This family group of buffalo made it, unscathed, from Yellowstone’s western boundary into the buffalo-friendly Yellowstone Village/Hebgen Lake Estates. Note the street sign. In celebration, the neighborhood changed all of their street signs after buffalo were granted year-round habitat on Horse Butte. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.
As the new year begins, things remain relatively quiet here in the land of the last wild buffalo. Though we are finally skiing on patrols, there’s not too much snow to speak of, and this milder weather continues to stem the tide of buffalo migration. There was a lone bull out on Horse Butte for a couple of weeks. He managed to elude a few hunt parties who were looking for him, but, unfortunately, a state hunt party from Bozeman ended up finding him last weekend. Montana’s “buffalo hunt hotline" hadn’t been updated for quite some time, so it’s possible that they were tipped off by some locals, or just took their chances and got lucky. Not so lucky for the bull, of course. A few buffalo family groups are on the move, but at the time of this writing, they are on safe ground where they cannot be hunted. Recognizing a few collared adult females, we know that these buffalo families have already been shot at numerous times this winter and they are all pretty skittish, having lost members of their families to hunters. The buffalo know where they are safe, and the first group to re-emerge made a bee-line for the Galanis property, never stopping to graze until they got there. Once they arrived, you could almost hear a group sigh of relief, as they relaxed and started to graze. We are hopeful that the matriarchs of these groups will keep themselves and their children safe, but, already, hunt parties are out just waiting for them to cross the line from the safety of private land over to public land where they can be shot. Once buffalo migration begins in earnest, it’s going to be a killing spree in both the Hebgen and Gardiner Basins. For the buffalo who migrate into the Gardiner Basin, they also face the threat of Yellowstone’s buffalo trap.
Adult female buffalo inside Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek buffalo trap, 2016. Separated from their families, they are being held until they are loaded onto trailers headed to the slaughter house. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.
While hunting takes a serious and heavy toll on the buffalo, Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek buffalo trap is the main killer of our country’s National Mammal. Thousands of the gentle giants have been forced through its high walls, labyrinth corridors, and metal squeeze chute. Countless buffalo families have been terrorized, torn apart, and loaded onto stock trailers headed to the slaughter house, from within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park, the one place where buffalo should be safe and protected. Over these many years that Yellowstone’s trap has been in operation, buffalo advocates have repeatedly pressured Yellowstone to shut the trap and end their participation in the slaughter of wild buffalo. Yellowstone has repeatedly responded with lies. They claim that their hands are tied, that they are forced “by court order” to conduct these brutal and unnecessary activities. But, this is absolutely not true.
Yellowstone doing dirty work for Montana’s livestock interests. Yellowstone park biologists, rangers, and wranglers enjoy hot coffee and have some good laughs as they get ready to load America’s National Mammal onto trailers that will take them to the slaughter house, 2016. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.
In 1995, the state of Montana, representing cattle interests, sued Yellowstone National Park for “allowing" wild bison to migrate into Montana. Wild bison are a migratory species, and as they have done for tens of millennia, they will migrate regardless of having permission from humans. Nevertheless, five years of litigation over wild buffalo migration persisted. Yellowstone and Montana were eventually ordered by the courts to develop a plan that would address the concerns of the ranchers. That plan became the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP), signed in the year 2000. Although the IBMP expired in 2015, is still under operation today. This is the plan that Yellowstone hides behind to claim that they have zero control over the nefarious actions they inflict upon wild buffalo. However, when they or any IBMP signatory tell you their “hands are tied” they are absolutely lying to you. On page three of the Executive Summary (PDF) of the Final Impact Statement of the Interagency Bison Management Plan, the last sentence of the first paragraph clearly states: "Finally, the agreement provided that any agency could terminate the agreement by providing a 30-day notice to the other parties that the agency would withdraw from the agreement."
It’s that simple. Yellowstone — or any agency or tribe, for that matter — can terminate the IBMP at any time. Likely fearing another lawsuit from Montana’s whining cattle interests, Yellowstone lacks the courage to do the right thing and, instead chooses to participate in and perpetuate the senseless killing of our sacred buffalo as they lie to your face and say they have to.
Call and email Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk and tell him to stand up for America’s National Mammal and pull out of the IBMP now. Do not take any excuse. Do not let him place blame elsewhere. Do not let him tell you their hands are tied. If necessary, direct him to the very document his agency signed on to. We must highlight the fact that Yellowstone is lying to the public and choosing to continue to slaughter our National Mammal simply to appease one of the most destructive industries in the West.
Thank you! Wild is the Way ~ Roam Free!
P.S. Mid-January we will have another very important Take Action item for you. The Custer-Gallatin National Forest is opening a public comment period for their forest plan revision and the Regional Forester’s list of species of conservation concern. As many of you know we are asking that the buffalo be listed as a species of conservation concern. This is just a heads up that this action is coming. We will have a lot more information for you very soon. Thank you!