* Update from the Field: Reflections from BFC's Co-Founder
Artwork by Judith Dragonette.
For years Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) has looked to Native Americans as a major part of the solution to help the buffalo. Believing the tribes would have a positive impact on the way buffalo are managed, we celebrated when the InterTribal Buffalo Council (ITBC), the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT), and the Nez Perce Tribe were brought into the Interagency Bison Management Plan as full voting members.
Our hopes were dashed when they bought into the political notion that the Yellowstone population should be reduced to 3,000 buffalo and that any number over this arbitrary figure are “surplus” buffalo. These tribes and tribal organizations signed slaughter agreements with Yellowstone National Park. ITBC and CSKT took it a step further when they loaded 258 buffalo that had been captured inside Yellowstone and shipped them to slaughterhouses. This tribal participation in and support for the Park Service's large-scale slaughter operations have put a wedge between should-be allies Buffalo Field Campaign and ITBC and CSKT.
Yellowstone's border country carries the smell of rotting buffalo guts because not enough people are willing to fight for the buffalo's freedom to access year-round habitat. Public “unclaimed” land surrounding the park should be available as year round habitat for the buffalo. It is a violation of treaty rights to cut the buffalo off from this habitat where the tribes have hunting rights. Instead treaty hunters are forced to kill buffalo at a time of year when no one would otherwise hunt because the buffalo are on their last fat reserves and the pregnant moms are less than a month away from giving birth.
Yellowstone National Park is not ideal habitat for buffalo; it's where they hid to avoid extermination. They belong all over the wide plains of this great country. The naive government agencies also believe that cattle guards, a river, and a fence running up the side of a mountain will stop an ancient memory of migration. Once again the buffalo show us our human ignorance as they easily walk up mountains and around the fences.
Wild buffalo migrate by instinct. BFC photo by Kate. Click for larger image.
This year also showed us for the first time in BFC's 17-year history that if we give the buffalo the time they need, they will migrate to their summer habitat in the park on their own without the waste of tax dollars to force them with abusive hazing. In Gardiner, after a court victory, buffalo were allowed to stay in the basin until May 1. Over 800 filled the valley and as the green grasses came back to Yellowstone's Blacktail Plateau, many of the buffalo walked on their own, returning there to have their calves. In West Yellowstone, where buffalo migrate out of the winter snows to lower elevations to have their calves, agents abuse pregnant moms and newborn calves for months straight, mostly on National Forest land. This abusive ritual has happened to all buffalo that migrate in this direction for the last 14 years. This year we witnessed a calf being born during a hazing operation; the agents left it until the next day and then pushed it until it collapsed on the banks of the Madison River, unable to swim the spring-flooded river. What other animal would we ever treat this way?
Last month Montana's Governor issued an order making it illegal for the Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) to enter private property to remove buffalo against the landowners' wishes. In the Horse Butte housing area where most landowners enjoy living with the buffalo and one family bought 800 acres they call a wildlife sanctuary, 61 adults and 21 calves avoided harassment by MDOL. The buffalo nursed, ate grass, and played--like buffalo do. On June 5th while MDOL and park rangers were hazing moms, babies, and juvenile buffalo into the park on the south side of the Madison River, the buffalo on the sanctuary migrated to summer habitat on their own. These buffalo walked at their own pace, swam rivers, and rested when needed as they headed east, to their summer range, inside Yellowstone. It was the first time the buffalo were able to show us what BFC has always predicted, the buffalo can and will do this on their own.
An injured buffalo trails behind as her family is hazed far ahead. BFC photo by Cindy. Click for larger image.
It is tragic how the interests of the state of Montana's cattle industry can treat the last of this sacred species. They use the tax dollars of all Americans to do it. The MDOL clam that their abusive tactics have stopped brucellosis from being transmitted from buffalo to their holy cows. They forget to mention how their non-native, invasive cows gave the disease to all of our wildlife in the first place. Wild buffalo have never transmitted the disease to livestock. In Grand Teton National Park buffalo have shared habitat with cattle for more than 50 years without a single incidence of transmission. We must all help stop this insanity being committed with our tax dollars.
Over the past 17 years more than 5,000 volunteers have joined BFC near Yellowstone to staff our field patrols and make our work possible. We owe everything to these dedicated souls who put their lives on hold and-sometimes-their freedom on the line to defend the buffalo and share their stories with the world. Thanks to each an every one of our volunteers for making Buffalo Field Campaign possible.
I have lived and fought for the buffalo for the last 20 years, helping found BFC 17 years ago. After all this time, killing buffalo is still the only "solution" that is offered by the state and federal governments and the livestock industry. I will continue to fight--if needed--until I die, for these majestic beings to once again roam this country. It is our job in life to leave things for our children. A world without roaming buffalo is a world I refuse to leave for future generations.
With the Buffalo,
* Sign Petition Requesting National Academy of Sciences Review Brucellosis
Help protect our wild bison and elk from politics and special interest slaughter. Please request the National Academy of Sciences conduct a review of wildlife brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area.
Click HERE to sign the petition now!
Many thanks to Kathryn QannaYahu of Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat for creating this petition!
* TAKE ACTION! Keep the Pressure on Montana's Governor
Don't let the state of Montana hold America's last wild buffalo hostage in Yellowstone! 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.
Even if you've already contacted him, please do so now! Please also be sure to include a thank you for his new directive that forbids the Montana Department tof Livestock from hazing buffalo off of private property without permission from the property owners.
Click to take action now!
* This Summer Keep it Wild with the Buffalo & BFC!
BFC volunteer and summer coordinator, Comfrey, enjoying an awesome moment with the buffalo on the northwest Madison bluffs. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click for larger image.
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 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 feel free to 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: 651
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: 7
Cause of Death Unknown:
Total Killed in Previous Years*
Total Killed Since 2000: 4,889
*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 ~ Julia, BFC Volunteer
A Horseman Fell Off His Horse Today....
More like the horse threw him off
For it seemed, as the three buffalo mommas and their minute babies
Fled that particular agent of destruction
That the horse had gotten her way
For a small moment.
Something about the woods after they've been cleared
Like a hillside that's been strip mined
Or a lake that knows its toxic
Brimming with fish that still have to swim
Something about wild beings being forcefully relocated
By political convenience and ATV
Amazing creatures being evacuated into a museum exhibit
"We're still alive, dammit -- we're not a commemorative postage stamp, you commercial %*&$#!"
Something about that.
The vacant echo of the trees, and the coming dusk, and the cutting wind, and the bare spots,
Where you know buffalo should be bedding down
And they aren't.
Something that the trees murmur, after they've been made to stand
In parking lots, for photo ops
Like the warbled tone of an old friend over a cold cup of coffee:
"There are wrongs in these woods that no camera can capture."
They remember the great giant creatures that graced their deadfall weeks ago
And they remember when the land was free, before it was
Stolen, then sold, then trashed, then sold again
They hold dear all the souls that were wronged on these lands
"We're still alive, dammit!"
Was it all for copper? Was it all for gold?
Is it all for cows now?
And there's something about the cows, because they're born
To be killed
And cowboys don't love them at all
So, when the rider said, "Ho!"
The horse said, "&%$# off!
She'd had enough today
And really it was the gentlest reminder one could hope for
A slap on the wrist
To remind us that the wild shouldn't be corralled,
And that the earth
As a horse
Can throw us off at anytime.
~ Julia B., BFC Volunteer, May 2014
Please send us your submissions for Last Words. Thank you for all the poems, songs, quotes and stories you've contributed! Keep them coming!