In the midst of the sorrow of losing close to three hundred wild buffalo to Yellowstone's trap and boundary-line hunting, a profoundly tragic event has set upon our buffalo family: our dear brother, Anthony “Tony” Birkholz, has left this world at age 31. His death was sudden and unexpected, hitting us like a heavy punch to the gut. Our sunken hearts are swimming through shock and disbelief. Once we are able to gather our composure through the tears, we will offer a righteous tribute to this most amazing, inspiring, and deeply loved human being. Tony was a true believer in and contributor to the work of Buffalo Field Campaign. He was always there for and with us, either in person or just a phone call away. For nearly a decade, working most closely with Mike Mease and Stephany Seay, he helped and inspired us in more ways than we can count, as an advisor, artist, videographer, and so much more. Tony held those he loved close, and he left this world with buffalo fur in both hands. He would never want us to lose focus on our work in our deep grief for his passing, so we press on, in celebration of his life and our collective love for the buffalo and all who are wild and free. We know he will be helping us now from the Other Side. Here is a beautiful write-up from one of Tony’s closest friends, which also aims to raise funds to help with his memorial, and, true to Tony’s generous heart, any remaining money will benefit Buffalo Field Campaign. 


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Close to three hundred wild buffalo have been eliminated from the country’s last continuously wild population. Gardiner patrols report at least 141 buffalo in Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek trap, and hunters have killed more than 150 buffalo along Yellowstone’s north and west boundaries. The buffalo migrating across the north boundary are bearing the brunt of the kill, as hundreds more buffalo tend to migrate to these much lower elevation lands during the winter, where if they aren’t killed by hunters along the Park boundary, they are threatened with being captured inside Yellowstone’s trap. At least on the west side, in the Hebgen Basin, while not immune to being killed by hunters, buffalo have half a chance, as the deep snows can make accessing buffalo difficult for hunters and there are private lands where buffalo are welcome and safe. If they do return to Yellowstone, there is no trap awaiting them on the western boundary.


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Many days are extremely difficult for patrols, as we witness and document buffalo being gunned down when they step across Yellowstone’s boundary, or being lured into a trap where they are destined for slaughter, for the sole purpose of appeasing Montana’s cattle industry. Capturing buffalo can also increase hunting pressure, as hunters feel they are at once in a race against the trap and in competition with each other. This often results in buffalo being hazed back into Yellowstone by hunter’s rifles, and it is very rare that the buffalo are ever able to make it through this gauntlet into other areas of  their Gardiner Basin habitat. Our presence and documentation are making a difference here, as we are able to demonstrate the deadly ping pong game the buffalo are victims of on this very crowded landscape. As a result, there have been a few significant hunting closures put in place, and we are helping to force the conversations that will allow many more buffalo on a much larger landscape. Tribal hunters in particular are growing increasingly opposed to Yellowstone’s capture operations, as well as the canned hunting in which they are forced to participate, so these conversations are starting to grow some meaningful teeth that will benefit wild buffalo on the land. Sometimes the small areas available for hunting entice other hunters to attempt to get away with illegal acts - this is another extremely critical reason for our field presence.  When hunters know we are watching, they are very careful. Earlier this week, a state hunter was not so careful, but BFC was on it. He was looking to kill a buffalo in a group which was on land that is closed to hunting, and when he was approached by patrols he wanted to argue that he was in the right. With video camera in hand, coupled with our knowledge of the land and the laws, patrols were ultimately able to thwart the kill and saved a buffalo’s life. 


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Three hundred buffalo taken from a very small and vulnerable population of an ecologically extinct keystone species is 300 too many to lose, but if Yellowstone and Montana have their way, another thousand of our national mammals could be lost forever by human means. Please help us stop stop the slaughter (Take Action) by urging Governor Bullock to end the reign of Montana's livestock lobby, which continues to play deadly political games with this sacred, keystone species. Please also call Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk, #307-344-2002 and tell him to protect our national mammal, and not Montana’s livestock industry, by releasing the buffalo and ending further capture. The buffalo are not in the least guilty of any of the crimes cattlemen blame them for. In truth, invasive cattle have left death, pollution and destruction in their wake across the West, and only wild, migratory buffalo can heal these injuries. Buffalo can restore the grasslands and prairie communities, which are some of the most threatened habitats in the world. More buffalo on a larger landscape is the only solution.