buffalo field campaign yellowstone bison slaughter Buffalo Field Campaign
West Yellowstone, Montana
Working in the field every day to stop the
slaughter of Yellowstone's wild free roaming buffalo

Total Yellowstone
Buffalo Killed
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Yellowstone Bison Slaughter
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Yellowstone Bison Hunt
News & Information | Why we oppose | What you can do

“The killing by the state of Montana could threaten the future of this national symbol
and the biological integrity of the last wild herd”

~ Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, 1997

Press Release- 8/03/06
Bison Hunt Expanded by MT Fish, Wildlife, and Parks

Commission Approves 140 Permits; Ignores Public Comment & Agency Recommendations

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) Wildlife Division
Attn: Public Comment
P.O. Box 200701
Helena, MT 59620-0701
Email: fwpwld@mt.gov

Contact Gov. Brian Schweitzer today!

Phone: 406-444-3111
Fax: 406-444-5529
Email: BrianSchweitzer@mt.gov
Web: http://governor.mt.gov/contact/comments.asp
Mail: State Capitol, P.O. Box 200801, Helena, MT 59620-0801
News & Information:
Current BFC Press Releases
Video Footage from Opening Day
Photos from Opening Day
Buffalo Field Campaign Opinion-Editorial on the Hunt
Recent News Stories
If you are a media outlet and would like to join BFC in the field, an interview, or a press packet, please email bfc-media"at"wildrockies.org or call 406-646-0070

MONTANA'S BISON HUNT: The Latest Injustice
In addition to hazing, capturing, testing, slaughtering, quarantining, and humiliating America's last wild buffalo, this icon of the American West is now a victim of a "sport hunt" in Montana. By gunning them down as soon as they enter the state, Montana is refusing to consider the real possibility of a future for wild buffalo, a future in which they are not immediately killed or harassed in the state's gateway communities.The buffalo hunt was reinstated by Montana in November 2005 and is a direct result of political pressure from Montana's cattle industry, and is authorized by the Montana Department of Livestock. The managing agency, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP), has issued recommendations to expand the bison hunt for the '06-'07 season, doubling it from last year's 50 permits to 100.

The FWP Commission met in early August made the unfortunate decision to increase the number of bison hunt permits to an astounding 140 (Press Release- 8/03/06- Bison Hunt Expanded by MT Fish, Wildlife, and Parks).  With Montana's zero-tolerance for wild bison in the state, they are perpetually harassed, slaughtered and are ecologically extinct here; how can a hunt even be considered until wild bison are respected as a valued native wildlife species and allowed to fully recover their native Montana range?

Hunt Update 2006-2007:
FWP will issue 140 bison hunt permits for the Gardiner and West Yellowstone area combined. Ninety-five of these will be for either sex (bull or cow bison) and 45 will be specifically for cow or calf bison. The hunt is set to begin November 15, 2006 and last through February 15, 2007. There are no plans to expand bison habitat. The Department of Livestock (DOL) maintains authority over the hunt, meaning they can cancel it anytime to conduct hazing, capture and slaughter operations.

ATTN: HUNTERS! Do not be used as a tool in the DOL's bison eradication toolbox! Your voice can send a very powerful message to FWP that a hunt is not acceptable until wild bison are respected as wildlife and allowed to fully recover and naturally restore themselves throughout Montana. Tell FWP you oppose a bison hunt until buffalo are wild and free in Montana and the DOL is completely stripped of bison management authority.* All of the "Why BFC Opposses the Bison Hunt" text can stay the same.

Why BFC Opposes the Current Bison Hunt
The wild bison of the Greater Yellowstone Area are the last wild and genetically pure buffalo left in the country. The Buffalo Field Campaign opposes Montana's bison hunt because the state holds a zero-tolerance policy for wild bison. Bison are not considered a wildlife species by the state, are granted no habitat within Montana's borders, and are managed by the state's Department of Livestock. The Buffalo Field Campaign also questions the ethics of the bison hunt because buffalo do not give "fair chase" like deer or elk. Please read on for more in-depth information.

Part of the reason for the Buffalo Field Campaign's opposition to the current hunt is that buffalo aren't afforded any habitat within Montana's borders, not even on publicly owned lands. Once they step foot outside the borders of Yellowstone National Park and into Montana, they are treated like a nuisance animal and incessantly hazed, captured, and slaughtered.

In April 2000 the Executive Board of The Montana Chapter of The Wildlife Society passed a resolution stating: "Wild bison remain ecologically extinct in Montana." Montana has not allocated any habitat for Yellowstone's wild bison herd. The only exception being the Eagle Creek Special Management Area located within the Gallatin National Forest, adjacent to Yellowstone National Park, and this is precisely one area where buffalo are being gunned down.

Buffalo do not have access to habitat in the state, and are not even respected as a native wildlife species in Montana; they are aggressively “managed” by the MT Department of Livestock as a “nuisance animal in need of disease control.” Wild buffalo must be given the respect of being considered a recovered resident native wildlife species in Montana.

BFC’s position can be summed up in four words: no habitat, no hunt. We're not against hunting; we're against this hunt. Once buffalo have been allowed to establish a viable population within Montana, and once they are respected and valued as a wildlife species, then we can consider the possibility of a hunt. Further, Tribal consultation should be sought and treaty rights upheld before any hunt is considered.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks claims that hunters will be doing a service to the local communities by removing "problem" buffalo that are causing damage to private property and threatening human safety. Almost no property damage is caused by buffalo migrating into Montana with the exception of damage caused when DOL agents haze buffalo through people's fences on private property. Moreover, where the buffalo enter Montana, they have friends; the majority of private residents (See Update from the Field Nov. 25, 2004 Update) that live where the buffalo roam want them around, and would like the DOL and other government agents to cease and desist their bison harassment activities.

Another serious concern the BFC has regarding this hunt is that Montana's Department of Livestock (DOL), rather than Fish, Wildlife and Parks – the state’s wildlife management agency - is the agency authorizing the hunt. The goal of the DOL is to protect the livestock industry, and that comes at a high price: dead wolves, coyotes, buffalo - the list goes on. The current hunt sets the dangerous precedent of putting the DOL in charge of wild hunting buffalo. In the nine years that the DOL has had management authority over wild buffalo that migrate into Montana from Yellowstone National Park, nearly 3,000 buffalo have been killed, more than half the existing herd. Countless others have been hazed and captured by the DOL with significant consequences to the health of the herd and those individual buffalo.

The DOL has clearly demonstrated over the past decade that they are the wrong agency to manage buffalo or any wildlife species in any capacity. The current hunt sets a dangerous precedent for buffalo and all wildlife. The DOL should stick to managing and inspecting livestock, while buffalo management authority should be returned to Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Wild buffalo are native to Montana, yet they are ecologically extinct in the state today. Once an estimated 50 million buffalo roamed the vast landscape of North America, and today, the only wild and genetically pure population to continuously occupy its native range is the Yellowstone herd. But, Yellowstone National Park is too small (bison population fact sheet) for many wildlife species. Numerous animals must migrate from the high plateau of Yellowstone to locate winter and spring forage and calving grounds. Naturally, the wild buffalo, a migratory species, are no exception.

Buffalo must be considered a wildlife species managed by the FWP before any buffalo hunt is considered. Currently they are aggressively “managed” by the MT Department of Livestock as a “nuisance animal in need of disease control.”

The current hunt does not consider the real possibility of a future for wild Montana buffalo in which they are not killed in the gateway communities.

Montana likes to celebrate the image of the wild bison on our license plates and in gift shops, but where are the real animals? Vastly absent from their former range, in Montana, they are only found on ranches, fenced in preserves, quarantine facilities, slaughterhouses, or else shot in the field, hazed, captured, or killed after crossing imaginary boundaries. The Yellowstone herd is the last wild herd left in the country.

Buffalo Field Campaign believes the wild buffalo deserve a special place in Montana; we would like to see Montana recognize the wild bison as a native – and valued – wildlife species once again. Millions of tourists would come from far and wide, economically benefiting our state just to be in the presence of wild buffalo. Montana should be proud and honored to share the land with this symbol of the American spirit and icon of the West.

The country’s last wild buffalo will continue to suffer hazing, capture, test-and-slaughter, and will still be under the gun whenever they step foot outside Yellowstone National Park. Cattle have infected our wildlife with brucellosis (brucellosis fact sheet), and because of this buffalo suffer extremely harsh management tactics. Montana's beef/cattle industry (boycott the beef/cattle industry) has been holding wild buffalo prisoner for far too long, and we are determined to change the status quo. You can help.

This hunt in no way impacts the supposed threat of brucellosis transmission, the issue that drives the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP fact sheet). There has never even been a documented case of brucellosis transmission from wild buffalo to livestock. Ever.

“This canned hunt is just one more tool in the DOL’s buffalo eradication toolbox,” said BFC co-founder and subsistence hunter Mike Mease. “The livestock industry is using hunters to do its dirty work, and is once again ignoring the voice of the Indian people, hunters and the public. We will not support a hunt until buffalo are respected as a wildlife species in Montana, and are allowed to establish a strong, thriving herd within the state. It’s simple: No habitat, no hunt.”

Regardless of one’s position on hunting, bison differ greatly from deer and elk. Bison evolved to stand and face their predators, while deer and elk evolved to flee (what’s termed by hunters as “fair chase”). Many people – hunters and non-hunters alike – compare shooting a buffalo to shooting a parked car, or a couch. The element of fair chase is non-existent.

Yellowstone buffalo are used to tens of thousands of Park tourists each year and they are not afraid of humans with guns. Gun-bearers will have no trouble walking right up to a buffalo and blast it with a high-powered rifle right at the Park border. The only time buffalo flee from humans is when the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) chases them with snowmobiles, ATVs, helicopters, and horses. Now they want to shift some of the blame to hunters.

Governor Brian Schweitzer, and some proponents of the hunt, claim that next year, after this hunt, the buffalo will become "wilder." They are already wild; they just don’t run from humans. A case in point is that over the 9 years that the DOL has been chasing bison with snowmobiles, helicopters, ATVs and horses, the bison remain unafraid of humans.

The wild buffalo of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are the last genetically pure remnant of the vast populations that once migrated freely throughout the Great Plains, from Mexico to Canada, Florida to Alaska. Buffalo Field Campaign’s vision is to ensure that this unique herd shall flourish in as much of its natural and historic range as possible – forever. Our purpose and intent is to protect and preserve the Yellowstone bison from harm – also forever.

Buffalo are a uniquely American icon, a fact made apparent by the presence of their image on countless Montana highway signs and license plates, on the insignia of the National Park
Service, the U.S. Department of Interior, and on the signs and windows of countless businesses.
The remaining wild buffalo need lasting protection to preserve their ecological genetic, cultural, aesthetic, and spiritual significance. We envision a new Montana in which wild buffalo are recognized and managed as native wildlife and treated as an asset rather than a liability.
Please browse our web site for more in-depth information about the issue, including fact sheets, video clips, words from our volunteers, press releases, and more. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding our work for the last wild buffalo in America.

Please let Governor Schweitzer know you oppose the hunt and the current management scheme responsible for the harassment, death and confinement of America's last wild buffalo.   Governor Schweitzer has said that buffalo will enjoy more tolerance in Montana. In his statements, Schweitzer said that the DOL is "ill-equipped" to manage wild buffalo for the State of Montana. To date, Montana's only response to this has been the reinstatement of a bison hunt. Governor Schweitzer is listening, but it will take endless pressure, endlessly applied to stop the current harm to our last wild buffalo. Please call, write, fax or visit Montana's Governor and urge him to stop the hunt and give wild buffalo lasting protection in Montana today! If you are a Montanan, please say so; if you are from outside Montana, please let the Governor know that you will not spend one more dime in Montana until wild buffalo are treated with respect here.

Phone: 406-444-3111
Fax: 406-444-5529
Web: http://governor.mt.gov/contact/comments.asp
Mail: State Capitol, P.O. Box 200801, Helena, MT 59620-0801

Please also continue to let Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) know you oppose this hunt for all the reasons mentioned here, as well as your own.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP)
Wildlife Division
Attn: Public Comment
P.O. Box 200701
Helena, MT 59620-0701. 
Email: fwpwld@mt.gov

1. No habitat, no hunt! Wild buffalo must be provided year-round habitat in Montana, the opportunity to restore themselves and establish a viable population within the state before a hunt can be considered. If they insist on a hunt, suggest that FWP increase the bison hunt application fee, with at least $15 from each application going towards the purchase of Montana bison habitat.

2. No Department of Livestock (DOL)! Though FWP crafts the regulations of the hunt, the DOL remains the authorizing agency and - as we witnessed this year - can cancel the hunt to harass and slaughter buffalo. The DOL should stick with inspecting and managing cattle, and should have no dealings in any aspects of wildlife management. FWP must strengthen their backbones and demand the DOL's authority be revoked.

3. If FWP insists on a hunt, it must be as fair as possible. To prevent hunters from hovering at the border of the national park, suggest FWP create a buffer zone of *at least* 1/2 a mile from Yellowstone's boundary. Also, demand that they forbid hunters from shooting buffalo on Dale Koelzer's property, the site of the Duck Creek bison trap and the agents' bison harassment headquarters in West Yellowstone.

4. Tell FWP that you expect them to better educate hunters on the behavior of wild buffalo. Buffalo will mourn their fallen brothers and sisters, and if a hunter insists on killing a buffalo, they must respect them enough to give them the opportunity to do this. Hunters should be forbidden to harass mourning buffalo and must refrain from throwing rocks or other objects at them.

5. Wild buffalo must be classified - year round - as a native wildlife species. Currently, wild buffalo hold a dual status in Montana. During hunting season they are classified as both "an animal in need of disease control" and also a "game species." As natives to all of Montana, buffalo should be permanently classified, respected and valued as a native wildlife species.

6. Question FWP about whether this hunt, given the lack of fear bison have toward humans, can meet the state's legal requirement of "fair chase," and if FWP genuinely believes that the bison will become more skittish around humans in time, how will that behavior change affect the ability of millions of tourists to enjoy the bison in Yellowstone National Park, and why hasn't FWP ever evaluated that potential impact in any of its hunt documents?

Please include your own thoughts, ideas and feelings. Remind FWP that the Yellowstone bison herd is the last wild herd left in the country and that as such, it deserves protection, not more persecution. If you are a hunter, your voice has a special place in these discussions; wild buffalo need you to advocate for their right to roam free and restore themselves on all available habitat prior to any hunt.

Please also write a Letter to the Editor to help shed light on the buffalo’s plight.

Thank you for helping to protect the last wild buffalo in America!

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