By Stephany Seay, Media Coordinator 

The Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) conducted a questionable hazing operation last week, pushing buffalo off of public lands where, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP), buffalo are allowed to be.  

BFC patrols confronted the DOL agents, who are interpreting the Governor’s year-round habitat decision much differently, essentially taking advantage of some conflicting language.  

BFC immediately contacted FWP, and the DOL hazers made their own calls to their bosses. BFC, FWP, and the DOL have calls in to Governor Bullock’s office, and we are all awaiting clarity on this discrepancy.  

In the interim, the executive officer of the DOL actually gave the order to their hazers to “cease and desist” any hazing of buffalo on these lands until this issue can be resolved. 

Yellowstone Bison CalfPhoto by Stephany, Buffalo Field Campaign.

Most of the buffalo have already migrated into Yellowstone on their own. There are fewer than 100 in the Hebgen Basin, and they are simply enjoying their days, eating spring grass, raising their newborn calves, soaking up the sun, and shedding their thick winter coats.  

We did have a sad encounter with a mother and calf this week. About three days ago, patrols spotted a mom and her newborn, and while the baby buffalo raised her head, she never stood. We monitored the pair for a number of days — the mother never left the calf’s side even though the baby never rose. On Wednesday morning, patrols spotted the calf again, and she was laying lifeless in the grass. Her devoted mother has still not left her side. Our heart grieves with hers, yet we do take some solace in knowing that because of the new habitat they’ve been granted, she has been able to wait and then mourn her baby for as long as she needs, without threat of being hazed. We hope she will soon rejoin her family group. It’s probably just a matter of time before they choose to head into their traditional rutting grounds to join up with other buffalo families and be in the company of the massive bulls who will soon start to battle each other to win the favor of the females.  

Grazing Yellowstone BuffaloPhoto by Stephany, Buffalo Field Campaign.

Our incredible crew of volunteers and seasonal coordinators are also starting their migrations. The coming of summer brings many goodbyes, though many will return with the fall to once again answer the call of the buffalo. We have had such an amazing crew this year, it’s very difficult to part ways.  

Even with all of the challenges the buffalo suffered this year, our achievement of year-round habitat in the Hebgen Basin has diminished hazing enormously. Usually by this time of year, wild buffalo have been sorely abused and brutally forced out of Montana. But wild buffalo remain this year, and we can close this season without feeling defeated and rather, are celebrating a significant victory.  

Many other things are changing in the buffalo’s favor, so thank you for being with us and never giving up. Together we are making a big difference!    

Wild is the Way ~ Roam Free! 
~ Stephany