* Update from the Field
A buffalo's massive head and the hump that supports it enables them to "crater" through snow to get to the life-sustaining grass below. Where snow is less deep, buffalo use less energy and have greater chances for survival. BFC file photo by Stephany.
This winter is already shaping up to be a very challenging one for America's last wild population of buffalo. Eight buffalo have been killed by Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribal hunters in the past week, bringing the total killed in the hunt to ten. State and federal agents have conducted two more hazing operations inside Yellowstone National Park's northern boundary.
In Gardiner, three bull buffalo we had been watching had their world drastically changed when one of them was shot Saturday afternoon. Staying close to their comrade's remains, the other two bulls were extremely vulnerable, and the following morning, one of them was also killed. The last one, left all alone with the ravens, vacated the area to try to live another day and perhaps seek the company of other buffalo. It broke our hearts to see him in the solitude he did not choose, and we can only hope he succeeded in finding more companions.
Park wranglers haze buffalo inside Yellowstone National Park. These nine bulls, tails up in signs of agitation, never left the boundary. BFC file photo by Stephany.
While the hunt is underway in the relative highlands east of the Yellowstone River, down on the west side of the river, hazing operations are underway. Inside Yellowstone a group of nine bulls were hazed by four Yellowstone park wranglers on Saturday morning. They never even migrated outside of the Park. On Wednesday morning another group of three bulls that had made it across the boundary were hazed back into Yellowstone by Park Service and MT Department of Livestock riders.
Near West Yellowstone, not far from the park boundary, buffalo have been killed in the hunt nearly every other day since Saturday. Three buffalo - a bull, a cow, and a yearling - were shot on Saturday. On Tuesday, BFC patrols confirmed two more cow buffalo killed, and yesterday one more buffalo was taken by a hunter. Blood-red, snow-white, and raven-black starkly contrast one another, painting the sorrowful portrait of the buffalo hunt.
The buffalo that have been killed in the hunt are a few of the very first to emerge from Yellowstone's high-elevation country. The buffalo that are first to migrate are important messengers and teachers for other herd members. These lead animals show the way, blazing the trail for others to follow. This migratory instinct should be protected, preserved, allowed to flourish, and to flow, if the footsteps of the buffalo are to carry their descendants into a healthy future.
A bull buffalo grazes the snow-covered vegetation just inside Yellowstone National Park. Wild buffalo must migrate to lower elevation habitat to survive the region's harsh winters. BFC file photo by Stephany.
Hunted, hazed, and with looming threats of capture and slaughter, governments continue to make decisions that damage the wild integrity of America's last wild buffalo, building a wall of bullets, traps, and domestication. Please speak out for wild buffalo. Fight for their right to roam their native lands and ensure their evolutionary potential as a wildlife species. Join BFC on the front lines and please apply endless pressure to decision-makers.
* Report from BFC on December IBMP Meetings
BFC's Darrell Geist documents as MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks Pat Flowers discusses the ill-fated Royal Teton Ranch land scheme that wild bison advocates view as the "Coridoor to Nowhere." BFC file photo by Stephany.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, BFC and other buffalo advocates attended December's Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) meetings. Tuesday involved a tour of the Gardiner basin and the beautiful Yellowstone River. More than sixty people were in attendance, including a group of High School students from Bozeman, MT, who asked some really informed questions. While there were some question-and-answer opportunities that enabled us to raise critical issues and ask the hard questions (most of which the agencies avoided answering), the IBMP partners used their time with us to tout their success in treating America's last wild buffalo like livestock. We visited the Royal Teton Ranch "Corridor-to-Nowhere," a small area of land which a mere 25 buffalo will have temporary access to, but only after they are captured, tested for exposure (antibodies) to brucellosis, collared and tagged. Adult females will be violated with fittings of radio telemetry devices. The electric fencing and cattle guards put in place for this land scheme are going to adversely impact many of the area's wildlife like big horn sheep, elk, and pronghorn antelope. The tour took us to the haunting facility of the Stephens Creek buffalo trap, located within Yellowstone National Park, where thousands of wild buffalo have been trapped, tortured and shipped to slaughter. Park officials confirmed the observation made by BFC representatives that certain actions carried out at the trap - holding buffalo during calving season, for example - increase the risk of brucellosis transmission from buffalo to buffalo. Not a few buffalo advocates encouraged Yellowstone to tear the trap down. Later, we ventured onto Gallatin National Forest lands, east of Yellowstone, where buffalo are hunted. We then traveled north of the Park in view of the Corwin Springs buffalo quarantine facility. With imprisoned buffalo behind double-electric fencing as the background, USDA-APHIS employee, Becky Frey, raved about their efforts to domesticate wild Yellowstone buffalo. In this part of the buffalo's homelands there are less than 40-head of cattle in the entire basin, and one of the landowners likes buffalo, while the other is willing to get help to improve fencing. Nothing should stand in the buffalo's way.
Some of the IBMP partners, from left to right: Tom McDonald, Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribe; Christina Kracher, InterTribal Buffalo Council; Montana Dept. of Livestock Inspector Shane Grube (background); Mary Erickson, Gallatin National Forest; Marty Zaluski, Montana State Vet; Brian McCluskey, W.Reg.Dir. USDA-APHIS, Christian Mackay, Executive Officer Montana Board of Livestock. BFC file photo by Stephany.
The next day we attended an all-day indoor meeting. The tone and topics reflected everyone's expectations for large migrations this coming winter. Most of the representatives pondered the increase of hunting opportunities in order to avoid another season of large-scale capture and slaughter. Buffalo advocates - and even a few representatives at the decision-making table-- argued strongly that increased killing is not necessary, as there is plenty of available habitat and buffalo only need be allowed to access it. Representing livestock interests, Montana state vet, Marty Zaluski, urged IBMP partners to agree on a population cap in order to prevent wild buffalo from migrating even in extreme winters. Zaluski claimed that the IBMP has been conserving buffalo because they've not gone below the 2,100 population threshold, claiming that this low population preserves genetics. Zaluski's uneducated push for a wild bison population cap was passionately challenged by Yellowstone National Park's supervisory wildlife biologist, P.J. White, who reminded Dr. Zaluski that regardless of the population, a significant snowfall could find all buffalo migrating to lower elevations, just like other wildlife. P.J. championed the buffalo with his argument that the buffalo's ecological role on the landscape, in addition to their unique genetics, are in need of conservation. He reminded Zaluski that tens of thousands of buffalo once roamed this area. Scorned, Zaluski later went so far as to suggest birth control for wild buffalo in order to decrease the population!
In sum, the IBMP agencies went around and around and really got nowhere. They remain stuck in a management paradigm of their own creation and by their actions--and lack of actions--the buffalo remain stuck in the box that is Yellowstone. We did see some brief glimmers of hope for the buffalo from Tribal participants, and finally from Yellowstone and even a little from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. But as Nez Perce tribal representative Brooklyn Baptiste said, talk at the table is one thing and actions on the ground quite another. During the brief public comment period, wild buffalo advocates gave strong testimony for our shaggy friends, restating our collective opposition to wild buffalo being treated like livestock, and underscoring the possibilities for buffalo because the habitat is there and the buffalo only need be able to access it. Please contact the IBMP partners and your Members of Congress and urge them to implement habitat-based solutions for wild buffalo now!
* Holiday Gift Idea: 2011 Wild Bison Calendars
The holiday season is upon us and 2011 is less than a month away! BFC has a wide array of gift items that make it possible for you to do your holiday shopping and support wild buffalo at the same time. In addition to our beautiful 2011 Wild Bison Calendar featuring the photos of BFC supporters and volunteers, we have a range of merchandise items including Kleen Kanteen stainless steel water bottles, "Room to Roam" tee shirts, beautiful note cards, jewelry, DVD's, bumper stickers and more. Order today!
Make a secure online donation to Buffalo Field Campaign Now!
* Last Words
"I'd be clear that [desire not to ship buffalo to slaughter has] been our position all along."
~ Brian McCluskey, Director, Veterinary Services, West Region Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at the 12/8/10 IBMP meeting
"Actions show differently."
~ Brooklyn Baptiste, Nez Perce Tribe in direct response to above comment made by Brian McCluskey.
Do you have submissions for Last Words? Send them to bfc-media"at"wildrockies.org. Thank you all for the poems, songs and stories you have been sending; you'll see them here!
* By the Numbers
AMERICAN BUFFALO ELIMINATED from the last wild population in the U.S.
2010-2011 Total: 10
2010-2011 Slaughter: 0
2010-2011 Hunt: 10
2010-2011 Quarantine: 0
2010-2011 Shot by Agents: 0
2010-2011 Highway Mortality: 0
2009-2010 Total: 7
2008-2009 Total: 22
2007-2008 Total: 1,631
Total Since 2000: 3,719*
*includes lethal government action, quarantine, hunts, highway mortality