Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign
Yellowstone’s buffalo trap is finally closed for the season. They have eliminated nearly 800 wild buffalo from the country’s last wild herds, mostly through slaughter, and also by keeping some prisoner “for quarantine [domestication] purposes." In addition, more than 350 buffalo were killed by hunters, mainly in the Gardiner Basin, barely a mile from Yellowstone’s trap. Almost 1,200 buffalo were killed by “management” actions this year, and this drastic reduction in the already small and vulnerable population did not even take winter mortalities into account. Today, only about 3,600 wild buffalo remain. Hundreds more may still perish, just from natural causes.
Yellowstone and Montana had set a goal to kill between 600-900 buffalo, all to appease Montana cattle industry intolerance, yet, even with tribal representatives urging a lower kill, they far exceeded that goal. They did so knowing that the Central herd is in dire straights. In fact, Yellowstone was so concerned about the Central herd, who numbered fewer than 850 this fall, that they appealed to hunters to not hunt in the Hebgen Basin, west of Yellowstone, where only Central herd buffalo migrate. No one listened. Yellowstone, wanting to put the conservation burden strictly on hunters, captured and killed hundreds of buffalo in the Gardiner Basin, knowing that many would be from the Central herd. They didn’t care. They just killed. They took every opportunity to capture and ship to slaughter as many buffalo as they possibly could. All without public support, squarely at the behest of Montana’s cattle lobby. The damage they have caused our national mammal is tragic and unforgivable.
These actions are carried out regardless of the enormous public opposition against the slaughter. Citizens world-wide have called and written Yellowstone, Montana’s governor, and other elected officials, but have been flatly ignored. The public process fails the buffalo and the people who adore them. It is no wonder, then, that no less than five people risked their life, limbs, and freedom to make a more profound statement in an attempt to halt slaughter and draw more public attention to these atrocities.
On Wednesday, Wolf, one of the brave men who locked down to three concrete-filled barrels that were blocking the access road to Yellowstone’s trap has his day in court. Wolf is pleading “not guilty” and we feel this is an absolutely appropriate plea as he committed no true crime. In our eyes, he is a hero. The real crimes — crimes against Nature — are being conducted by the guys in green, with laws to protect them because they serve industry, and not the natural world.
With the trap closed and very few buffalo in the Gardiner Basin, we will soon close down our Gardiner camp and turn our focus to the Hebgen Basin, where the Central herd needs us. Soon — we hope — hundreds of buffalo from the Central herd will migrate into the Hebgen Basin, to their calving grounds, on and around Horse Butte and the buffalo from Gardiner will go back into the Park to their calving grounds. This is the time of year when we are busy on the highways, serving as buffalo crossing guards, to keep them safe as they make their journey. So far, though, very few buffalo have arrived. We are not sure what to expect, given the terrible hit that they took from hunting, slaughter, and quarantine. But, buffalo will come. They are already making their way. Moms, leading family groups, sticking close to rivers, creeks, and tributaries, because with still so much snow, this is where the best and most abundant food is found. The mama buffalo are huge, carrying calves who will start to be born in the next few weeks. In these calves lie the hope for the future. Buffalo are strong survivors, they absolutely need our help, but their will to live and their passion for life will keep them going until the human can learn — or be forced — to stand out of their way and co-exist with the nation who Creator chose to shape and give life to this continent.
WILD IS THE WAY ~ ROAM FREE!