BFC is gathered together for the field season, our 23rd year in the field with the last wild buffalo. Volunteers are out every day, checking buffalo migration corridors and keeping an eye out for the gentle giants. We don’t have much snow on the ground yet, but it’s on the way. Treaty and MT State hunting seasons are open, and on Friday, November 15th, two adult female buffalo were taken by hunters barely 250 yards from the boundary of Yellowstone National Park. These buffalo, two adult females, were from the imperiled Central herd. For the third year in a row, Yellowstone National Park officials, along with Montana wildlife officials, have recommended no hunting here in the Hebgen Basin, west of Yellowstone, in order to offer some semblance of protection to Central herd buffalo who are the only buffalo to migrate into the Hebgen Basin. They also migrate north into the Gardiner Basin, which means they are doubly impacted by hunting and capture-for-slaughter and quarantine operations. But, hunters have so far completely ignored these warnings.
The two females who were killed arrived unexpectedly (we have been monitoring this corridor for weeks), with about fifty family members. No sooner did they cross the imaginary line which brought them from Yellowstone into Montana, than two hunters showed up to make their kills. Shortly after the two mama buffalo were shot, the survivors made a bee-line back into the relative safety of the Park. Patrols caught a brief glimpse of them later that afternoon, as they disappeared into the forest. They have not been seen since.
While buffalo “managers” are recommending no hunting here on the West side and are being ignored, intense controversy continues over on the North side, in the Gardiner Basin. Last month a group of local residents filed a federal law suit to halt hunting (Judge denies halt to bison hunt near Yellowstone, moves lawsuit to Montana, Missoulian, November, 19, 2019) in the Beattie Gulch area. Beattie Gulch is at the north boundary of Yellowstone, and is a tight bottle-neck corridor that the the buffalo use for migration to winter range. If you’ve seen our footage and photos over the years, you know how hunters will literally line up and wait at the park boundary for buffalo to move through this narrow landscape, and as soon as buffalo cross the line into Montana, hunters open fire. Local residents are upset because hunting at Beattie Gulch brings rifle fire close to residential areas, and gut piles and bones are strewn across the landscape. Even more concerning is that Beattie Gulch is barely a square mile of public land, so, racing against Yellowstone’s trap, hunters are in a frenzy to shoot as many buffalo as they can before they move onto private land where they can not be killed. This creates utter chaos for both buffalo and hunters, with entire family groups being gunned down, hunters shooting at running buffalo, and many wounded buffalo heading back into the Park to die. With state and Treaty hunters from multiple tribes hunting there, the landscape can become dangerously crowded and buffalo barely stand a chance. The patchwork landscape creates a “kill box mentality.” As we’ve stated for years, this hunt has been set up by Montana and Yellowstone to use hunters as a convenient way to kill buffalo. BFC’s executive director, James Holt, a Nez Perce tribal member, stated in this important article, (Yellowstone bison hunt generates controversy, court battle, UPI News, November 18, 2019) "The federal government is just utilizing the tribes as a management tool... Tribes are caught in the crossfire of that bison management mode. The hunts feel disrespectful to the U.S. national mammal.”
A federal judge denied a halt to the Beattie Gulch buffalo hunt, stating that the issue should be taken up by the state of Montana.
Meanwhile, barely a mile south from Beattie Gulch, Yellowstone National Park is greasing it’s gears at the Stephens Creek buffalo trap, ready to capture (for slaughter and quarantine) hundreds of the country’s last wild, migratory buffalo. The biologists who run tormented buffalo through this brutal trap are some of the very same folks who just recently released a report (What America Lost When It Lost the Bison, The Atlantic, November 18, 2019) proving what we already knew: that wild buffalo are a great benefit to the landscape. How can the very agency who is mandated to “protected resources unimpaired” and issues these kinds of significant findings continue bend over backwards to Montana’s livestock interests to slaughter and domesticate hundreds of these gentle giants each and every year? Going against their own science, going against the public majority, going against ecological integrity, against anything logical, Yellowstone cowers to cattle interests at the expense of one of the country’s most significant and sacred keystone species. But, that’s why BFC is here, to stand with the buffalo, hold these agencies accountable for their nefarious actions, and to show the world what is happening. A lot has changed under our watch, but much more needs to be done, and we can’t do it without you. You make it possible for us to be here in the field, in the policy arena, and in the courts defending our National Mammal. Thank you for keeping us on the front lines with the last wild buffalo!
Wild is the Way ~ Roam Free!