2019 04 25 01 001 Update 1 BFC Stephany Seay photo
Taking a nap on the side of the highway. A yearling beds down with family, using mom for a pillow. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.

More buffalo are moving into the Hebgen Basin, making their way to the Central herd’s calving grounds on and around Horse Butte. Their migration corridors are thick with their heart-shaped tracks and other precious gifts. This migration has been keeping BFC field patrols busy along the highways, warning traffic so buffalo — and humans — make it safely to their destinations. With so much snow gone, the land is easy to travel and grass easy to find, so buffalo aren’t having to spend so much time on the asphalt. Even so, the highway is a very dangerous place for buffalo, especially since they don’t just run across the road and disappear, but often take their time grazing along the way, bedding down, and sometimes playing which can cause them to suddenly bump one another into the road. Most motorists are respectful and slow down, frequently pulling over to take photos, but others aren’t as patient or kind. The dark of night is the most dangerous time because buffalo are very difficult to see, so our night rove patrols are extremely critical. So far during this spring migration no buffalo have been hit. We thank you all so much for the opportunity to purchase the road signs, flashing lights, and other safety equipment that is truly helping to save lives. Calving season has just begun, though one buffalo-friendly Horse Butte neighbor just reported seeing a lone mom with her new calf who was killed by coyotes. It’s easy to feel sad about such a situation, but coyotes must eat, too, and that calf will support coyote pups who are just entering the world. Though, the coyotes haven’t yet been able to enjoy their meal because the mama buffalo has been guarding her dead calf, and typically in these situations moms will stand guard for days before walking away. Wild buffalo calves have a 50/50 chance of making it to their first year. Their chances are much better these days, now that we’ve put an end to most hazing activities — buffalo calves can take their time to grow and simply be buffalo, rather than being chased down by helicopters, horsemen, and law enforcement. Spring is a very good time to be with the buffalo, so long as we can keep them safe when negotiating the busy highways.

2019 04 25 01 002 Update 2 BFC Stephany Seay photo
This big, handsome bull was accompanying a family group as they made their way out of Yellowstone National Park, heading to Horse Butte. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.

As you read this, BFC will be representing wild buffalo at the Interagency Bison Management Plan (PDF) meeting, where state, federal, and tribal governments will sit around a table to talk about all the ways they did — and didn’t — kill the buffalo. They’ll move through their agenda, with report after report, talking cooly as if killing endangered buffalo is just another day on the job. To show how much the public’s opinion matters, with more than half of the meeting and decision-making still to go, citizens will be offered no more than four minutes to speak their minds, largely being ignored. While the IBMP agencies don’t really care what citizens think, Montana Governor Steve Bullock does: he heard you and has vetoed HB 132, the bill that aimed to define wild buffalo out of existence. He offered amendments to this bill and returned it to the House and Senate. The definition offered by Governor Bullock (his amendment) is what the House and Senate can either approve or disapprove. In effect, he vetoed HB 132 as it was written, but now that he has returned it with his amendments, the Governor’s definition is what gets voted on. We support adopting his definition of a wild buffalo or bison. Thank you all so much for making those important calls and sending your emails to Governor Bullock! You did it! Thank you all for everything you do to help wild buffalo! Next week we hope to bring you joyful news of baby buffalo! You could even watch these calves grow up over the summer by joining us for our summer outreach program in Yellowstone National Park!