A yearling buffalo struggles to free herself from the the Silencer, as a Yellowstone bison biologist stands by, waiting to conduct invasive procedures. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.
Yesterday morning, two people with the direct action collective Wild Buffalo Defense locked down to the “Silencer,” the squeeze chute located inside Yellowstone National Park’s infamous Stephens Creek buffalo trap. Cody Cyson, an Ojibwa man, and Thom Brown, a former volunteer with BFC, risked life, limb, and freedom to halt buffalo slaughter operations facilitated by Yellowstone, and draw attention to the trap that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of the country’s last wild, migratory buffalo. The trap’s squeeze chute has been a vehicle for terrifying and torturing countless wild buffalo who have been captured inside Yellowstone’s trap. Read the full press release about yesterday’s heroic actions.
Another member of Wild Buffalo Defense, Hannah Ponder, was later arrested, allegedly, for violating Yellowstone’s extensive closure surrounding the trap. All three of these good people have been charged with misdemeanors, including “interfering with a government operation," and are currently in jail in Gallatin Count, Montana. As Wild Buffalo Defense put it in a Wednesday press release, "The fact that Cody and Thomas were charged with interference with a government function assumes that one of the functions of the Yellowstone National Parks Service is to capture and slaughter endangered buffalo. These individuals sought to do what the parks service should be doing, which is protecting the wild buffalo and expanding their habitat in cooperation with the other agencies that are a part of the Interagency Bison Management Plan.” We couldn’t agree more. Read the latest here.
There is a hearing scheduled for Monday morning at 10:30am, at Yellowstone National Parks Justice Center, Mammoth, Wyoming. Because Cody and Thom allegedly occupied the squeeze chute, shipments to slaughter were halted for hours. While, as an organization, BFC can’t take these kinds of actions, we are deeply grateful to these brave souls. We are in solidarity with anyone who is working to liberate wild buffalo and protect them from slaughter, quarantine, and domestication. Ironically, this action marked the four-year anniversary of when Comfrey locked down to the access road that leads to this very trap, stalling trucks that would take buffalo to slaughter.
Cody, Thom, and Hannah would love your support! If there’s any chance you can be present in solidarity on Monday, March 12, when they have their next hearing, that would be wonderful. You can also send them letters for the next few days c/o Gallatin County Detention Center, 605 South 16th Avenue, Bozeman, MT 59715.
A two-year old bull drink’s mama’s milk. Young buffalo may still attempt — and be allowed — to nurse long after they are no longer calves. These patient, incredible buffalo mothers only want the best for their children, at the end of a long and trying winter, that good, rich milk might be just the thing to see a young buffalo through, especially if they can keep their distance from Yellowstone’s trap or the killing fields of Beattie Gulch. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.
Sadly, ignoring public opinion and strong statements made with direct action, Yellowstone insists on catering only to Montana livestock interests and is still sending buffalo to slaughter. An estimated 200 buffalo have already been moved through the park’s trap and sent to slaughter facilities. An estimated 300 or more buffalo are still inside Yellowstone’s trap, awaiting the same fate.
We can only estimate the number of buffalo who are suffering these “management” actions because Yellowstone is not disclosing the information in a timely manner, and, more importantly, because of the extensive public closure that Yellowstone places around the trap. A whopping seven miles in diameter, it is impossible to see anything happening there with the naked eye, ridiculous to try even with binoculars, so spotting scopes are the only tools available to us to even make educated guesses about how many buffalo are in that monstrous contraption. This closure is overly broad and designed to limit the ability of the public to document publicly funded government activities carried out by the National Park Service to systematically destroy the sacred buffalo. From the pubic’s perspective, we are the ones who are violated by the existence of not only the trap itself, but Yellowstone’s extensive and unnecessary public land closure, which is only in place because Yellowstone doesn’t want the people to see what they are doing to our national mammal — the country’s last wild buffalo. In fact, this year, Yellowstone has even cancelled the token media tours that they have held for the past couple of years.
With combined hunting and capture-for-slaughter and unapproved quarantine, bison managers have already met and are likely to exceed the lower end of their 600-900 kill quota. Nearly 450 are already dead and at least 300 more are still imprisoned inside Yellowstone’s trap.
A yearling buffalo jumps and runs for the pure feeling of joy. It is always an incredible pleasure to see buffalo celebrating life. Many times, these actions are infections, and a single buffalo can get the whole family going in an incredible buffalo dance. Maybe this buffalo is feeling the positive changes that are coming. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.
Like the news of the Wild Buffalo Defense heroes who took direct action, not all of our updates are bad news. We are fighting for the buffalo on every possible level, including in places they agencies can understand: the courts and the policy arena. We recently had a huge victory with our petition to list the ‘Yellowstone’ buffalo under the Endangered Species Act when Judge Cooper ruled in our favor when we challenged the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s negative finding.
We’ve also gained thousands of signatories on our Report: Bison as a Species of Conservation Concern, including giant representation from the Piikani Nation, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Western Watersheds Project, Patagonia Clothing Company, and so many more. We think it will offer you inspiration to read the letters the Piikani Nation of the Blackfeet Confederacy and the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe sent to the US Forest Service. Powerful, powerful stuff with very sharp teeth.
The buffalo have many champions and we are all doing our best to fight for their freedom on every level. Each and every one of these efforts are possible because you enable us to be on the ground, in the field with the buffalo, seeing things from their perspective, being in the face of these agencies and knowing first-hand what is actually taking place. This is a centuries-old range war and there are many battles to fight. And you know what? We’re going to win. The buffalo are going to win.