Buffalo in the Gardiner Basin, in the vicinity of Yellowstone’s trap. BFC photo by Stephany Seay.
Yellowstone is gearing up to capture wild buffalo in the Gardiner Basin. Park employees were seen putting out hay in the outer catch pens of Yellowstone's Stephens Creek buffalo trap, and have opened the gate, in an attempt to lure buffalo into the facility. Three buffalo were seen in there earlier in the week, but, with the gate opened, they soon left. Winter is a difficult time for grazing animals, and when they see free hay, it’s something that is hard for them to resist.
Montana’s state hunt ended today, February 15, but there are still a number of tribes hunting under treaty right. If Yellowstone begins capturing buffalo in earnest while treaty hunting is ongoing, it will interfere with the treaty hunts of multiple tribes. In the past, Yellowstone’s response is that they don’t think hunters are killing enough buffalo. With a goal of killing upwards of 900 buffalo, with about 200 killed so far, Yellowstone is feeling a sense of urgency to capture and kill as many as they can, to ensure that Montana livestock interests are pleased. After all, when it comes to wild buffalo, that is who Yellowstone is working for, rather than the buffalo who they are obligated to protect. Yellowstone always claims that their “hands are tied”, that they are forced to capture and kill the last wild buffalo. They always like to play the victim saying that it’s Montana’s fault (which, in large part, it is), but Yellowstone is absolutely responsible for their operation of the trap, and for never defending the buffalo. They bend over backwards to do the killing wanted by Montana’s livestock industry. It is good to remind them that the document they signed, which became the Interagency Bison Management Plan, for which their trap is a tool, can be terminated by them or any agency, at any time. All they have to do is provide a 30-day notice to terminate this nefarious plan. That’s it! See the Executive Summary of the Final Impact Statement of the Interagency Bison Management Plan (PDF), page iii, the last sentence of paragraph one, where it states clear as a bell: “Finally, the agreement provided that any agency could terminate the agreement by providing a 30-day notice to the other parties that the agency would withdraw from the agreement.”
TAKE ACTION! Call Yellowstone’s Superintendent Dan Wenk and tell him to keep their trap shut! Remind him that Yellowstone’s hands are not tied, they can pull out of the IBMP, stop the slaughter, and refuse to choose to serve Montana livestock interests. # 307-344-2002
Buffalo along the Madison River in the Hebgen Basin. Here, they are supposed to be safe. BFC photo by Stephany Seay.
In the Hebgen Basin, along Yellowstone’s western boundary, places that are safe for wild buffalo have been violated. A testament to the desperate situation buffalo hunters are put in, due to Yellowstone and Montana’s severe mismanagement of this sacred, keystone relative, who is also now our national mammal. With such small areas to hunt, and with so very few buffalo in existence, hunters are becoming frenzied in their determination to fill their freezers with buffalo meat. The milder winter has contributed to fewer buffalo migrating to lower elevations, but, the larger issue is that when buffalo do arrive, hunters are so eager to beat the trap and make their kills, that they are impatient and recklessly fire into family groups or any buffalo who dare cross Yellowstone’s boundary, and these buffalo then make a run for safety. The buffalo, like elk and deer, learn where the safe spaces are. Both in Gardiner and in West, fewer buffalo, and many times none, remain in huntable areas. But, sadly, last weekend, a group of hunters took extreme action when they shot three buffalo within a zone where the discharging of fire alarms are not allowed, but even worse, within a camp ground where hunting is never allowed. Even with federal law enforcement on the scene shouting, “Don’t shoot!!” the hunters fired anyway. Three buffalo who were in a safe zone, were crossing the Madison River, and as soon as they came up onto the bank, were gunned down. For reasons we cannot fathom, the hunters got away with a slap on the wrist: they were simply cited and then rewarded by getting to keep the illegally killed buffalo.
The remains of wild buffalo who were killed in an area where they were supposed to be safe. BFC photo by Stephany Seay.
This section of the Madison River flows through the Baker’s Hole campground, national forest land that is adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. Buffalo are supposed to be safe here. It enrages our bruised and battered hearts that this sanctuary was violated. The hunters left a lot of meat and parts of hides. Violating the closure, transgressing and disrespecting tranquil areas where the buffalo should have been SAFE — even with law enforcement there bearing witness, calling for them to not shoot, all they got was a citation. Why shouldn’t that open the door for more hunters to do the same? The law doesn’t seem to have any teeth, and nothing seems to be held sacred anymore. This so-called buffalo hunt is bringing out the worst in some. But, if there is a bright side, more and more people — hunters in particular — are growing disgusted by this war against the buffalo. Very few can stomach participating in such a thing, and many have vowed never to return. Voices for the buffalo and against this traumatic “management" are growing. More voices are speaking out against the entirety of the Interagency Bison Management Plan, and its many ugly faces of capture-for-slaughter and firing-line “hunting.” There is growing solidarity for more wild buffalo on a larger landscape.
But, actions need to follow the words and emotions before it’s too late, for all of the remaining wild buffalo, especially for the imperiled Central herd (Take Action).