We have had the pleasure of spending some time with a few small bachelor bull groups. These big, burly boys are stunning and awesome, and never fail to impress! Photo by Greg Marin, Buffalo Field Campaign.
After the killing of 1/5 of the entire herd of buffalo in the Yellowstone ecosystem, the next challenge starts to take place for the imperiled Central herd. Spring weather continues to hold back the much-needed green grass the buffalo need. Snow levels still limit the migration and habitat for the buffalo to come and give birth on the west side of the Park, in Montana's Horse Butte calving grounds. Along the edges of US Highway 191, some grasses have attracted many herds to walk up and down the highway for their survival. Our daily patrols warn traffic with signs and bring attention to the hazard. At night is when the situation gets crazy. For the last two weeks, I have had the honor of being on our Night Rove patrol. We head out about two hours before sunset, looking to see how many buffalo there are, and where they are along the highway. In the past two weeks, this number has been anywhere from 20 to 100.
This mama buffalo, a matriarch of her family group, was making her way to calving grounds, struggling along the highway that cuts through her migration corridor. She walked with the full, fat belly of new life. That life would end before it began. Photo by Cindy Rosin, Buffalo Field Campaign.
The poor animals are starving and trying to make it over the last leg of Winter, finding what little grass is available along the highway. All day they walk up and down the road, eating what little grass is there, all the time BFC patrols are there warning traffic, keeping the buffalo safe. As day turns into night, the problem grows. Getting buffalo off the highway and into safe areas becomes our patrol’s focus. Asking buffalo to move off the highway is a fine art, and when done with patience, kindness, and listening to the buffalo, it has saved many lives — both human and buffalo. This is a tactic we call “shepherding.”
This is what happens when our warning signs are ignored. In the dark of night, a speeding semi collided with the mama buffalo shown above, and hit her so hard that the baby in her womb was flung out of her body to the side of the road. BFC patrols carried the baby away from the highway, into the willows, offering prayers and tobacco for the beloved pair. The semi was totaled. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.
As we slowly walk with the buffalo, guiding them to areas where they have food and enough bare ground to stay the night, we have been able to save hundreds of buffalo lives. The hardest part, for me, is sleeping after our night’s work. I wake up and call morning patrol to see if any buffalo were hit over night. Until Monday, all calls had good news. But a few days ago, we found one pregnant mom who was hit by an eighteen-wheeler and drug for 400 yards to her death. As all of our BFC family mourn with the Buffalo, we feel defeated and hurt by the tragedy. At our nightly meetings, we gather, and I remind everyone that if we were not out there doing all we do, many more buffalo would be dead. We hug each other and regain our strength, after which, I grab my night gear, and my patrol partner and I head back out to do our best to keep them alive. Though we are all tired and out patrolling all day and night, we are all honored to help our buffalo family. Thanks to all of our supporters who give us the ability to continue this effort to do the best we can to save these sacred beings! It is the honor of my life.
With the Buffalo,
BFC Cofounder & Campaign Coordinator
P.S. The best is yet to come!