One of my favorite patrols we do at Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) is warning traffic the buffalo are crossing highways to reach their spring calving grounds in Hebgen Basin. This direct action of helping people and facilitating safe passages for migrating buffalo is a community-based effort.

We’ve spent many years working with Montana’s Department of Transportation to set up additional signs and reduced speeds to slow traffic down. We’ve collaborated with officers from the Montana Highway Patrol, Gallatin County Sheriff, West Yellowstone Police, and local residents. Together, we’ve saved the lives of many buffalo.

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BFC’s night patrols are really important. Buffalo are hard to see at night. Our signs alerting traffic, and presence along the highways in Hebgen Basin has been very effective. It brings joy to my heart each time we create space for buffalo to safely cross the highways. Even a few locals, who I know do not support BFC, thanked us for possibly saving their lives because of our field work. The sad truth is, it does not always work, and Sunday night was one of those nights.

We had signs up for four herds grazing along highways 287 and 191 warning traffic from both directions of buffalo on the road. As the sun set, three of the herds bedded down for the night in a place as safe as they could be.

We left signs overnight in case these herds got up to move. We continued to warn traffic for seven mother buffalo still on the go. Despite our efforts, the local sheriff’s vehicle collided with a mom. She would not have survived her injuries and had to be shot. He was heartbroken as he has saved so many buffalo for over 20 years by ticketing people for speeding at night, slowing traffic with flashing lights, and helping BFC shepherd buffalo away from the highways. He also was the one who had to shoot the severely injured buffalo among the 13 that were hit by a semi-truck last season.

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To see a man that has done so much to protect both human and buffalo lives be involved in a vehicle collision with a buffalo, is a sign of how hard this problem continues to be without the infrastructure we need in place for all wildlife to safely cross the highways.

Through the hard work of wildlife biologist Jackson Doyel, BFC is conducting road ecology research and networking with many groups, locals, and government entities through the West Yellowstone Wildlife Crossing Coalition to realize our essential work of creating safe passages. You can help by taking a brief wildlife crossing survey. Every response is another step towards safe passage for all.

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These losses are hard on all of us at BFC. I am thankful most nights end in a positive way. The real benefits resulting from our presence in the field is what keeps me doing this work to honor the buffalo, from sunrise to sunset.

With the Buffalo,
Mike Mease

Over the weekend, a vehicle hit one of our “Buffalo on Road” signs destroying it and the post it was attached to. These signs are a key tool BFC uses to save the buffalo through our presence in the field.

Please help by making a donation so we have plenty of signs to deploy along the highways. Thank you!