Stock trailers leave Yellowstone National Park’s Stephens Creek buffalo trap, shipping wild buffalo to slaughter. Photo By Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.
In the face of Covid-19, Yellowstone National Park has announced that they are closed. That hasn’t done much good for the buffalo, who have been captured and shipped to slaughter since the onset of this virus, nor has it stopped the Park from operating their Stephens Creek buffalo trap. As of this writing, Yellowstone has confirmed that they have captured at least 540 wild buffalo. One hundred of these have, so far, been placed into the confines of quarantine, where they will suffer a life of domestication, never to roam free again. The remainder are being sent out, day after day, in veritable coffins on wheels, headed for the slaughter house. Yellowstone is failing wild buffalo, creating a veritable killing factory, all at the behest of Montana’s livestock interests. As signatories to the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP), Yellowstone is quickly fulfilling the Plan's kill quota objective of 600-900 buffalo. Capture for slaughter and quarantine has eliminated nearly 600 wild buffalo from the land; combined with hunting just outside of the Park’s boundaries, which has taken an additional 230 buffalo, nearly 800 buffalo out of a very small population of 4,500 are now gone forever. What kind of wildlife “professionals” allow for the destruction of one-fifth of the entire population, year after year? These deaths are human-caused mortality; do these “managers” even consider the significance of winter-kill?
A young bull commits the most heinous of crimes: eating grass. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.
For these decision-making agencies of the IBMP, it’s simply a meaningless game of numbers, fulfilling a quota that men and women wearing suits, sitting around a table have decided on, and they are likely patting themselves on the back for a job well done. For the buffalo, it flows so much deeper than that. Entire family groups have been wiped out; mothers have lost their children, brothers and sisters torn apart, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunties and uncles, calves in the womb who will never be born. Relationships have been severed forever. The things that BFC patrols bear witness to day after day are more than enough to break your heart. And yet, no matter how much it hurts, we stand with these buffalo. We laugh and cry with them, we see them for who they are, the life-bringers, the playful ones, the wise elders and teachers, the ultimate gift of this land. We know they have no champions among the agencies who claim to be protectors, the ones making all the life-and-death decisions, and so we must stand by their side and do what is within our power to help them realize their rightful place as honorable beings who know what it means to truly take care of the land.
What is the future for wild, migratory buffalo? This late-born calf hopefully has a long life ahead, but what will the future bring? Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.
The government agencies in charge will not help them. It is up to us. The buffalo have no protections or safe guards under the status quo of “the law.” This is why we are pressing for federal recognition of the last wild buffalo nation under the Endangered Species Act. The cumulative impacts of the IBMP - through Montana law, through the complacency of Yellowstone National Park — will drive this most unique and important population of wild buffalo to extinction. We cannot look to the IBMP for common sense, for a stay of execution; we must invoke federal law and grant these buffalo herds significant protection. In 2014, BFC along with Western Watersheds Project and Friends of Animals, filed a petition with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to gain federal protection as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is doing a disservice to the buffalo, ignoring the best available science, issuing findings that maintain the status quo. We continue to challenge them in the courts of law. Twice in six years, the Fish & Wildlife Service has rejected our compelling petition to list wild buffalo under the ESA, and we have once again sued them for this negligence. This week, our organizations filed a law suit in an effort to stop the senseless killing of our national mammal, in U.S. District Court, Washington, D.C., asserting the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) unlawfully denied our petition to list the Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of Yellowstone bison under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). You can read the press release and our legal complaint here [ https://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/groups-seek-protection-for-yellowstone-bison-amid-roundup-and-slaughter ].
As we throw ourselves into this legal battle, things on the ground remain the same. Buffalo are captured for slaughter and shot for migrating into Montana. Until we win this ESA lawsuit - our petition to the government to protect these gentle, sacred giants — nothing will change. You can help bolster the chances of our success for the buffalo by 1) speaking your mind to the powers currently in charge; and 2) helping to undo damages the current administration has caused the Endangered Species Act. Raise your voice for the last wild herds! Take action today by contacting these decision-makers! Wild is the only way ~ Roam free!
Montana Governor Steve Bullock
P.O. Box 200801
Helena, MT 59620-0801
Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly
P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168
Write your Members of Congress to support HR 4348, the FIN & PAW Act
WILD IS THE WAY ~ ROAM FREE!