* Update from the Field
Faces frosty from munching on sedges along a Madison River tributary, these buffalo cows, inside Yellowstone National Park, were very curious at our presence. Bellies round with life, in about six to eight weeks from now, buffalo cows will begin to give birth to the next generation. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.
Here in the high country of the Yellowstone region, when it snows, it blizzards! The Hebgen Basin, west of Yellowstone National Park, has finally been getting quite a bit of snowfall over the past week, yet still not enough to cover the sagebrush. Buffalo migration has yet to begin in earnest, though some family groups have been spotted by BFC patrols still within Yellowstone's borders and out of the range of hunters. BFC is currently running patrols in both the Gardiner and West Yellowstone areas in anticipation of migration and the agency actions that always follow. Many of the cow buffalo that we've seen in the family groups are showing round bellies, the encouraging signs of the next wild buffalo generation. Soon the spring buffalo tide will be upon us, as the gentle giants make their way to their spring calving grounds.
On Tuesday Montana released their Interagency Bison Management Plan Decision Notice announcing that they approved expanding so-called "tolerance" zones in the Gardiner Basin. BFC supporters submitted more than 5,000 comments on the Gardiner Basin Proposal, so your actions helped make this initial step possible! While this development is definitely a positive one, it is not a perfect solution. The buffalo will only be allowed upon these lands from November 1 through May 1. The expanded tolerance area encompasses 75,000 acres, of which the IBMP Decision Notice states that only 17,400 acres are predicted to actually be used by buffalo, because much of this landscape is at high elevation and hence not buffalo-chosen winter range, or simply too steep to be accessible. Bull bison will be afforded more tolerance than family groups. Mothers, calves, juveniles, and elders will continue to be hazed, captured, held for spring release, shipped to slaughter, or sent to experimental research facilities. Outside this five-month window of "tolerance", buffalo will be forced into Yellowstone National Park.
Last April, BFC was present to witness bull buffalo make first contact with the Yankee Jim Canyon cattle guard. They were certainly perplexed by this change in the terra-firma, and finally chose to simply walk around the confusing thing. Now, there is enormous fencing in place, to attempt to bar them from circumventing this obstacle. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.
Gallatin National Forest lands within this zone will be open to hunting and the number of hunters will be greatly increased, while the use of hunters to kill buffalo that leave these "tolerance" zones will also be expanded to all times of the year. Cattle guards and fencing have and will continue to be put in place to try to keep buffalo from migrating beyond Yankee Jim Canyon, fencing which could prove dangerous to buffalo and other wildlife. Yankee Jim Canyon is what Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer calls the "drop dead zone." Montana has stated that there will be no hazing of buffalo that make it north of this new line: they will all be shot. It will take the buffalo's presence on this new landscape to see how the agencies will respond, and then we can really determine the effect of this new "tolerance".
Last April, when the IBMP agencies announced that Montana would be considering this move, Park County and the Park County Stockgrowers Association quickly filed a lawsuit. This lawsuit is still pending, and Buffalo Field Campaign along with our stellar legal support from Western Watersheds Project has intervened on behalf of the buffalo. The hearings are set for today and Friday in Livingston, Montana. In light of Montana's Decision Notice to go ahead with tolerance expansion, it will be very interesting to see how the anti-buffalo Park County contingency responds.
Wild bison advocates are further using the courts to protect America's last wild buffalo. As you read this, Buffalo Field Campaign's Mike Mease, Darrell Geist, and Good Shield Aguilar, along with Public Interest Defense Center attorney Rebecca K. Smith, and Western Watersheds Project attorney Summer Nelson will represent the buffalo for a scheduled panel at the Eugene Oregon Public Interest Environmental Law Conference today, March 1, from 3:45 - 5:00 p.m. in the Fir Room at the Erb Memorial Union.
So long as native wild buffalo are outlawed and under fire, we will do whatever it takes to defend their right to roam the lands that are their birthright! We send out a huge buffalo THANK YOU to our legal team and to all our supporters who make our front lines, policy, and legal defense work possible and increasingly effective!
* Five Elk Die During FWP's Brucellosis Study
When elk fly, some die. Here is what Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is doing to elk in southwest Montana. BFC footage from the field from winter 2011. This winter, five elk died as a result of this invasive study, and yet Montana's 150,000 elk are getting off easy compared to what America's 3,700 wild buffalo suffer. Click image to watch the video.
In January, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks initiated the second year of their elk brucellosis study for southwest Montana. 130 cow elk were captured - netted from a helicopter and transported to a testing site - as part of a multi-year study "to evaluate the presence of brucellosis among elk in southwestern Montana." Of the 130 cow elk captured, only five tested positive for exposure to brucellosis. As with buffalo, testing positive for exposure does not mean infection, and more often means that the animals have developed immunity.
Five cow elk died as a result of FWP's capture operations. The FWP press release explaining the study glossed over these deaths. All the press release said was, "a total of five animals died in the process of capture. Samples were collected from these five animals and the meat was donated to a local food bank."
BFC had requested to be present at these testing sites, as we were present last year, yet FWP managed to use weather conditions as a means to keep the public and media away, even though weather conditions didn't prevent the study from being carried out. But the methods used are the same as in the BFC video, "When Elk Fly" shown here and above.
These harmful and invasive actions to our native wildlife are totally unnecessary. Pressure from Montana's livestock industry drives nefarious policies against wildlife, while the cattle industry itself takes little responsibility for the harm it causes to wildlife populations, the land, and water. Aside from the politics, brucellosis is hardly a threat to elk and buffalo. The livestock industry is responsible for the presence of brucellosis in the ecosystem, and efforts to address it should be focused on livestock, not our nation's precious wildlife.
* TAKE ACTION! USDA-APHIS Extends Public Comment Period to March 13, 2012
Visit the take action links below and please spread the word among your networks of friends. New action items will be posted as such. All actions are current and will be removed when no longer active. Except for public comment periods on official proposals, you can take action on these issues as often as necessary, and our sample letters enable you to edit them into your own words. Thank You for being a voice for wild buffalo!
1. NEW DEADLINE! Comment to prevent birth control experiments on wild buffalo! Comment period EXTENDED until March 13, 2012. You can also download and review BFC's official comments on this Environmental Assessment.
2. Write Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk and tell him to stop Yellowstone's plans to capture and slaughter hundreds of wild bison. After you write him, give his office a call at 307-344-2002
3. Write Letters to the Editor Opposing Montana's Bison Management Harvest. On February 16, the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission approved the controversial expansion of the use of hunters in bison "management," meaning that at any time of year, hunters may be called on to kill bison that migrate across ecologically meaningless lines, under the guise of a "fair chase hunt." Montana claims this is necessary to help rancher interests "tolerate" them.
4. Urge Congress to Support Voluntary Retirement of Public Lands Cattle Grazing! This bill will help open public lands habitat for wild bison and other native wildlife species!
5. Volunteer with BFC! Field volunteers are needed now through May. BFC provides room, board, gear, and training. The buffalo and their landscape provide the inspiration! Please join us on the front lines in defense of America's last wild buffalo! Learn more and apply here and then email our volunteer coordinators.
6. Help keep BFC strong and effective in the field and at every level of the policy arena. Donations are tax-deductible and go directly to BFC's critical program work.
Thank you so much for taking these important actions! Please spread the word by passing these alerts on through all your networks of friends and colleagues!
* Send Us Your Photos for Wild Bison 2013 Calendar!
A buffalo gets a good back scratch while wallowing. This wonderful photo awaits you in our Wild Bison 2012 calendar! We want your photos and artwork for our Wild Bison 2013 calender! NPS file photo by Jim Peaco. Click photo for larger image.
BFC is gearing up for our Wild Bison 2013 Calendar, and we want your photos and artwork! The calendar has been such an amazing project for us, a true celebration of the wild buffalo of Yellowstone country, and we are thrilled to continue with it.
Photos must be high resolution, digital images of wild buffalo of the Yellowstone area in their natural habitat (no roads, signs, buildings, etc. in the shot please!). Please submit any buffalo art or graphics that you'd like us to consider. Please email your photo submissions for BFC's Wild Bison 2013 Calendar to Stephany or send a disc of photos to BFC Wild Bison Calendar, P.O. Box 957, West Yellowstone, MT 59758.
Artists and photographers will be given full credit for any and all photos, art and images. If your photo doesn't make it into the calendar, we can still use it (with your permission) to help educate and inspire in our email updates, web site, newsletters, and other outreach materials.
* BFC Wish List: Long Johns Needed and Thank You Betty Hyatt!
Hello Buffalo Family,
We'd like to extend a very special thank you to Betty Hyatt of Minnesota, who along with her husband, Dale Strongbull Hyatt, have been longtime supporters of the Campaign. Betty has generously donated a 4WD truck to BFC in loving memory of her husband, who has passed away. We have been in desperate need of reliable vehicles and Betty's donation will provide us with the mobility we rely on to be in the field daily. Thank you, Betty! We will be keeping you and Dale in our hearts.
We wish to thank each and every one of you for your continued support for the wild buffalo and Buffalo Field Campaign. BFC volunteers are joyfully maintaining a constant and persistent presence in the field to monitor this year's bison migration and document any actions made against them. Although the winter weather to this point has been mild, we are feeling the effects of the last decade and a half of field patrols in our clothing supplies. If anyone of you could make donations of wool and/or synthetic long johns, our volunteers would start using them immediately. We find ourselves in need of all sizes and weights of wool and/or synthetic long underwear bottoms and tops. Thank you all for past and future donations; your enduring kindness keeps us moving forward for wild bison.
For the Wild Ones,
Elizabeth and Peet
Office & Support Coordinators
Buffalo Field Campaign
Click HERE to view BFC's complete Wish List
* Endangered Buffalo Fact of the Week
Two wild bull buffalo walk the land together. Photo by BFC supporter Tim Springer. Click photo for larger image.
FACT: "Yellowstone bison are designated as wildlife in Montana.... Within Montana, bison are designated with an S2 ranking, defined as: 'At risk because of very limited and/or potentially declining population numbers, range and/or habitat, making it vulnerable to global extinction or extirpation in the state ... The Montana Comprehensive Fish and Wildlife Conservation Strategy (MCFWCS) identifies bison as a Tier One Species. In the MCFWCS, a Tier One Species is a species considered in greatest conservation need.' "
This language - which strongly begs the question as to how Montana can justify the continuation of such harmful management of wild bison - is from Montana's response to a comment asking the State to consider the status of wild bison in Montana in their Gardiner Basin Environmental Assessment. Montana's response is listed as #5 on page 6 of the IBMP Joint Decision Notice to expand tolerance zones for wild bison in the Gardiner Basin, North of Yellowstone National Park, which you can read here. You can also read BFC's official comments on this proposal here (just scroll down past the Michael Franti video).
Have a fact you'd like to share with us? Email it to Stephany.
* By the Numbers
AMERICAN BUFFALO ELIMINATED from the last wild population in the U.S. The last wild population is currently estimated at fewer than 3,700 individual buffalo. Wild bison are currently ecologically extinct throughout their native range in North America.
2011-2012 Total Buffalo Killed: 17
2011-2012 Government Capture:
2011-2012 Government Slaughter:
2011-2012 Held for Government Experiment:
2011-2012 Died In Government Trap:
2011-2012 Miscarriage in Government Trap:
2011-2012 State & Treaty Hunts: 17
2011-2012 Shot by Agents:
2011-2012 Killed by Angry Residents:
2011-2012 Highway Mortality:
2010-2011 Total: 227
2009-2010 Total: 7
2008-2009 Total: 22
2007-2008 Total: 1,631
* Total Since 2000: 3,989*
*includes lethal government action, trap-related fatalities, quarantine/experiments, hunts, highway mortality
* Last Words
We pull our teeth out laying down in easy places
We thicken the air with talk but cover our eyes up with our hands
They're shooting the wolves from helicopters! Can you believe that?
Out in the wide world the wildest ones are vanishing quickly
But it won't be the witches that are burning this time
Do you have submissions for Last Words? Send them to Stephany. Thank you for all the poems, songs, quotes and stories you have been sending! Keep them coming!