Despite Injustice, We Celebrate Wild Buffalo Calving Season
* Update from the Field
* Despite Injustice, We Celebrate Mother's Day for Wild Buffalo
* This Week's Video: Mother's Day with the Buffalo
* TAKE ACTION! Keep the Pressure on Montana's Governor
* Life and Death on the Madison Arm
* Keep it Wild with the Buffalo & BFC This Summer!
* By the Numbers
* Last Words of Buffalo Inspiration
* Update from the Field
BFC photos by Stephany. Click for larger image.
Mother buffalo and their family groups have undertaken important yet difficult migrations, trekking many miles from Yellowstone's high elevations, over periods of weeks and months, to access critical winter range and spring calving grounds in Montana. They simply seek a quiet place to survive, to rebuild their own strength and raise their precious young. Weak from winter and swollen with new life, the relief for pregnant buffalo of finding sufficient food is enormous. Sadly, after such effort, wild buffalo are forced to quickly evacuate the ground that they may take the course of a season to reach. In the throes of pregnancy, birthing, or raising an infant, wild buffalo are aggressively driven off their native homelands by the irrational politics of Montana's livestock industry and the state and federal agents who are "just doing a job" by carrying out these policies on the ground.
Buffalo shot by DOL paint balls. BFC photos by Kristian Boose and Stephany, respectively. Click for larger images.
Hazing activities resumed last Thursday, and took place again on Friday, Monday, and Wednesday. They are likely taking place again as you read these words. Each operation originated south of Horse Butte, in the Denny Creek/South Fork area of the Hebgen Basin, an area highly favored by wild buffalo and other wildlife, but livestock interests refuse access only to the buffalo. Now in the height of calving season, more newborn buffalo that are just getting their legs are having their first experiences of life brutally interrupted by yelling cowboys who come tearing in on horseback to chase their families away. And no short distance, but for miles over fields, through fences, across rivers and creeks, through thick woods, over fallen timber, down gravel roads, and into muddy flats--all with no rest, no chance to nurse or get a drink of water or even a bite of grass. Calves collapse from exhaustion; mothers bluff charge to defend their babies, bulls stop and spar in frustration. The horsemen press them on. Buffalo that are in the throes of labor or that have literally just given birth are not spared. The agencies involved in these wild bison harassment operations this week included the Montana Department of Livestock, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, and Yellowstone National Park. Barely a mile of the stretch of land that the buffalo are chased from is in areas occupied by a few private landowners who don't welcome wild buffalo. The remainder of the ten-plus miles they are forced to flee through is National Forest land, public land, critical wildlife habitat where there are no cattle and no conflict, and nothing close to justification for such assaults.
The struggle that becomes an introduction to life for many buffalo calves. BFC photos by Stephany. Click for larger images.
On Monday, after miles of hazing, agents forced the buffalo across the Madison River, towards the northwest bluffs. But they didn't stop there as they had been doing. They loaded up their horses, drove around to the bluffs, and resumed hazing the tired buffalo along the northwest bluffs, pushing the buffalo, ironically, towards Horse Butte. How does this make any sense when next week, they will be hazing buffalo away from Horse Butte, east into Yellowstone National Park. Ignoring exhaustion in the calves they were pushing, and even after we called their attention to an injured yearling, they forced them to march for another few miles towards the Butte. On Wednesday, the course changed; the chase continued east and crossed Highway 191, into Yellowstone National Park. A hint of the large-scale operations that will soon descend upon Hebgen Basin, forcing all wild buffalo out of Montana, simply because the livestock industry hasn't learned how to share, but has made a killing by controlling the land.
Calves do everything their tiny bodies will allow to keep up with mom and the herd. BFC photos by Stephany. Click for larger images.
As I returned from patrol a week ago Thursday evening, I received a phone call that my sister-in-law was in labor. She was expected to give birth to her first child on Friday. Two thousand miles away through the wire, the sound in my brother's voice was what you might imagine from an expectant father, full of wonder, excitement, fear, anticipation, joy. I imagined them there, together in a comfortable place, with people around them to help take care of them, doing everything to ease her labor and bring this baby safely into the world, ensuring a quiet space, excellent nutrition, comfort, and love. My niece was born on Friday afternoon, not long after I had returned from witnessing yet another brutal hazing operation. I couldn't help but think about my sister-in-law and my brand new niece, about all the mothers I know, being hounded by yelling men riding large animals, forcing them out of their bed, refusing to let them rest or take nourishment, chasing them until they could barely run anymore, and then chasing them some more. This is what is happening to wild buffalo, day after day, right now. It feels important that we envision it so, because for some, putting ourselves in another's "shoes" may be the only way we can begin to really understand--and through that understanding, truly feel--compassion. I can't help but wonder, when the agents spent Mother's Day with the moms in their lives, did they feel proud of the "job" they did to the buffalo?
WILD IS THE WAY ~ ROAM FREE!
* Despite Injustice, Celebrating Mother's Day for Wild Buffalo
Part of our wild buffalo family celebrating wild buffalo calving season on Mother's Day. BFC photo. Click for larger image.
For me, Mother's Day has become synonymous with wild bison calving season in West Yellowstone with Buffalo Field Campaign. As volunteers and board members, my husband and I (and sometimes our son) travel to BFC each May for time with the buffalo, time with our friends and family, time to vision for our campaign, and time to celebrate new baby buffalo! If memory serves me, this year is close to ten years that we have offered free coffee and cookies roadside in honor of our mother bison and the new life she gives.
Our Mother's Day event begins with the baking of over ten dozen cookies to fit all dietary needs (gluten free, vegan, nut free, etc) and to find our famous banner that always seems to disappear deep into Siberia, BFC's gear room. This year, Rebecca, Delayna, Amara, Jennifer, Lindsey, and I spent an evening baking and gathering supplies to make coffee roadside. We were lucky to have BFC's policy coordinator, Josh Osher, and his family, Drea and sons, age 6, Marias and Haven, to add the much needed kid energy to the event. The boys climbed two trees at the day use area that we inhabit for the afternoon in order to hang our "Free Coffee~Free Cookies~Free the Buffalo...Celebrate Wild Bison Calving Season!" banner off of Hwy 191, at the mouth of the Horse Butte Peninsula.
The event was a success with Marias and Haven waving at passing vehicles and luring them to our table of sweets! We had folks stop from Arizona, Salt Lake City, and Big Timber. We also had locals stop by and offer fresh baked bread and heartfelt thanks to our volunteers and the important work they do in the field, standing vigil with the buffalo. Many volunteers gathered to enjoy coffee and cookies and to just enjoy each other's company in celebration of buffalo as a break from the heartbreak of hazing.
I already look forward to next year's Mother's Day event. I hope to see Marias and Haven, little Larkin, Leo Pine and Grayson, and the new babies that two of our board members have and will bring in to our BFC Family. Buffalo calving season is such a sacred and special event. These are our nation's and world's precious heritage and should be celebrated and protected as unique and important beings.
Join us next year in the field for Mother's Day! I hope to see you there, I'll keep the coffee hot and the cookies warm!
With the Buffalo,
BFC Volunteer & Board Member
* This Week's BFC Video
Buffalo Field Campaign 5/13/14
Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) honors Mothers both two legged and four legged. Watch as a new Buffalo calf takes it's first steps, with Mom at it's side. BFC gives out free coffee and free cookies to all that come by our stand on Mother's day, just off highway 191. BFC likes to honor Mothers all week long. Thanks for being there for us Moms for without you none of us would be here.
In this new video, Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) honors mothers both two legged and four legged. Watch as a new buffalo calf takes its first steps, with Mom at its side. BFC gives out free coffee and free cookies to all who come by our stand on Mother's Day, just off highway 191. Thanks for being there for us moms, without you none of us would be here.
* TAKE ACTION! Tell Montana's Governor: No Slaughter for Habitat!
Even if you have already done so, it is critical that everyone who cares about wild buffalo contact Montana Governor Steve Bullock and urge him to change the status quo of hazing, capture, and slaughter. Tell him to end Montana's intolerance, stop the livestock industry from hijacking the public process, and to champion the world's most important bison herds, the Yellowstone population.
* Life and Death on the Madison Arm Road
Wednesday morning, as one of our patrols was scouting around Gallatin National Forest's Madison Arm Road, looking for buffalo that might be under attack that day, we came across a disturbing scene: a very still buffalo lying in the middle of the road, with a raven nearby. We knew he was dead. We pulled over and looked over the scene: no grizzly bear tracks, no wolf tracks, no four-legged predator tracks of any kind. There were, however, buffalo tracks all around this little bull, spanning the road about 15 feet on either side. From the various sizes of tracks and the way they showed signs of some dancing or scuttling, we could tell that the family group that had known this buffalo had held mourning ceremony. There was a light circle of blood with buffalo tracks surrounding this young bull, and tracks moving out in every direction, every size and step. We called the local FWP game warden, Jim Smolzynski, who arrived quickly. He ran a metal detector over the bull, searching for, but not finding, a bullet. As he moved the bull's body, he discovered his right front leg was shattered and his skull was broken. We all concluded that it must have been a vehicle, late in the night. An odd place for an impact with wildlife, being a gravel road with not too many travelers or high speeds. We asked the game warden if he would move the bull's body away from the road, so that grizzly bears could take sustenance. He seemed disappointed that he was not allowed to, stating the Forest Service discouraged it because it brought grizzly bears around. Nonsensical to all of us, as this is important habitat on the edge of Yellowstone where grizzly bears roam, and buffalo are a prime food source. Sadly, after checking with other places to see if the buffalo could at least feed wildlife, there was no luck and the game warden was required to take him to the dump. It's hard to wrap the mind around our national mammal being discarded in a dumpster like so much trash and rubble. A poignant sacrilege. We followed and watched Jim unload him near a mulch pile. It was barely 9:30 when all of this happened, and a hazing operation was still on the morning's agenda. Needless to say, it turned out to be an incredibly long, sad day. But the ones who suffer the most, the buffalo, are also the ones who lend us the strength and inspiration to carry on and fight for them for as long as it takes.
* This Summer Keep it Wild with the Buffalo & BFC!
Comfrey admires a huge bull bison who approached us and walked on by during a Montana "April Shower." Shortly after this storm ended, we noticed a mama buffalo with a brand new calf. Join BFC this summer and keep it wild with the buffalo and some of our awesome family, Pat and Comfrey! BFC photo by Stephany. Click for larger image.
We are 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 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 herds. If you're interested in coming out for the summer we ask for at least a two week commitment. If you have any questions or would like to apply give us a call at 406-646-0070 or shoot us an email at email@example.com
*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: 648
Government Capture: 359
Buffalo Released from Capture: 41
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:
Shot by Landowner: 1
Highway Mortality: 4
Cause of Death Unknown:
Total Killed in Previous Years*
Total Killed Since 2000: 4,886
*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
"The buffalo have the right to be here; they were here before we were. This is their land as well. Just because we can articulate some of our needs and wishes and we seem to have some sort of intelligence and intellect, we think we're better. If you communicate with a buffalo you'll see that they're much more intelligent than a human, just that they can't articulate it as humans."