* Update from the Field
This little buffalo calf has lost her mother to hunters. Her family group will help take care of her, but without her mom, winter is going to be even more challenging, both physically and emotionally. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign. Click photo for larger view.
We've seen a significant increase in hunting pressure just north of Yellowstone’s boundary. As snows have deepened in Yellowstone, a few hundred buffalo have migrated into the Gardiner Basin, seeking lower elevation habitat necessary for their survival. For many buffalo, instead of the life-giving grasses they require, they have found bullets. Nearly forty more of this country's last wild buffalo have been gunned down, raising the death toll to just under 100. Hunters tend to go for the biggest buffalo they can find, so in the family groups, this means buffalo mothers — with calves at their sides and in their wombs — are being killed. Calves are being orphaned and families torn apart. Most of the buffalo have been killed by Confederated Salish & Kootenai tribal members, nearly all at Beattie Gulch. Huge pickup trucks packed with hunting parties will literally park just outside Yellowstone’s boundary at the Beattie Gulch Trailhead, their occupants warm inside as they wait for buffalo to cross Beattie Gulch. This is not hunting. It is slaughter.
Signs posted at Beattie Gulch. Most of the hunting that takes place occurs over the weekends, with hunt parties arriving to Gardiner on Thursdays and killing through the long weekend. As this calendar shows (photo on right), two federal holidays are open for killing on Mondays during the weeks when there should be no hunting. It's clear that the no hunt dates are on days when hunting doesn’t happen much anyway. Photos by Don Spates, Buffalo Field Campaign. Click photos for larger views.
Beattie Gulch is a choke point in one of the buffalo’s most important migration corridors. It has been a death trap since state and treaty hunts started almost ten years ago. For the buffalo, passing through Beattie Gulch is almost always a death sentence, and for the people who live just a few hundred yards from these killing fields, hunting at Beattie Gulch has been a huge controversy. Hunting here has also prevented buffalo from accessing the additional habitat they were supposedly granted in the Gardiner Basin in 2011; they are either killed and can’t make it through, or turn and flee back into Yellowstone where they will soon be trapped and shipped to slaughter. In an attempt to address these issues, tribes hunting under treaty right offered a periodic cease fire in the Beattie Gulch corridor. Unfortunately, given the details, it doesn't really help. The so-called cease fire will be observed every other week, Monday through Thursday, yet in all of the years that buffalo hunting has taken place, not much occurs during those days anyway. Hunting parties tend to arrive on Thursdays, and spend the long weekend killing buffalo, then leave on Sunday or Monday. So in essence the tribes have offered not to hunt during times when they typically don't hunt anyway. New developments have also occurred this year on Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT) land, which is adjacent to Beattie Gulch and is patch-worked with Gallatin National Forest land on the west side of the Yellowstone River. CUT has started to give permission to state hunters to kill buffalo on their land, wanting to give youth and elderly hunters “opportunities” to kill buffalo, and they also intend to use hunting as a tool to disperse buffalo that dare step on their grass.
Two young bulls walk through Yellowstone, heading north towards Beattie Gulch. It is bittersweet to see them, being so excited and grateful for their presence, yet knowing that once they reach Beattie Gulch they will likely not live long. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign. Click photo for larger image.
There is hardly a safe place for wild buffalo in the Gardiner Basin, not even inside Yellowstone National Park. This week the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) partners released their final operations plan for 2016, announcing that they intend to kill 600-900 wild buffalo through so-called hunting and slaughter. The IBMP accomplices are aiming to drastically drive the world’s most important bison population down, all at the behest of livestock interests. Slaughter, they said, would begin by February 15 and could continue to the end of March. Hunting will likely still be taking place during this time. By the end of March, buffalo calving season will be just a few short weeks away.
We are fighting like hell to end the killing, stop the harassment, and open up Montana for buffalo to once again roam free. After eighteen years of applying endless pressure, we won the buffalo's right to access Horse Butte year-round, but we still have a very long way to go. Two critical things need to happen within this system that these decision-makers are in control of: we must repeal MCA 81-2-120, a state law that places the Montana Department of Livestock in charge of wild buffalo in Montana, and we must gain Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection for them. Governor Bullock’s decision to grant year-round habitat on Horse Butte indicates he is listening, though livestock interests clearly have him wrapped around their finger. Please keep the pressure on. As to ESA protection, BFC and Western Watersheds Project filed a petition with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) in November of 2014 to list Yellowstone buffalo under the Act. The agency was supposed to issue a 90-day finding on whether our joint petition presented substantial information that listing the Yellowstone buffalo may be warranted or not. More than 13 months later, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has failed to issue any finding. In late-November, Buffalo Field Campaign and Western Watersheds Project submitted a 60-day notice of intent to sue the agency for failing to make a 90-day finding as the Endangered Species Act requires. Many thanks to BFC’s attorneys at the Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program who helped craft and submit the notice letter to hold the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service accountable. The foot-dragging agency has a few days left to step up and answer. You can help bolster our efforts to gain ESA protection for wild buffalo by contacting your members of Congress and urging them to support funding for listing the Yellowstone buffalo under the Endangered Species Act.
We are not powerless and the buffalo need us to do everything that we can to help them. Horse Butte was an amazing first step, a crack in the dam, and we couldn’t have done it without each and every one of you; now we go for year-round habitat in the rest of Montana, and after that, the rest of the country. We will win for the buffalo.
Wild is the Way ~ Roam Free!
* The Yellowstone Buffalo: The Most Important Herds in the World
In early December, Jim Derr, a professor at Texas A&M College of Veterinarian Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, spoke before the National Academy of Sciences to share some of his findings about the genetics of the Yellowstone buffalo. Along with his colleague Joe Templeton, Derr stated that the slaughter of Yellowstone bison “is not smart,” given that it targets family groups and is akin to going to a family reunion and killing all of the Smiths. Derr also stated that “the bison in Yellowstone National Park are pivotal to the long-term conservation of the species.”
In mid-December, another study, which Professor Derr was also part of, was published about a small buffalo herd in Utah’s Henry Mountains, finding that even though they have co-existed with cattle for decades, they were free of cattle genes, determining that bison wouldn’t naturally breed with cattle, something we already knew. In addition to being free of cattle gene contamination, the Henry Mountain buffalo are also brucellosis free. Some have interpreted this to mean that they are more significant than the wild Yellowstone herds. Since they're brucellosis-free, there would be no government imposed requirement for the horrible process of quarantine. In other words, rather than restore wild bison in a functioning ecosystem with a full complement of predators - Yellowstone comes the closest - the government will continue to manage the “conservation herds” by shifting breeders around on livestock trailers. While it’s good to know that some of the lineage remains intact, bison are more than their genetics which has yet to penetrate government thinking about bison conservation and “conservation herds.”
The main things to remember are that these Utah buffalo originated from Yellowstone and are a subpopulation of the Yellowstone population. They were put there by humans and are geographically isolated and contained. Their genetic diversity is not as rich as the wild buffalo of Yellowstone (which is really scary since we know how vulnerable the Yellowstone buffalo are). And, the Yellowstone herds are the last continuously wild, migratory bison left, and they are part of a wild community that includes wolf and grizzly bear, and a whole host of wildlife that have been around since pre-colonial times, making them also behaviorally unique. None of these things can be said for the Henry Mountain buffalo, or any other herds. And it is important that the Yellowstone buffalo — having been exposed to brucellosis — have developed resistance to this livestock disease.
Rather than playing god, it would make much more sense to simply allow both the Yellowstone and Henry Mountain buffalo to migrate and fill up the land again between Montana and Utah.
* Save the Dates! BFC Week of Action February 15 - 21, 2016
BFC's Week of Action will take place February 15 - 21, 2016.
Join Buffalo Field Campaign for our upcoming Week of Action! We are planning events in southwest Montana towns, and there will be an event that everyone, everywhere will be able to participate in. We are still in the planning stages and welcome your ideas. The Week of Action will kick-off on Monday, February 15 and will last through Sunday, February 21.
Here is a tentative schedule of events, dates are confirmed, but a few places may change and more details will be announced:
- Monday, Feb 15: Rally in Bozeman, Montana
- Tuesday, Feb 16: Protest outside Yellowstone’s administrative building in Mammoth, Yellowstone National Park, followed by a candlelight vigil (place to be determined)
- Wednesday, Feb 17: National Call-In Day (targets to be announced)
- Thursday, Feb 18: Rally in Helena
- Friday, Feb 19: Rally in West Yellowstone
- Saturday, Feb 20: Rally in Big Sky
- Sunday, Feb 21: Closing dinner in West Yellowstone to celebrate year-round habitat on Horse Butte
Again, the dates are confirmed, but some of the details may change. Please join us at any or all events! Tell your friends and bring them with you! If you are able to come for the full week and would like to stay with us, please RSVP wit Stephany or Natalie so that we can make accommodations.
* Buffalo in the News
Image by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign. Click for larger view.
A Brighter New Year for Bison
George Ochenski, The Missoulian
Ten Groups That Don’t Flinch Under Fire and Thus Deserve Your Support
CounterPunch (BFC Honored!)
Officials Agree to Cull as Many as 900 Bison
Montana Public Radio
Government Agencies to Cull up to 900 Bison
ABC News / Associated Press
* TAKE ACTION! Endless Pressure, Endlessly Applied
The killing of the buffalo, whether it’s through “hunting” or slaughter, is all part of the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP), which was crafted for the benefit of livestock interests, not buffalo. Even those hunting under treaty rights are being used by Montana's livestock interests, and consequently, the IBMP, to facilitate the destruction of the buffalo and to prevent them from restoring themselves in Montana and elsewhere. Whether the excuse for these fatal tactics is brucellosis or population control, neither is based on reality and they only serve a political agenda. The IBMP exists because Montana livestock interests sued Yellowstone for “allowing" wild bison to migrate into Montana, and because of a law crafted by the livestock industry — MCA 81-2-120 — which places the Montana Department of Livestock in charge of managing wild bison. One industry’s intolerance is driving a national treasure towards the brink of extinction. We know you care deeply about wild bison, and one of the single most important things you can do is to help repeal this law.
Contact Governor Steve Bullock today, and please take these other actions, even if you have already. Don’t stop until the buffalo are free to roam!
1. Montana Governor Steve Bullock needs to feel the pressure from everyone who cares about wild, migratory buffalo, enough pressure that he has no other choice than to help repeal MCA 81-2-120, the law that is driving the nefarious actions against America's last wild buffalo. Please contact Governor Bullock today, and everyday, demanding he change the status quo for wild bison in Montana by repealing MCA 81-2-120 and rejecting the government's alternatives in the newly proposed Montana-Yellowstone Bison Management Plan.
2. Help change the status quo for wild buffalo by urging your members of Congress to support BFC’s alternative to “Manage Wild Bison Like Wild Elk in Montana."
3. Submit Letters to the Editor in support of BFC's alternative to “Manage Wild Bison Like Wild Elk in Montana,” the only alternative that respects wild buffalo and their right to roam their home.
* 2016 Calendars! Celebrate Wild Buffalo Every Day of the Year!
2016 is here! We know you or a friend would really enjoy celebrating wild buffalo 365 days a year! Our Wild Bison of Yellowstone calendars will bring you into the majesty of what it will look like for wild buffalo on Horse Butte, now that hundreds of them are able to live here every single day!
Order BFC's 2015 Wild Bison of Yellowstone Country calendars!
Celebrate wild buffalo every day of the year! This is our sixth annual Wild Bison of Yellowstone Country calendar, and it is another wonderful exploration of this country’s largest land mammal. Featuring stunning photos from generous professional photographers such as Sandy Sisti, Tom Mangelsen, Ric Kessler, and others, along with photos from Buffalo Field Campaign, this calendar also includes incredible artwork, interesting facts, and beautiful poetry and quotes. BFC's 2016 calendar is dedicated to BFC co-founder Rosalie Little Thunder, our friend and teacher who passed away in August 2014. All proceeds from the calendar go directly to BFC’s front lines work in defense of America’s last wild buffalo. Support our work to help these gentle giants as you celebrate wild buffalo every day!
Fall in love with the buffalo and strengthen your resolve to help protect them! ORDER HERE!
* Spread the Word for the Herds! Distribute BFC Newsletters in Your Community
Help spread the word to save the herds! If you would like us to send you a stack of newsletters to place around your community, Tara can help you with that, too. We love that we have supporters who are willing to distribute our annual newsletter, spreading the word to save the herds is one of our main tenets and we are thrilled to have so many volunteers! Shipping can be costly, so please let Tara know an exact number that you feel you are able to distribute and she will happily get them to you ASAP!
If your address has changed, or if you are new and would like to be added to our mailing list, please contact Tara at email@example.com.
* Donations Made in Memory and Honor of Wild Bison Advocates
Laura Tews in honor of Eddie Tews
Abby Ginzberg in honor of Jackie Van Der Hout
Sebastian Mekkadath in memory of Sonnyboy
Wendy Warrington in memory of John Trudell
Hugh Lentz in honor of Crystal Huntington
Karen Yust in memory of John Trudell
Rebekah Pauli in honor of Rachel Pauli
Jeffery Bryant in memory of Myron and Joan Bryant
Andrea Fiske in honor of Dennis & Pam Donoviel
Sally Rogers in honor of Ellis, Leah & Lon Rogers
Christina Scroggins in memory of Sean Wiseman
John Webb in memory of Tiny Man Heavy Runner
Edna Karinski in memory of David Bieringer
Kent Lebstock in honor of Rosalie Little Thunder
Kerby Gleeson in memory of Ruthie mouse
Dan and Jan Blair in honor of the Loftus family and in memory of The Rev. Larry Lofus
Susan Biggs in memory of Elmer Biggs
Deborah Walker in honor of Eric Leutzinger - my hero!
Jennifer Stutsrim in honor of Jeffery Bryant
Elizabeth Barns in honor of Kathleen Stachowski
Mark Fausner in memory of phil and barb
Kay Izlar in memory of Marcus Baker (Chipmunk)
Page Sullivan in memory of Annie Powers
Aaron Rose in memory of Shine Fletter
Brandi McCarty in honor of Bryant Roth
Linda Mattson in memory of Eileen Skoglund Mattson
Martha Tracy in honor of Kathy Coffman
Marie Gordon in memory of Elinore B. Gordon
Caitlin Sullivan in honor of Bluebell the Bison
*By the Numbers
The last wild, migratory buffalo populations are currently estimated at fewer than 4,900 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: 99
Buffalo Released from Capture:
Tribal - ITBC & CSKT Slaughter:
Died in Government Trap:
Died in Government Research Facility**:
Miscarriage in Government Trap:
State Hunt: 13
State “Damage" Hunts:
Treaty Hunts: 70
Unknown Hunts: 4
Poached in Yellowstone:
Sent to Quarantine:
Sent to APHIS Research Facility:
Shot by Agents:
Shot by Landowner:
Shot by Idaho:
Highway Mortality: 2
Cause of Death Unknown:
Total Killed in Previous Years*
Total Killed Since 2000: 5,739
* 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 ~ Derrick Jensen
"My great-grandmother grew up in a sod house in Nebraska. When she was a tiny girl—in other words, only four human generations ago—there were still enough wild bison on the Plains that she was afraid lightning storms would spook them and they would trample her home. Who in Nebraska today worries about being trampled by bison? For that matter, who in Nebraska today even thinks about bison on a monthly, much less daily, basis...it’s hard to love what you don’t know you’re missing. It’s harder still to fight an injustice you do not perceive as an injustice but rather as just the way things are. How can you fight an injustice you never think about because it never occurs to you that things have ever been any different?”
~ Derrick Jensen
Please keep sending quotes, poems and other words of buffalo wisdom. You'll see them here!