Buffalo Field Campaign
March 9, 2005
* Update from the Field
Spring isn't just coming, it's here - a month early and in full force. Daytime temperatures are starting to soar. Osprey are arriving; woodpeckers can be heard banging away for bugs. Volunteers are donning sun-reddened faces and shedding layers in the field; ice and snow are melting and in its place - mud and new shoots of green grass. After a season of shoveling through snow and ice for winter forage, buffalo are hungry for that sweet, good green grass, and they are on the move to get it. Right now there are buffalo everywhere on the West side of the Park boundary. Of course, we should be celebrating the life force of the Spring Migration, but instead, the taste is bittersweet.
On Sunday night, while three bull buffalo were trying to cross Highway 191 at Duck Creek, one was struck and killed by a truck. Two patrols were out helping warn traffic that the buffalo were crossing. Unfortunately, the speed limit is ridiculously high, the vehicle was going too fast to slow down and didn't heed our warnings. It was a sad night for everyone, especially the four volunteers who were there with the buffalo, warning the oncoming traffic. We mourn for the loss of that bull, we mourn for the two bulls who lost their brother, and we mourn for our human brothers who had to witness the tragic event. But thanks to their presence, the two other bulls made it safely across, and we are happy to report that, at present, they are doing just fine.
Over the past couple of weeks, the Horse Butte Peninsula has been graced by the presence of nearly 90 buffalo, mostly females and yearlings, the latter frisky with the warm weather, youth, sunshine and nutritious grasses. Patrols have spent some incredible moments with these buffalo, keeping company from afar, watching the young ones sparring and kicking it up, running and playing and feeling the season coming on. It is an awesome sight to see buffalo run on their own - just because they can, just because they want to. Their energy is so high right now, you can't help but catch their fever. Mature female buffalo are readying their bodies to give birth to the next generation, and all is as it should be. But, so long as the greedy livestock industry and their government puppets are in charge, all good things will come to pass...
On Monday, trouble came to town in the form of the Department of Livestock (DOL). With buffalo nearly everywhere, including a mixed herd of nearly 90 females and yearlings on Horse Butte, we were ready. On Monday night, much to the chagrin of our Fir Ridge patrol, two bull buffalo entered Dale Koelzer's yard, where the DOL and agents have the Duck Creek buffalo Trap. During the night, a third joined them. They left together, then again re-entered the property. On Tuesday, more agents arrived and they quickly hazed the three bulls before heading to Horse Butte to disrupt the ecosystem. Tuesday was a hard day for the buffalo. After they were done with the Duck Creek bulls, the DOL headed to the Butte and proceeded to harass the huge herd, running them off of the land grazed by their ancestors. With a so many wild buffalo to try to control, the DOL were bound to have some trouble, and they did; the buffalo entered the Bald Eagle Closure - no human activity allowed in order to protect bald eagle habitat - so they agents couldn't get to them. Unfortunately, all but about 10 buffalo left that sanctuary, and the DOL proceeded to haze them nearly eight miles, all the way to the Park border. Along the way, they lost some. One of our patrols reported seeing a motherless yearling, scared and confused, running fearfully, trying to find the rest of the herd. Our volunteers are keeping an eye on this little one.
As I write this, patrols in the field just reported over the radio that the DOL hazed yet again; another three bull buffalo were chased off of Koelzer's property, back into the Park. Just south at Cougar Creek, more buffalo are trying to cross the road, and a Park Ranger is hazing them. All this effort to keep buffalo off of National Forest lands that are NEVER, at any time of the year, occupied by livestock.
There are now only two DOL agents in town, but they are ignoring some of the buffalo that are out of the park, and we are skeptical of the worst. Why haven't the agents done the usual and stuck around to shove them off as they love to do? We fear it's because they are getting ready to put up the Horse Butte buffalo trap.
Spring. It is a bittersweet time to be with the buffalo, but there's no place we'd rather be until they are truly wild and free. The buffalo who choose to come out of the park are the ones who carry on the migrations, following their instincts and the ways of their ancestors. Their motto truly is "live free or die."
For the Buffalo,
* Make Change with your Buffalo Nickels!
Less than 200 years ago buffalo numbered 30-60 million in this country, roaming from coast to coast. They fed, sheltered, and clothed a nation. They were held in the highest regard by the First Peoples of this land.
When explorers Lewis and Clark set out on their westward expedition for the U.S. Government, they encountered buffalo so numerous they darkened the plains, like a vast ocean. The new nickel released into circulation by the U.S. Mint depicts a bull buffalo on the flip side to commemorate and celebrate this ecological richness, and the 500,000 buffalo alive in the country today that supposedly demonstrate a "conservation success." Yet the vast majority of the country's buffalo aren't even pure buffalo - they contain cattle genes. They are not wild. They do not migrate. They are fenced in. They are raised and treated as livestock.
Today the reality is that there are only 15,000 genetically pure buffalo left in the country, and only 4,200 of these - the Yellowstone herd - are wild and unfenced and have continuously occupied their native range. To be truly wild, they must be free and that means the buffalo need room to roam, unmolested. But as evidenced by the actions of the Department of Livestock (and participating federal agents), Montana refuses buffalo freedom. If this is how we are going to treat the last wild herd then we feel there is nothing to celebrate. It's time to put our money where our mouth is.
If you hold any of these new buffalo nickels, we call on you to make change. Send your buffalo nickels to Montana's Governor Brian Schweitzer. Give him your five cents about the buffalo and tell him to put your buffalo nickel toward purchasing habitat for wild buffalo in Montana.
Send your buffalo nickels to Governor Schweitzer at:
Office of the Governor
PO Box 200801
Helena MT 59620-0801
* Montana House Committee Hears from Buffalo Advocates
On Monday, the Senate agriculture, livestock and irrigation committee heard testimony on HJ22, a resolution from the State of Montana asking that USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) be named the lead agency for a new plan to eradicate brucellosis in the "Greater Yellowstone Area bison and elk herds, and in their environment". The committee heard testimony from several proponents of the resolution, the usual suspects - Montana Stockgrowers Assn., the Montana Farm Bureau, and the Montana state veterinarian, declaring that APHIS must act to save Montana's poor livestock industry from the menacing threat of buffalo that enter the state from Yellowstone National Park. Fortunately, a number of buffalo and wildlife advocates also spoke up to enlighten the committee about the true cost of attempting brucellosis eradication - the total destruction of America's last and only wild, genetically pure buffalo. Among the opponents was Chippewa-Cree State Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, who aptly summarized the situation in stating, "that if this brucellosis comes from a cow, then what are we doing murdering the buffalo." Unfortunately, the Montana Legislature doesn't seem to hold the same reverence for the buffalo as the Senate unanimously passed the brucellosis (buffalo?) eradication resolution. Not requiring the Governor's signature, the resolution will travel next to Washington, DC and the desk of that great protector of the wild, George W. Bush.
P.S. Stay tuned next week for a report on the House hearing for S.B. 353, the buffalo neuter bill. If you are a resident of Montana, PLEASE contact your House representative and tell them to vote "no" on S.B. 353. See our special alert from Tuesday for details or email or for details and information.
* Donate to BFC & Bid on Buffalo Mask
Times are hard, and we need your help to keep our volunteers fed, housed and in the field defending the last wild herd of buffalo in America. Please consider making a tax deductible donation to BFC today. It is hard for us to ask, but the truth is, without your generous donations, it would be impossible for us to be here with the buffalo. We thank you for keeping us in the field defending America's last wild buffalo!
There are two more days left to bid on the buffalo mask! The mask is a beautiful hand-crafted one-of-a-kind with faux fur and glass and stone beadwork. The winner will also receive a copy of Buffalo Medicine by April Christofferson. Many thanks to Mel and April for your generosity. View a photo of the mask and place a bid here:
The gourd mask will be EBay Item number 7303557668 through March 12.
* Last Words
"The migration phenomenon and its ecological impact are engaging the attention of biologists. Many long-distance movements of mammals in North America have been cut off by fences, cities, roads or population decline. The American bison, for instance, used to migrate hundreds of miles, but no longer. Now, bison that try to leave Yellowstone National Park are shot for attempting to follow their migratory instincts."
From an article about butterfly migration
by Dan Whipple, Blue Planet: The flight of the monarch