* Update from the Field: Yellowstone Sends 100 Wild Buffalo to Slaughter
Inside Yellowstone's Stephens Creek bison trap. Photos by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign. Click images for larger view.
Addressing our relationship with the buffalo, BFC co-founder Lakota elder Rosalie Littler Thunder once said, “human beings have forgotten their purpose.” Indeed, those who work for Yellowstone National Park have certainly forgotten theirs: to preserve [wild buffalo], unimpaired, for present and future generations.”
One hundred and fifty of America’s last wild buffalo were certainly "impaired” this week, having endured the hells of Yellowstone’s Stephens creek capture facility. For some, this nightmare journey is still underway.
Thirty of the country's last wild buffalo were loaded into livestock trailers inside Yellowstone and shipped to slaughter on Wednesday morning by the InterTribal Buffalo Council. Approximately seventy more will suffer the same fate this morning. Photos by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign. Click for larger images.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, in response to a public access lawsuit, Yellowstone National Park granted a media tour of their Stephens Creek trap. Mike Mease and I attended on behalf of BFC. What we saw will give us nightmares, but it is critical for us to be here to get a brief glimpse of what goes on in this area Yellowstone hides from the public. Captive buffalo were run through the gauntlet of a fortified livestock corral, “worked” in a squeeze chute called the “Silencer,” where their blood was drawn, their teeth were checked for age, and where they were weighed, tagged, and “released” to flee down a long, dusty corridor where they were separated by age and sex, and forever torn from their families. As you read this they are in the process of being shipped to slaughter.
Park wranglers haze buffalo deeper into Yellowstone's trap.
Photos by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign. Click photos for larger images.
Tuesday morning, beginning at the break of dawn, seventy-five frightened and confused wild buffalo were run through this house of horrors; early Wednesday morning thirty female buffalo from this group were crammed onto two livestock trailers hired by the InterTribal Buffalo Council and shipped to the slaughterhouse. Later that same morning, the remaining seventy-five buffalo endured the same mistreatment. By the time you read this, another seventy will be heading to slaughter, with at least twenty more awaiting the same fate by the end of the week. At least thirty calves and yearlings are being held “just in case” Yellowstone’s fifty-year bison quarantine plan is approved.
The noise in the trap was deafening. Buffalo were slamming against the walls, ramming into each other, and bellowing in fear or to find family members. The sounds they made with their voices and their bodies took over everything. They were crammed into the trap's “bull pen,” where park wranglers on catwalks — silent for the media tour, but normally "yipping" and hollering — jabbed and prodded them from above, forcing them to move to desired locations and where pushed into "the Silencer." This squeeze chute is Yellowstone's new machine which they claim to be more humane, but tell that to the wee calf we saw who had both of her horns broken off in that “kinder, gentler” apparatus. Every buffalo put up the fight of their lives, like the warriors they are. The little calves gave extra effort to escape with tenacious determination. They would jump, buck, thrust, kick and rear up, trying everything they could to break free. But they can’t. Sometimes they would jump too far, too fast, and the squeeze chute would close on their mid section, or their horns. They were so scared and tried so hard to get out. Their tails were curled into “nines” — the most unmistakable sign that a buffalo is in serious distress.
From the squeeze chute, they were funneled down a corridor and into a sorting pen where they joined others of the same age and/or sex. During the media tour, we were only allowed up on the catwalks one at a time, briefly. We were only allowed to see into two of the sorting pens, though there were many more. Of the two we saw, the buffalo were looking up at us, as if asking why? what did I do wrong? where’s my mom? where’s my baby? Through tears and promises, Mike and I talked to them. We told them we loved them, that not all humans are so mindless and cruel, that we and many others are fighting and praying for them. It was awful. They were banging around, running in circles, standing there looking forlorn. All we could do for them was document, promise their story would be told in our never-ending effort to cease this slaughter once and for all.
Our hearts are bruised and broken, and what little we were allowed to see showed how important it is for us to get full access. This media tour was a token gesture, a mockery of real access.
To make a false impression on the media and members of the public, the Park Service trap wanglers tapered their vulgar behavior, which we know from years of viewing and hearing activities at the trap from over a mile away is thick with cowboy culture. The park rangers, biologists, and other employees hid their humanity. The buffalo were just objects moving through a process. They showed neither emotion, relationship with the buffalo, nor remorse for the atrocities they were committing. And how could they? If they let themselves feel, they would not be able to do what they do to these sacred beings. It was a well-oiled government buffalo slaughtering machine. What we were shown was not the truth of how these capture operations take place when out of public view. They had their behavior in check as they put on a show for the media. But the buffalo are honest. They were the only ones telling the truth as the Park Service shelved compassion and spun their lies to serve industry and intolerance. The audio coming from the buffalo, imprisoned and violated in the trap, was the stuff of nightmares. No matter how well Park employees talk themselves into thinking what they are doing is beneficial, the buffalo tell a different truth. Their lives are as important to them as yours or mine is to us.
We will be haunted forever by this experience, but our pain is nothing compared to what the buffalo are going through. There is no such thing as “humanely” trapping, tormenting, tearing families apart, and shipping buffalo to slaughter. Science does not supports this. Public opinion doesn’t support this. The Park’s own mission and mandate runs contrary to these cruel and unnecessary actions.
But this will not last. The trap walls will come down.
WILD IS THE WAY ~ ROAM FREE!
* Take Action Against Yellowstone's Buffalo Slaughter!
Why does Yellowstone want to kill America’s last wild buffalo? Because Montana’s livestock industry pressures them to. There is no justification for it, no matter what the Park Service tells you. Wild bison are not overpopulated, and the so-called brucellosis threat is a livestock industry smokescreen being used to kill wild buffalo and prevent them from naturally restoring themselves to the landscape. The livestock industry’s intolerance is directly responsible for most of the threats the buffalo currently face. To end this control we must insist that federal funding is pulled from harming and killing this country's last wild buffalo, and repeal or amend Montana law, MCA 81-2-120, that places the Montana Department of Livestock in charge. With endless pressure, endlessly applied, we can get Yellowstone out of the buffalo slaughter business, and end livestock industry control.
PLEASE TAKE ACTION TODAY to help regain wild buffalo their rightful, ancestral place on the landscape.
* CALL PRESIDENT OBAMA AT THE WHITE HOUSE: #202-456-1111
Tell President Obama to stop Yellowstone’s buffalo slaughter! There is no justification for killing members of the world’s most important bison population, beloved the world over. Tell the President you do not want your hard-earned tax dollars spent on destroying a natural, national treasure.
* CALL MONTANA GOVERNOR STEVE BULLOCK: #406-444-3111
Tell him you stand with the majority of Montanans who want wild, migratory bison restored in this state. Tell him bison slaughter hurts tourism, and insist that he work to end livestock industry policies of intolerance, which are the driving force behind Yellowstone’s participation in the slaughter of America’s last wild buffalo.
* CALL YELLOWSTONE’S SUPERINTENDENT DAN WENK: #307-344-2002
Demand that he cease catering to livestock industry intolerance, release the captured buffalo, and end plans to slaughter! His willing participation in slaughtering America’s last wild buffalo goes against the National Park Service’s mission and Yellowstone’s own bison science!
Thank you so much for taking these actions for the country’s last wild buffalo!
* Article: Saving the Last Wild Buffalo
Saving the Last Wild Buffalo by Matt Remle
* Urge Gallatin National Forest to Manage Habitat for Wild Bison
The Custer-Gallatin National Forest is revising its forest plan which has historically neglected to include standards for managing habitat for native wild, migratory bison. To start Phase 1 of the public involvement process, the Forest Service has scheduled a series of public meetings, most of which will be held in Montana. BFC encourages buffalo supporters to attend one or more of these meetings, in order to help ensure that the Forest Service does not neglect this crucial keystone species any longer.
Information about the public meetings and the planning process can be found here.
Here are a few talking points to consider:
- Tell the Custer-Gallatin National Forest that you want them to adopt a standard to manage habitat on the National Forests for viable populations of migratory buffalo. Ask them to modify what is being proposed so buffalo are included in the planning effort. Please keep in mind jurisdiction: the Forest Service manages the habitat while the State manages the species.
- Phase I – Assessment "involves an evaluation of relevant information including existing ecological, economic, and social conditions and trends across the broader landscape that will help inform the need to change the 1985 Forest Plan."
- Yes, it’s time for the Forest Service to update its long-term habitat plan to include an important wildlife species that has made its presence known on our National Forests: America’s last wild buffalo.
- Urge the Forest to use the best available science to inform buffalo management and to support a habitat standard or viability standard to ensure a place for them on America’s National Forests.\
* 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 the state, 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 but 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.
* WANTED: Photos & Artwork for 2017 Wild Bison of Yellowstone Country Calendar
Order BFC's 2016 Wild Bison of Yellowstone Country calendars!
It’s that exciting time of year when we give a shout out to all the awesome photographers and artists out there! We are on track to create our 2017 Wild Bison of Yellowstone Country calendar and want your Yellowstone buffalo images! Our calendar project is a true celebration of the wild buffalo of Yellowstone country, America’s last wild herds. Your generous and amazing contributions have made this an amazing buffalo exploration with stunning photos, incredible artwork, interesting facts, beautiful poetry, and inspired quotations. Please contact Stephany at firstname.lastname@example.org for details or to submit your images.
* By the Numbers
The last wild, migratory buffalo populations are currently estimated at fewer than 4,400 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: 580
Government Capture: 150
Held for Quarantine or Slaughter: 50
Buffalo Released from Capture:
Tribal - ITBC & CSKT Slaughter: 100
Died in Government Trap:
Died in Government Research Facility**:
Miscarriage in Government Trap:
State Hunt: 28
State “Damage" Hunts:
Treaty Hunts: 349
Wounded by Hunters & Shot by FWP/NPS or Died in Park: 50
Poached in Yellowstone:
Sent to Quarantine:
Sent to APHIS Research Facility:
Shot by Agents:
Shot by Landowner:
Shot by Idaho:
Highway Mortality: 3
Cause of Death Unknown:
Elk shot under treaty right: 55
Total Killed in Previous Years*
Total Killed Since 2000: 6,215
* Last Words of Buffalo Inspiration ~ An Example for Yellowstone Park Rangers
Please keep sending quotes, poems and other words of buffalo wisdom. You'll see them here!