2020 04 30 01 001 Update 1 BFC Stephany Seay photo

A brand new baby buffalo spotted by patrols Tuesday morning! Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.

It has been a bit challenging for us not being able to take in new or returning volunteers at this time, due to COVID-19, but we are making the best of it. Likely, we will also have to conduct our spring board meeting via tele-conference. This is sad for us because we always look so forward to the return of these buffalo family members, as they always look forward to returning to the buffalo. But the blessing of it is, we still get to run all our daily (and nightly) field patrols. Our time during social-distancing is spent in the best of company: with wild buffalo. And each day brings a new experience, more beauty, laughter, and the blessings of baby buffalo. Calving season has just begun. So far we have seen a total of six new calves in our patrol area of the Hebgen Basin since Earth Day, with the promise of many more to come!

Sadly, we need to let you know that the mama buffalo we reported about last week, the one who was struggling to give birth — she delivered a still born. Mom is doing alright. Her son did not make it. She delivered literally at the doorstep of our local Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer, who took the baby’s body into the forest. He laid him to rest with love and respect, where he will give back to the earth. We’ve been keeping a close eye on this mama. For a number of days she was keeping to herself, still in mourning and likely in some pain. We noticed that her tail was still standing straight up after such an effort. But, over the past few days we’ve seen her with her tail much more relaxed, and she is finally keeping the company of others. The bonds between buffalo are incredibly strong and a mother losing a child who she has carried in her womb for nine months is a painful thing for any being. But, buffalo are strong and this mama will be able to try again. Without a doubt she will make a splendid auntie.

2020 04 30 01 002 Update 2 BFC Stephany Seay photo

This beautiful, proud mama knows the awesome gift she’s just given to the world. Buffalo moms are the best! So loving and fiercely protective. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.

Spring is really here now. The snow is almost completely gone, and the ice of Hebgen Lake is nearly a thing of the past. Soon, blue waters will be flowing. Osprey, pelicans, Sandhill cranes, loons, bluebirds, and many others winged ones are returning. The grasses are greening up so quickly and buffalo are no longer having to stay along the highway for food. Grass is finally available nearly everywhere now. That said, buffalo are still spending time along the roads and moving back and forth across the highway. Our rove patrols are working full time warning traffic to keep buffalo and motorists safe. Since the last report of the mama getting hit, we have been successful. We want to give a big shout out to our night rove patrol: they go out after the morning and afternoon shifts are done to keep an eye out for buffalo along the road as the sun goes down and escort them to safer places so they will not get hit in the night. Often this patrol returns to camp after dark, when the buffalo are safely off the road and bedded down. But, they often head back out in the wee hours of the night just to be sure the buffalo are safe.

2020 04 30 01 002 Update 3 BFC Stephany Seay photo

A handsome elder bull chilling in the shade on a warm spring morning. Though you can’t see them here, he is surrounded by five other bulls, most who have recently left their maternal family groups for the first time. He’s got his work cut out for him! Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.

As we enjoy being with all the family groups — so many moms with huge bellies about to burst -- and the few new calves we’ve been blessed to encounter — we’ve also had the joy of spending time with a handful of bachelor bull groups. We don’t get to see the big boys too often during the winter as they’ve grown savvy to hunting pressures. They have been targets over the years. But, they know when it’s safe to come out, and when they return we can’t help but think of the Thin Lizzy song, “The Boys Are Back in Town!” These bull groups are so impressive — mainly consisting of at least one or two elder bulls, with a few younger mature ones, and some who have just joined after leaving their family groups this spring. Bulls will stay with their maternal family until the age of three; after that, they either choose to, or are asked to leave, and they join up with other bulls. They will seek out the elder bulls and tag along to learn the ways of maturity. It’s amazing to see the really mature ones compared to the younger ones and know how much growing and learning the younger ones have yet to do. Also, this time of year we see a lot of nursery groups: single adult females who are babysitting and caring for yearlings as their moms are focused on giving birth. These aunties have their hands full, no doubt. But after the new calves are born everyone gets back together and helps take care of one another. It is such a pleasure to see how the new calves interact with their families and how proud the moms and all the siblings are of these brand new baby buffalo.

We give thanks to each and every one of you for giving us the honor to be here standing with the last wild buffalo working to defend them and offer them lasting protection!