Long-time BFC Volunteer Mackenzie Bergthaler recently completed an extended stay at BFC Headquarters, including a stint in Gardiner, before returning to Austria where she lives with her husband. She wanted to share some parting thoughts with all of you, and we're happy to oblige her:
I started volunteering for the Buffalo Field Campaign in May 2015. What started out as a 3 week commitment quickly turned into quitting my job back in Massachusetts and immersing myself in the life changing experiences of working with America’s last wild bison.
Due to immense pressure from the Montana Department of Livestock, the treatment of wild bison has been very poor to say the least, and frankly disrespectful. Although I have witnessed the capture and shipping of bison to slaughter multiple times, it still truly shocks me that Yellowstone National Park is capturing and shipping America’s last wild bison to slaughter!
Let me be clear, a national park is capturing and shipping America’s national mammal to slaughter! This is not due to overpopulation, this is due to a politically made up number that is easier to control.
Every day the courage and strength of this magnificent animal is put to the test by unjust management protocols. Just in the last few weeks I have witnessed bison shipped to slaughter, gunned down by hunters (where there is a gut pile every 5ft) and harassed. With all that these bison face, I am in awe when I witness the love that continuously pours out of these majestic beings. I’ve watched these bison mourn their relatives. I saw a single female buffalo stand off two hunters with guns just so she could lay down and mourn the loss of her child. I watched as a whole herd faced their families killers. They all refused to leave until they could pay their final respects to their fallen loved ones.
The bison want to live in reciprocity with our species — this, too, I have witnessed first-hand. There is a sacred relationship there waiting to be renewed. But with the current, failed management plan still in effect, it makes it impossible to reciprocate what these bison provide for the people. Indigenous people especially need this relationship with the bison, their relatives. This is not only an animals rights issue — it is a human rights issue.
The bison take care of the land and the people and with the right principles the people can return this sacred care. Wild bison need to be back on the landscape and they need as much help as we can give them to roam free.
There is a long history of violence towards bison in this colonized world. So the path to reconciliation can seem daunting at times. But with the strength and courage of the mighty wild buffalo we can accomplish this. Through outreach, education, and standing in solidarity with the buffalo this dream can become a reality.
Volunteering with the Buffalo Field Campaign has taught me this.
The buffalo continue to require as much support as we can give them. If you have the time or resources, please consider showing your support in whatever way you can so that these bison and their future generations can once again roam free across their native landscape.
Let the buffalo roam!
From all of us here at BFC: THANK YOU, Mackenzie!
Your presence with us and with the Buffalo under trying circumstances was truly inspiring and kinda fun! We'll miss you and look forward to your eventual return.