Two years ago, I met a good friend of mine who was just finishing his Masters degree in wildlife conservation. His first stop, Buffalo Field Campaign, West Yellowstone, Montana. I heard about his work and adventures out here and I knew I needed to change my direction. So, I went from a criminology undergraduate to the same Masters degree and set my sights on joining BFC all the way from Portugal. Two years later, here I am. I have been with BFC over a month now and I have enjoyed every day. Living in a postcard is, by itself, worth coming for but it’s the opportunities I have been given that I am the most grateful for.

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The main activity is daily patrols and cross-country skiing looking for the wild buffalo in the Madison Valley in Yellowstone National Park and on the National Forest, who have, unfortunately, been few and far in-between. Once they move beyond the Park, buffalo have been aggressively targeted by hunters, and the few that roamed onto the National Forest have been shot.

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BFC has been fighting for many years to reverse the low population numbers in the Central herd, which endangers the sustainability of the entire wild buffalo population. However, I am glad that they are still here, spotting them deeper in Yellowstone, they are a view to behold. On a day trip to Gardiner, we got a better look at these majestic animals and a more hopeful view on the population: seeing them roam free like they should be, not bound by invisible borders and political complications I can barely understand. After a day like that I understand even more, the passion and respect shown here towards the buffalo and the role that BFC plays in the herd’s conservation.

In addition to buffalo, I have had the opportunity to see much more wildlife including coyotes, eagles, pronghorn and bighorn sheep. I had the chance to learn about Native cultures and American culture. I am also learning to deal with winter conditions that for me, having never seen snow before, is quite the new experience. I have also been learning about the practical side of environmentalism, the far harsher reality of field work and its’ limitations, which is rarely taken into account by the comparatively distant and removed academic and sterile media perspective most people see. Most importantly, I learned about the people involved in all of this, their insights, their different walks of life, separate passions and collective will that makes all of this possible in the first place.

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After a month here I have learned the Indigenous views on the buffalo, the local and State problems that directly impact their presence and our role in this ongoing political conundrum. I have had the opportunity to see the buffalo up-close and free, and the challenges they face. I’ve gotten to know the many people, volunteers and workers alike, and the stories each one carries and much more. I am only halfway through my stay here, and my expectations and understanding only grow as my journey here in Yellowstone approaches its end.

~ BFC Volunteer Pedro

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