It all started with a buffalo ornament I was given in high school. I couldn’t tell you exactly why, but just before or after buffalos were deemed my favorite animal. Their giant stature and majestic spirit made me fall in love with the buffalo. I saw my first buffalo in person in the Fall of 2021 on my first visit to Yellowstone National Park when I got caught up in my first buffalo jam! It was magical to watch a herd of 50 buffalo slowly walking around a line of cars filled with awestruck people inches away. I was moved to tears. I had never experienced something like it.

Two people from a side profile seen laughing in the backseat of a Honda Odyssey; through the windshield, two buffalo can be faintly seen
Two people from a side profile seen laughing in the backseat of a Honda Odyssey; through the windshield, two buffalo can be faintly seen.

Shortly after visiting Yellowstone, I looked into opportunities to be close to the buffalo again in a respectful, purposeful way, which led me to the Buffalo Field Campaign. BFC’s web page became an open tab on my phone for the next two years. Every so often looking through the site, researching and learning more about the government’s cruel mismanagement of the buffalo. Craving action and change, I finally applied to volunteer and, a few months later, found myself back in Montana for two weeks.

Hebgen basin is a scenic beauty. My first night in camp I spent looking up at all of the stars in the sky, a stark contrast to the polluted city skyscape I was used to in Los Angeles and my recent travels through European cities.

bfc update 2024 02 29 buffalo in Yellowstone Oct 2021

A male bison is seen off a paved road surrounded by trees in the background.

My second day at camp began with a rookie run, driving along all the patrol spots, looking for the buffalo that were nowhere in sight. I then learned how to ski: a rewarding experience of falling and getting up again.

My days have been filled with hearing stories and the history of the campaign, the heroic efforts of staff and past volunteers to help our furry friends find safe passage, fighting for their right to roam free. Ski patrols around Duck Creek or the East Side Bluffs ending with a hot cup of BFC’s own coffee blend, Roam Free Roast (by Coffalo Coffee). Afternoons reading from the jam-packed bookshelves, talking with the other volunteers, writing out thank you cards for you, the generous donors of the campaign. Evenings watching movies. Every day is an adventure and an opportunity to learn something new.

A few days ago, we drove to Gardiner into Yellowstone Park through Lamar Valley where we reunited with our beloved friends: three bulls grazing on grasses beneath the light snow near Tower station. Further into the valley, more and more herds came into sight. Along the way, we found ourselves in three different buffalo jams. One of my favorite moments was listening to the clack of their hooves on the road, watching as they made their way following each other, and seeing the other people enjoy the view of the roaming buffalo.

bfc update 2024 02 29 Buffalo Jam

3 buffalo are seen on the edge of a paved road with 3 buffalo further back alongside a few passing cars.

I am so privileged and forever grateful to have finally closed that open tab on my phone and to be volunteering with the Buffalo Field Campaign. I’m already plotting when I can return and help support BFC’s mission to stop the government’s harassment and slaughter of Yellowstone’s wild buffalo herds. If you have ever thought about volunteering or getting involved in any capacity, I will steal a line from one of the movies we recently watched and tell you, “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys.”

~ BFC Volunteer Valerie