BFC patrols are in the field, every day, monitoring the migration of the country’s last wild buffalo, ready to document any and all actions made against them. Left to right, gear coordinator Greg, volunteer coordinator Jaedin, and new volunteer Steph. BFC photo by Stephany Seay.
Our 2018-2019 field season has begun. This year marks the beginning of our 22nd year standing in defense of the country’s last wild, migratory buffalo, and we are ready to do what it takes to ensure their survival. Volunteers from the other side of the country, and as far away as Germany have come to serve the buffalo, and more are on their way. We are running full patrols here in the Hebgen Basin, west of Yellowstone’s boundary, and so far, buffalo remain safe. For the first time in many years, we already have enough snow that we are already skiing in certain places, but still hiking around others. The Gardiner Basin, north of Yellowstone’s boundary remains quiet, but we are ready to head over there at the drop of a hat once the buffalo start to migrate towards danger.
A bull buffalo emerges from the willows along the Madison River, inside Yellowstone National Park. BFC photo by Jaedin Medicine Elk.
It’s shaping up to be another tragic winter for the buffalo. If the weather and need for mass migration drive many to lower elevation habitat, particularly in the Gardiner Basin, hundreds of buffalo stand to lose their lives. The Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) agencies are wanting to again kill between 600 to 900 wild buffalo. The current population is estimated at about 4,500 buffalo, including about 1,200 in the imperiled Central herd, and about 3,300 in the Northern herd. While it may seem that the Central herd increased by a couple hundred buffalo, Yellowstone claims that last year’s count of 847 in the Central herd was an underestimate. Regardless of their miscount, this herd remains in danger. The Park recognizes that these buffalo are in jeopardy (ironically by Yellowstone’s own hands) because Central herd buffalo migrate both west into the Hebgen Basin, and north into the Gardiner Basin, meaning they are doubly impacted by excessive hunting and other management actions. Yellowstone biologists are again recommending that there be no hunting or any other killing of buffalo in the Hebgen Basin, as it is exclusively Central herd members who migrate there. However, once again, as they did last year, Yellowstone is placing the conservation burden on hunters — particularly treaty hunters — while they intend to capture for slaughter and domestication (quarantine) hundreds of buffalo from both the Northern and Central herd, not knowing how many buffalo from the Central herd they are killing. Yellowstone is recommending that all the killing take place in the Gardiner Basin, through hunting and capture-for-slaughter. Yellowstone says that when the number of buffalo around Mammoth Hot Springs, south of the Gardiner Basin, exceeds 200, they may initiate capture operations, but will “allow” some buffalo to pass by the trap so that they can be killed by hunters as they walk across the boundary into Montana. Visit IBMP.info to review Yellowstone’s 2018 bison population estimate (Library -> Winter Operations Plan -> 2018 Status of Yellowstone Bison Population.
Let’s let these agencies know their killing plans will be opposed every step of the way!