2018 12 06 01 001 Update1 BFC StephanySeay photo
BFC’s gear coordinator, Greg Marin, looks for buffalo miles within Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.

Things have been really quiet in the field so far this season. There are currently no wild buffalo in Montana, and no sign that they intend to migrate this way anytime soon. We haven’t seen too many hunters, either, but that’s not a surprise because all they have to do is call Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks “buffalo hunt hotline” to know when buffalo are out of the Park, and where they are located. Hard to call it a “hunt” when everything is handed right to you like that. Our patrols are nevertheless going out every day, all day, checking migration corridors and keeping an eye — via spotting scopes — on a handful of bulls who remain miles inside of Yellowstone National Park and give no indication that they intend to move. We have a great crew of new and returning volunteers right now and more people are scheduled to arrive this week. It’s great for us to be able to take advantage of this quiet time to help the new volunteers really get to know the landscape and learn how to get around on skis, so that when things do get heated, we’re ready to roll.

2018 12 06 01 002 Update2 BFC

We are only able to be here because of you. We owe you huge thanks for helping us not just meet, but far exceed our matching grant! Our goal was to raise $15,000 to match the extremely generous donation made by our awesome Advisory Board member, Thia Martin. You all really came through and we ended up raising more than $25,000! Way to go! This money will go extremely far to keep us in the field with the buffalo, and fighting for them at the policy level and in the courts, especially with our Endangered Species Act petition. The insanity of the decisions made and discussed by the Interagency Bison Management Plan partners makes it clear that federal protection under the ESA is the only thing that is going to help these gentle giants survive into the future and realize their evolutionary potential.

2018 12 06 01 003 Update3 BFC StephanySeay photo
Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.

As we reported last week, the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) is requesting a new permit so that, if they choose to, they can put up their villainous buffalo trap on Horse Butte again. That trap has not been on the landscape since it was last occupied by an activist in 2008, and the old trap site was declared sacred ground in 2009 by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th generation keeper of the Lakota white buffalo calf pipe. Horse Butte is also in the heart of the buffalo’s year-round habitat, where they are allowed to be at any time, and, save for hunting, are free from hazing and other harassment. We can only surmise that the DOL has grown bored because they aren’t allowed to be out harassing and harming buffalo like they used to do, so perhaps their desire to have a permit for the trap is a way to make them feel like they are still involved. It will be the decision of the Gallatin National Forest to issue this permit or not, and if they do, we will fight it by any and all means necessary.

The imperiled Central herd would be the ones who are impacted by this trap, and with fewer than 1,100 remaining, they are in such dire straights that not only Yellowstone, but now Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks are recommending no hunting in the Hebgen Basin. (See article - Some tribes have concerns about proposed bison hunting closure near West Yellowstone, Helena Independent Record.) west of the Park, where only Central herd members migrate. The tribes currently hunting under treaty right are not as enthusiastic about this potential hunt closure, though some do support it as an to give the Central herd buffalo a chance to recover from years of indiscriminate slaughter. But, until buffalo start to move into this Basin, we will not know if everyone will agree to this recommended (and temporary) hunt closure. One thing we do know, however, is that it is entirely unfair and unjust for Yellowstone National Park to recommend the closure — placing the conservation burden on indigenous hunters in particular — while they intend to press forward with their capture-for-slaughter plans in the Gardiner Basin. They know full well that Central herd buffalo also migrate into the Gardiner Basin with Northern herd members, but they have no idea how many of these buffalo they will be killing once the trap opens. BFC fully supports a hunt closure to protect the Central herd, and we even more fully support the shutting down of Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek buffalo trap which has taken more buffalo lives than any hunters ever have.

2018 12 06 01 004 Update4 BFC StephanySeay photo
On a recon patrol. BFC volunteer coordinator, Jaedin Medicine Elk, takes a short break to admire the trees burned in a natural fire two years ago. Buffalo and fire go together, because when an area burns, the following spring brings incredibly nutritious grasses. We thought to search for buffalo here, but, while we saw the tracks of many other wild others, we found no sign of buffalo using this area. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.

If all of this news is making you ache to join us on the front lines, there’s no time like the present! Visit our volunteer page to learn more about becoming a BFC volunteer and to fill out our easy application. Volunteering with BFC is extremely rewarding; in addition of having the honor of standing in defense of the country’s last wild buffalo, you get to be out in one of the most intact, wild landscapes left in the lower-48 states, meet incredible people from all over the country and around the world, and you will learn skills that will not only make you a more confident person, but could also save your life. Everyone who has come here to stand with the buffalo has had life-changing experiences. Not only can you become a better human being, but you will be doing work to serve something much larger than yourself. If the buffalo are calling you, make the choice to answer them. See you on the front lines!