By Stephany Seay, Media Coordinator 

news 2016 05 19 01 001Photo by Stephany, Buffalo Field Campaign.

We have learned that four more buffalo were recently shipped to slaughter.  

Yellowstone was holding fifty-seven calves and yearlings in their Stephens Creek trap, just in case the park made a decision to go ahead with their fifty-year quarantine plan, a plan BFC strongly opposes (PDF).  

During a second run through the terrifying squeeze chute, four of the young buffalo who had previously tested blood-negative for brucellosis exposure had converted to blood-positive, and were consequently consigned to the Shoshone-Bannock for slaughter.  

Stress can cause the onset of brucellosis, and confinement — along with being tortured and orphaned — is certainly a recipe for intense stress. These unnecessary deaths are another example of how quarantine does not stop slaughter and does not benefit wild buffalo.  

Buffalo will be repeatedly tested throughout the quarantine process, and many will still be shipped to slaughter. Quarantine ignores the cumulative impacts that ongoing slaughter, excessive hunting, and hazing have on this increasingly vulnerable population, and it is part of the brucellosis lie, the premise being that bison pose a brucellosis threat, which we know to be untrue, something recent studies are further confirming.  

news 2016 05 19 01 002Photo by Stephany, Buffalo Field Campaign.

As the saying goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” We have been receiving many emails with concern over the calf killed by Yellowstone park rangers after tourists attempted to “rescue” him. Because we were not there to witness the events, it is difficult to know what actually took place. Buffalo moms are fierce defenders of their calves, so it’s hard to imagine that a buffalo mom would have allowed her calf to be abducted to begin with, unless she knew the calf was already sick, and had abandoned him. We also don’t know what sort of effort the park rangers gave in trying to reunite the calf with his family.  

Having witnessed many cow/calf separations due to hazing operations, buffalo moms will try everything to reunite with their baby. If they don’t find each other, other buffalo sometimes adopt, and human scent will not cause a buffalo to reject a calf. Without first-hand knowledge, it is very difficult for us to make any conclusions outside of the fact that human interference in a natural setting is a very bad judgement call, and it is critical that we humans listen to the buffalo. We can’t help but go back to the start, thinking that had this baby been healthy, his mom would never have let anyone get close, much less take him. Should the calf have been shot? No. The calf should have been returned to the site where he was taken from, and if the calf was, as reported, approaching cars and being a “nuisance," then the area should have been closed to humans. Even if he did not reunite with his family after that, he would have had a much more honorable and natural death by helping to feed wolves, coyotes, or bear cubs, rather than falling to bullets. Either way, the actions of these tourists accelerated or caused the death of this calf, for which they were fined a mere $110. Harmful behaviors from tourists are on the rise: petting buffalo, getting too close for that ‘selfie,’ walking through the Grand Prismatic Springs, or venturing into grizzly bear country and doing all the wrong things: Yellowstone is being loved to death.  

Photo by Stephany, Buffalo Field Campaign.Photo by Stephany, Buffalo Field Campaign.

On a brighter note, the buffalo families roaming Montana's Hebgen Basin, west of Yellowstone, have been having the rare opportunity to be wild buffalo without human interference or harassment. Night highway patrols have also, thankfully, been uneventful. There have been a few private property owners who have chased buffalo off of their land, and one minor haze conducted by the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) this week. In this particular haze, a group of about forty buffalo with twenty newborn calves were along the lake shore of one of the few places that run cattle in the summer. The buffalo were committing the ‘crime’ of eating grass. The DOL was called to move them, and they came out and pushed the buffalo across a narrow part of Hebgen Lake, over to Horse Butte.  Cattle being present in the buffalo’s year-round habitat is going to be a challenge, and in time, the cattle will hopefully go.    
We also held our spring board meeting this past weekend, which is always great because we get to reunite with so many of our family members. We discussed at length our concerns about the Central herd and the actions we could and would be taking to determine their status; plans are in the works and we’ll keep you posted as we move forward and learn more.  

We had some wonderful and inspiring discussions about ways we could help bring more Native youth and adults to BFC, to help spark and re-build those ancient and sacred relationships. And we talked about how our field presence will be changing in accordance with buffalo gaining year-round habitat.  

Lots of good things are coming. Solidarity is building, wild buffalo are gaining some ground, our buffalo family is growing, and “the times, they are a changin’” 

Wild is the Way ~ Roam Free! 
~ Stephany