Buffalo finally find some food — sedges — near a tributary of the Madison River. Food is very difficult to find this time of year, but soon spring green-up will bring abundance. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.
The days are steadily warming, and snow is finally melting away. Even with spring in the air, there’s still plenty of snow on the ground, so life is pretty difficult for the buffalo right now. Most of the south-facing slopes, along with the banks of creeks and rivers, have opened up, revealing sedges and grasses. Green-up is still a ways off, so the forage choices aren’t that great. At this point, the buffalo will take whatever they can find. It is a very hard time right now, especially for grazing wildlife; the time when the closing of winter will take with her those who weren’t quite strong enough to survive. But, winter-kill is a treasure for other wildlife, especially endangered grizzly bears, who rely on such a find when emerging from months with no food after a long hibernation. Buffalo are incredibly strong — physically, spiritually — and while there are quite a few who have and will succumb to the struggles of winter, there are also those who escaped management actions and survive today.
Buffalo stand along U.S. Highway 191 while a West Yellowstone officer makes an unsuccessful attempt to use lights and sirens to move them off the road. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.
Now that hunting and capture are over, the buffalos’ biggest challenge is migration. Many of you know that as the buffalo travel from Yellowstone’s western edge, into Montana’s Hebgen Basin, they must navigate the busy U.S. Highway 191. Even with state- and nation-wide “stay at home” orders, and the closing of Yellowstone National Park due to COVID-19, this highway is still very busy and currently the biggest threat to the gentle giants. The buffalo who migrate into this Basin are exclusively from the imperiled Central herd. BFC patrols are out every morning, into the night, watching for groups of buffalo who are migrating to spring pastures and calving grounds, warning traffic of their presence along or near the highway. Countless buffalo and human lives have been saved by our efforts, which is thanks to you for enabling us to purchase our enormous, professional-grade highway signs, and other safety equipment. The Montana Department of Transportation has been a big help by lowering night time speed limits and placing permanent warning signs along the road. But, people rely on Buffalo Field Campaign to be the veritable crossing guards for the buffalo. In fact, just the other night, the sheriff’s department actually called us to let us know buffalo were near the highway at the Madison River bridge, so our night rove patrol responded immediately. Our patrol assisted a family group of 38 buffalo who were coming out of the Park and making their way towards Horse Butte. Almost every day we are with various groups of buffalo who must cross this road. Even some of the locals who may not agree with us thank us for this important work, and we must thank YOU — each and every one of you who have made it possible for us to be in service to the buffalo and the community this way.
Soon, we will share with you the great rewards for your beautiful, unparalleled efforts: baby buffalo! It will be just a short time before we see the first glimpse of curly, red wool. To think of what these babies mothers and their families have survived, to make it as far as they have to bring forth this next generation, makes our hearts burst. We can’t thank you enough for giving us the honor and privilege of being here with the buffalo, standing in their defense, and working to gain long-lasting protections for these sacred beings.
WILD IS THE WAY ~ ROAM FREE!