By Stephany Seay, Media Coordinator 

Yellowstone Bison CalfA newborn calf curious about his admirers.
Photo by Stephany, Buffalo Field Campaign.

Buffalo moms are bringing more calves into to the world every day!  We are pleased to report that buffalo mothers and their newborns had a peaceful Mother’s Day, as we hope you did.  

There has been only one hazing event this spring. Usually by this time of year buffalo have been hazed over and over and over, with May 15th being the date when Montana livestock interests wanted all buffalo forcibly removed from Montana.  

But with more land available to buffalo in Montana, until buffalo start to explore habitat outside of the tolerance zone, hazing will thankfully be a rare occurrence.  

Yellowstone buffalo enjoying year round habitat.Buffalo enjoying year-round habitat.
Photo by Stephany, Buffalo Field Campaign.

We also have some more good news to share: the buffalo have a little bit more year-round habitat than we had originally thought. After comparing the maps and language in the Governor’s decision, we noticed conflicting information. The map indicated that the buffalo were blocked from accessing lands south of the Madison River, while the language indicated they could be there, just not west of the South Fork of the Madison, which is about nine miles west of Yellowstone’s boundary. The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks confirmed that map is wrong, and buffalo are allowed to be on more land than previously thought.  

Yellowstone Bison Roaming FreeRoaming free on lands where once they were brutally hazed from.
Photo by Stephany, Buffalo Field Campaign.

The buffalo in Montana’s Hebgen Basin right now are making the most of their new-found peace, as are BFC patrols.  Our main focus continues to be along the highways, helping buffalo and motorists stay safe, and keeping an eye on the local Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) stock inspectors, who, in turn, are also keeping an eye on the buffalo. The DOL must be bored in not being able to abuse buffalo as, on more than one occasion they have tried to get our attention by falsely claiming to be shooting cracker rounds (explosives fired from shotguns) at buffalo, but we are with the buffalo every day, and are aware of where they are and that they are currently safe.  

Yellowstone Bison YearlingA yearling with family members near the Madison River.
Photo by Stephany, Buffalo Field Campaign.

Our main concern right now is that there are so few buffalo in the Hebgen Basin. This area is usually teeming with hundreds of buffalo, sometimes from 400 to 600, but in the past few weeks our patrols have been able to count fewer than two hundred buffalo. We have run a number of recons into Yellowstone, looking in places suggested by Yellowstone’s bison biologist and other areas that we know the Central herd uses at different times of year, but we are finding very few. A winter-kill assessment has yet to be conducted, and Yellowstone isn’t expected to complete their population estimate until later in the summer. This estimate is always suspect because it is part of what drives the Interagency Bison Management Plan’s politically driven kill quotas.  

We will continue to work to determine the status of the population and proceed from there. If the population is in as rough shape as it appears to be, there can be no argument against an absolute cease-fire.  

Wild is the Way ~ Roam Free! 
~ Stephany