I was born in the mountains on Blacktail Plateau. My family taught me how to live, what to eat, where to migrate with the change in seasons, and how to be a buffalo. My elders taught me how we buffalo share the burden of survival together, each playing our part.

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We walk in single file marching through deep snow taking turns breaking trail. When the lead buffalo tires, they step aside and let the rest keep moving. They’ll jump in at the tail end where it’s easier to tag along. After we make trail, all the four-leggeds can use it to help them survive winter.

As I grew older, I became the matriarch of my small herd. Being the lead Mom, I navigate and teach my family the ways of a buffalo. One day while I was out in the meadow eating grass, I felt a sharp pain in my rear end. Hours later, I woke with a strange thing fixed around my neck: the National Park Service had radio collared me. Now they can follow me too.

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As Spring arrives, the smell of fresh green grass wafts up the mountain. The temptation of nutritious food is hard to resist. The lure leads us down into the basin and into a trap set up by Yellowstone National Park. Before we know it, we’re all in it. As the humans begin moving my family to different chambers of the trap, they release me. For five days I circled looking for a way to get them out or to join my family again in the trap. I stood watching and crying as my family was separated with 14 members taken away for slaughter on horse trailers. The remainder of my small herd now lives behind fences, fed, watered, never to be free again. Some humans think this is better than death because they have never been wild and free.

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While I was mourning at the trap, another herd of 50 buffalo walked past me headed north. Once they reached Beattie Gulch on the National Forest, the shots rang out. Five buffalo were killed with the rest of the herd retreating fast. They came to me and welcomed me into their herd. In the buffalo world we are all family, and will always help each other.

As we walked back up the mountain I was once again part of the herd, safe with family. Buffalo momma has survived another winter in Yellowstone.

~ Mike Mease, co-founder Buffalo Field Campaign

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