* Update from the Field
Dear Buffalo Friends,
The slaughter of the sacred American buffalo has begun
and is on the rise. Thank you to everyone who has been
calling Yellowstone Superintendent Suzanne Lewis and
holding her accountable for these atrocious actions.
We apologize for sending so many emails to you during
this difficult time, but it is critical that everyone
knows what is happening and what they can do. We are
underway with our Week of Action (see below) and will
continue to contact various decision-makers involved
with the harassment and slaughter of these beautiful
Here is today's press release about the Week of Action
and the increased buffalo slaughter by Yellowstone National
As of this writing, Yellowstone National Park has captured
169 of America's last wild buffalo from the Park's northern
boundary up near Gardiner. So far, Yellowstone park
officials have sent 127 buffalo to slaughter. 44 buffalo
were sent to slaughter facilities this morning, including
the 17 calves that were going to be sent to the Corwin
Springs quarantine research facility, also known as
buffalo domestication prison. The agents failed to renew
their permit to use the Phase I facility. So, rather
than going to domestication prison, they go to slaughter.
Live free or die.
Ten more buffalo have been killed in the so-called hunt
this week, bringing that kill total to 112. In less
than a week, Yellowstone National Park has killed more
buffalo than the three month-long hunt has.
In West Yellowstone, on top of everything else, buffalo
have been having a very difficult time with the snow
pack. The snow is really deep, and we've been seeing
some buffalo eating food they do not normally eat such
as pine needles, sage and rabbit brush. These are basically
starvation foods holding little, if any, nutritional
value, but may help the buffalo's bellies feel full.
The snow banks along the side of the highways are very
difficult for the buffalo to get over, yet they are
the only places where the buffalo are finding exposed
grass to eat. The buffalo have been getting stuck on
the highways and unable to get off the road. But, thanks
to your help in getting the traffic warning equipment,
we have been able to safely alert motorists to the buffalo's
presence on the roads. It's been really sad to see them
try to find a way off the road, but every possible exit
gets blocked by snowmobiles or tourists in cars who
pull over to take pictures, probably exacerbating the
buffalo's trouble this winter.
Not a few times we've seen buffalo so exhausted that
they are just bedding down in the middle of the road.
We've been trying to break trails for them through the
snowbanks, but they don't seem to want to use them because
they don't have the scent of buffalo. We have been running
night roves nearly every night, warning traffic. Unfortunately,
a few nights ago, three buffalo calves were killed by
one vehicle. The driver never even stopped. These calves
were part of a family group of about 11 buffalo. After
the calves were killed, seven of the buffalo ran up
the highway towards the airport, and one, beautiful
two-year-old bull was separated, and frantically running
up and down the highway looking for his family. His
terror is something we cannot even imagine, and something
that will stay in my mind forever. It was heart wrenching
to watch him go through this nightmare in the dark,
with flashing lights and impatient motorists, and him
running and running just looking for his family not
knowing where to go or how to get away from all the
vehicles and noise. In the end, Montana Fish, Wildlife
& Parks game warden, Jim Smolzinsky arrived to help
escort the bull to the airport road to re-join his family.
Patrols in West Yellowstone have also been seeing Montana
Department of Livestock (DOL) agents plowing the Duck
Creek bison trap, and we know that the agents intend
to set up the trap on the Horse Butte Peninsula this
year. The Horse Butte trap has not been used since the
2003-2004 season, after it was occupied and shut down
for a week by buffalo activist Akiva Silver. The Interagency
Bison Mismanagement Plan is supposed to be an adaptive
plan, and since Horse Butte is now 100% cattle-free
year-round, there is no excuse for the DOL to bother
the buffalo on this landscape. But these agencies are
not interested in adaptations that benefit the buffalo;
so far the changes they have made include hunting, quarantining
and vaccinating. DOL agents were seen today reconning
the area on snowmobiles, looking for buffalo and getting
ready for their season of harassment and death. The
state's hunt ends at sunset on Friday, and as soon as
Saturday, hazing, capture and slaughter could begin
here along the Park's western boundary.
All of this is pointing to a very long and difficult
season for our friends the buffalo. They need your voice
now more than ever. Please take every possible action
and tell everyone you know what is happening to America's
last wild buffalo and what they can do to help. Remember,
we were able to stop the slaughter of 300 buffalo last
spring, and we can make a difference for them now. Thank
* Week of Action Begins Today!
Our Week of Action begins today, starting with the national
call-in day targeting Yellowstone Superintendent Suzanne
Lewis. Please be sure to pick up the phone and dial
307-344-2002 and tell her
to stop the slaughter now! If you live out of the country,
you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be advised that the Park has told us they get so many
emails about the buffalo that they ignore them. This
is a public agency choosing to ignore the public, but
willing to use your tax dollars to do the dirty work
of the livestock industry.
A special alert went out this morning which includes
talking points and phone numbers for calling Yellowstone.
Tomorrow, we will send out another special alert and
will target National Park Service Director Mary Bomar,
Suzanne's boss. Her number is 202-208-4621.
The Humane Society of the U.S., the Animal Welfare Institute,
In Defense of Animals, and the Gallatin Wildlife Association
are all helping with these call-in days and we appreciate
their help more than we can say.
On Saturday, Buffalo Field Campaign will hold a rally
at the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park here
in West Yellowstone. We will hold a demonstration, provide
information, and act out street theatre, all to draw
attention to Yellowstone's role in the slaughter of
an American icon.
After Saturday's rally, the national call-in days will
continue again on Tuesday through Thursday, February
As part of our Week of Action we also strongly encourage
you to write Letters to the Editor of your local, regional
and national news papers. Information on the Week of
Action, including talking points for call-in days and
writing letters to the editor can be viewed at http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/weekofaction08.html.
It is so shameful and completely outrageous that the
very agency that should be protecting this national
treasure is having - once again - such a heavy hand
in killing them. Yellowstone is more concerned with
the economic interests of Montana's livestock industry
than they are with protecting the wildlife in their
care. They must be held accountable for these actions
and we have to keep the pressure on them to stop the
slaughter and defend America's last wild buffalo.
Thank you so very much for participating. Please spread
the word to help save these herds!
* Personal Experience on the Front Lines in
Walking through the playground of rocks, stepping around
some, over some, I saw Dru in a grassy area ahead. He
was lying on his stomach filming three giant bull buffalo.
At the time, the three were grazing, eating mouthfuls
of yellow grasses and slowly walking around the rocks
and trees. I approached Dru, still lying in the winter
grass, and sat down beside him. I was facing Yellowstone
Park, my back towards the Church Universal Triumphant
Ranch. It felt like spring, even though it was the middle
of February. The sun was out and the air was chilly,
but tolerable and beautiful. Dru and I sat in the grass
with these bulls for close to an hour, just watching
them and filming little bits and pieces of one of their
last days alive.
As I sit here writing a few days later, I'm facing and
squinting into the sun again. There are buffalo a little
farther down the road. This is the calm part of the
Gardiner day; they transported four horse trailers of
buffalo to slaughter this morning as the sun rose and
the mountains turned blue, then pink, then the color
of earth... "Another forty-four," the park
ranger told us. The buffalo I'm watching right now -
like all of the buffalo of the past two weeks - will
probably wander North in the next few hours. It is more
than likely that they will be hazed or captured this
afternoon or tomorrow. That same ranger told Dru and
me that the time of day determines whether the buffalo
will be captured or hazed.
If you are reading this now, you are probably already
familiar with the events of the past two weeks, of the
hazes, captures, and slaughters. Hazing is futile because
the buffalo walk right back out of the park to find
food, and we were essentially told by a park ranger
that they haze in the late afternoon in hopes that the
buffalo will not get near the cattle until the next
day, when there is then time to capture. Capture and
slaughter are cruel, wasteful, and wrong.
"We know they will at least be hazed this afternoon,
Miriam," Dru said as he turned off the camera.
"I feel like we should document and honor what
is left of their existence."
Earlier that day Dru filmed a few little yearlings bouncing
around and playing. It felt especially meaningful because
we were watching individual buffalo, and not only talking
about bison management and treatment as it pertains
to buffalo as a whole. The world felt alive as those
three bulls walked by us, dust from the earth was kicked-up,
the thud of their hooves against the ground.
What is happening out here is horrible. These buffalo
are not going to stop coming out of the park to find
food. The hazing and capture will not cease any time
soon. Watching a group of buffalo walk north, knowing
they will be slaughtered, is anything but easy. So much
of what we report from the field is about negative things,
and what you may not get to hear about are the moments
like the one described above. I suppose I feel it is
important to write about sitting with the bulls because
it was a break from the frustrations and difficulties
of buffalo politics. It was an hour of time when Dru
and I could watch the buffalo living, when we could
document something other than death. It was incredible,
they are so big and majestic, and they were so close.
It felt right to capture and honor their existence on
tape because we have so much sad footage from these
past two weeks, and something about that did not sit
well. We knew it was only a matter of time before they
were hazed (which they were later that afternoon) but
in the mean time we could enjoy their presence. We could
sit with them, imagining what it would be like if wild
animals were prioritized over domestic cattle, or if
those cattle were enclosed by unbroken and strong fences,
and the buffalo were not contained in the National Park
like animals in a zoo. It was an hour of life that was
beautiful, and I was reminded again why I am out here,
and why I care so much about these creatures. Management
policies and practices loomed over our heads as they,
and a group behind them, were walking north towards
the Capture Facility. I think the energy to stand with
buffalo and document their persecution comes from experiences
like this, from connections made by positive interactions
and time spent with them. This story is not unique,
and my reason for sharing it is not profound; I simply
wanted to write about this particular hour because I
think we need to remember the good in order to endure
the bad. And I think buffalo supporters who are unable
to physically stand in the field with the buffalo should
hear about the incredulity of spending time with buffalo,
and about revering their presence or honoring their
* Yellowstone Bison Slaughter a Sham
Guest Commentary: George Wuerthner's "On the Range"
Appearing in New West - the Voice of the Rocky Mountains
A must-read, most excellent editorial piece by a strong
friend of wildlife and wildlands.
* Photo of the Week
Wild buffalo huddle together on a frigid winter day
in Yellowstone Village, private lands on the cattle-free
Horse Butte peninsula. Photo by BFC Volunteer Anne Marie
* Last Words
There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time
they can seem invincible, but in the end they always
fall. Think of it - always."