothing to wildlife. The majority of this week's hazing operations, or government-forced removals, took place on the same private properties day after day. Buffalo were repeatedly chased off of the private lands shown above, which are owned or leased by the Hoppe family, and the Church Universal & Triumphant (CUT). By each afternoon the buffalo would be back, only to be chased away again the following morning.
There is a saying that you can tell a buffalo to do what it wants to do, as these agents were reminded last week. BFC file photos by Stephany. Click photos for larger images.
Hazing operations didn't always go as the agents planned. On one occasion, the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) and Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) agents attempted to chase buffalo off of a horse pasture near Cedar Creek. They attempted to push them east, through the fence line, and onto other habitat. Bunched up against the fence, the family group made an abrupt about face and bolted in several different directions trying to escape their pursuers. After some time, the agents changed plans, opening a gate beside Highway 89 and hazing the buffalo south toward Yellowstone. On another occasion, a bachelor bull group was visiting their imprisoned relatives at the Rigler GonaCon facility (where USDA-APHIS is conducting birth control experiments on captured wild bison). The agents didn't like this, so they tried to chase them away, aiming to send them across the highway, the Yellowstone River, and into Cutler Meadows. The bulls were having none of it. At points, there was no haze, just bull bison running down the highway and agents on horseback trying to catch up. Eventually, more bulls were caught up in the haze and they were eventually pushed to the Devil's Slide area where they were finally left alone.
Spring migration forces buffalo across a dangerous highway, but also brings the gift of the next buffalo generation. BFC file photos by Stephany. Click for larger image.
The Hebgen Basin has been a bit more quiet, though BFC patrols are operating day and night, monitoring the highways and warning traffic of the presence of wild buffalo. More groups of buffalo are making their way west toward their calving grounds and south-facing slopes of Horse Butte and the surrounding Madison River corridor. Many are showing signs of a long, hard winter, being very skinny and tired, and many are ready to calve. Hopefully they will be afforded ample time for green-up to occur in the Basin, to have their babies and let them grow strong before Montana's hazing circus arrives on this side of the Park. Calving season is beginning in earnest now with another two brand new calves spotted in Horse Butte's Yellowstone Village. A new generation of Buffalo Nation is coming!
In years past, buffalo never would have been able to access even a fraction of this habitat for any amount of time in the Gardiner or Hebgen Basins. Thinking back to the dark days when the Montana Department of Livestock would shoot any buffalo that migrated into Montana, or when agents waited near Yellowstone's boundary to haze them back into the Park, or capture for slaughter nearly every buffalo looking towards Montana, we have certainly gained a lot of ground. We still have a difficult path ahead, but the buffalo are making headway. We cannot ignore the significant progress that we have made throug endless pressure, endlessly applied.
WILD IS THE WAY ~ ROAM FREE!
* BFC Addresses Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk
Superintendent Dan Wenk (center) addresses local businesses and residents at the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click for larger view.
On Tuesday, Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk came to West Yellowstone to meet with local businesses and discuss this year's visitor season. BFC took the opportunity to attend and document the meeting, and represent the buffalo. In his opening remarks the Superintendent mentioned that he was in discussions with Montana to delay hazing operations in the Hebgen Basin as much as possible, since there is still significant snow pack in the Park's interior, and little grass for the buffalo in the areas where they would be hazed. He also stated flooding from spring run-off as a concern, as it is terrible for baby buffalo to be hazed for miles and miles and then be forced to swim across fast-flowing rivers. He stated that discussions had been going well and that hazing into Yellowstone may not occur until late May or early June. However, reports from the field indicate that other Park Rangers are getting a different story from the Montana Department of Livestock, who may aim to begin hazing as early as May 5th. We hope the Park stands strong and prevails, but we're ready for anything. We encouraged Yellowstone to publish Public Service Announcements to help alert travelers and Yellowstone visitors to bison along the roads and to help push for permanently lowering speed limits. He said they have and would. We asked if the Park would be doing outreach to alert Park visitors to the new bison management Environment Impact Statement, and encourage visitors to participate in this important public process. He said they would be getting the word out as much as possible. Those were the easy questions for him. We had some harder ones as well. When asked about the lack of media attention that Yellowstone gave to capture and slaughter operations this year the Superintendent answered in a condescending tone, stating that they issued a press release early in the winter to communicate what they were doing, and since nothing changed during that time there was no reason for further press releases. We also asked about the enormous closure around the Stephens Creek bison trap, and whether it could be in effect only when bison operations are underway, and if it could be reduced as the public is currently prevented from accessing significant amounts of public land. Superintendent Wenk said he would look into the issue.
* TAKE ACTION! Tell Montana's Governor: No Slaughter for Habitat!
Broad public support for year-round buffalo habitat - almost 120,000 public comments received by Montana - has been corrupted by the Department of Livestock and their allies and turned into a buy-in for slaughtering buffalo. Montana's buffalo-slaughter-for-habitat proposal (pdf) is a dirty compromise between Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the Montana Department of Livestock. It shows how the livestock industry has corrupted the public decision making process and management of the public's buffalo. If this proposal implemented, wild buffalo will only be given year-round habitat if their numbers are reduced to and kept under 3,300 animals. The larger the population, the less land they can access and the more slaughter and hunting will be used to kill them. Montana's slaughter for habitat proposal exemplifies the corruption of cattle ranchers in charge of wild buffalo.
TAKE ACTION NOW to tell Montana Governor Steve Bullock: No Buffalo Slaughter for Habitat!
* Volunteer or Donate Today. Please.
If you have ever dreamt of standing with buffalo and fighting for their rights to be wild, now is the time! BFC is in need of caring people 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 tribal governments are in the process of capturing and killing hundreds of wild bison. 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 protect the buffalo. We need help from now until the end of May. BFC provides room, board, gear, and training while the wildlife and wildlands 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 ideas. See you on the front lines!
If you can not join us in person we can still use your help. Please use the DONATE NOW button below to make a tax-deductible contribution to our important work for the buffalo.
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,
* This Summer Keep it Wild with the Buffalo & BFC!
We're excited to announce that we're gearing up for our Summer program (June 1st until Labor Day weekend) and have started accepting volunteer applications. This summer we'll be doing a variety of community and public outreach including tabling at our new Free Buffalo Information Center located inside of the Buffalo Spirit Trading Post in the town of West Yellowstone, camping and tabling inside Yellowstone National Park, and attending festivals in the area with our giant inflatable buffaloon and spreading the word about the herd. If you're interested in coming out for the summer we ask for at least a 2 to 3 week commitment. if you have any questions or would like to apply feel free to give us a call @ 406-646-0070 or shoot us an email at email@example.com
Keeping it wild with the buffalo,
Pat and Comfrey Root
*By the Numbers
The last wild, migratory buffalo populations are currently estimated at fewer than 4,000 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: 646
Government Capture: 359
Buffalo Released from Capture: unknown
Tribal - ITBC Slaughter: 157
Tribal - CSKT Slaughter: 101
Tribal - Nez Perce Slaughter: 0
Died in Government Trap:
Died in Government Research Facility**: 1
Miscarriage in Government Trap:
State Hunt: 31
Treaty Hunts: 291
Poached in Yellowstone: 3
Sent to Quarantine:
Sent to APHIS Research Facility: 60
Shot by Agents:
Highway Mortality: 3
Cause of Death Unknown:
Total Killed in Previous Years*
Total Killed Since 2000: 4,884
*includes lethal government action, trap-related fatalities, quarantine/experiments, hunts, and highway deaths
**bison stolen from the wild and placed in APHIS 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 ~ Mos Def
"Habitat is where I'm happenin' at ... this big wide world we call home... "
~ Mos Def, hip hop artist
Please send us your submissions for Last Words. Thank you for all the poems, songs, quotes and stories you've contributed! Keep them coming!