Thursday, April 26, 2012

Relentless Hazing Of Bison Near Yellowstone

BFC Update From The Field

Two young bull buffalo relaxing together on Horse Butte, one of the only places where buffalo have found any peace in the Hebgen Basin. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.

This past week wild buffalo have been constantly harassed in the Hebgen Basin, just west of Yellowstone National Park. Agents from Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) chase buffalo from the backs of horses and ATVs. Hazing (forced removal) operations have been taking place nearly every day. The bulk of these traumatic operations have occurred along the South Fork of the Madison River, south of the Horse Butte Peninsula, while a few have occurred along highway 287, north of Horse Butte.

BFC's stellar kitchen coordinator, Brandy, documents a hazing operation along highway 287. Horse Butte is visible in the background. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.

BFC patrols have been in the field nearly 18 hours a day, documenting government actions against the buffalo, monitoring the highways to help with safe passage, and ensuring that everything runs smoothly here at our headquarters. While this time of year is exhausting for volunteers, it is the buffalo who truly suffer. We have yet to see any newborn calves, though we know they'll arrive any day. Expectant buffalo cows, eight and a half months pregnant, are constantly disrupted and forced to run mile after grueling mile. When the newborns arrive, they too will be forced from their native ground. 

A hazing operation pushes wild buffalo down Highway 287, past Grayling Creek. The majority of adult females are pregnant, yet no mercy is shown. While National Park Service and Gallatin County law enforcement flanked the haze to do traffic control and monitor BFC field patrols, BFC volunteers documented from every angle. BFC file photos by Stephany. Click photos for larger images.


 Last Thursday a mixed group of fifteen buffalo, including two giant bulls, were pushed off of their chosen ground along the northern shore of Hebgen Lake, down Highway 287. With no cattle in the area the buffalo were punished simply for crossing an imaginary line drawn by Montana's livestock industry. Not long after the agents abandoned the haze, the buffalo - who know better than anyone where they should be - were already making their way back to the habitat they'd been chased from. A few days later these buffalo paid a visit to BFC headquarters. Shortly after leaving, two DOL agents on ATVs came and hazed them again. BFC patrols witnessed DOL livestock inspectors throwing rocks at an injured cow buffalo, hurt in the hazing operation and slow to move.

Maria, an amazing and dedicated new BFC volunteer, documents a hazing operation - one of many - that took place in the Denny Creek/South Fork region. Buffalo have been repeatedly harassed in this area for nearly two weeks. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.

The bulk of the hazing operations began near the South Fork of the Madison River, on and around the private lands of hobby rancher Pat Povah, who occupies splendid and important wildlife habitat but has no tolerance for wild buffalo. Agents routinely chase buffalo out of this area and continue to push them for several miles on the Gallatin National Forest.

Buffalo in Houdini's Meadow at the end of a haze. This particular haze started more than eight miles west in the Denny Creek/South Fork area, and the buffalo were clearly exhausted. Once given the chance, most buffalo immediately began to graze, others bedded down, while a few just stood there too tired to move. Only Livestock Inspector Bridger is shown here, because his DOL partner, Mark Anderson, ended up riding his horse so hard he went lame and had to drop out. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.

Not all of the hazing operations went according to the DOL's plans. On Earth Day the buffalo got the better of the agents. DOL livestock inspector Bridger attempted to haze a group of more than thirty buffalo by himself, while many more buffalo were also in the area, and Bridger was running his horse back and forth, firing off cracker rounds, and not making much headway.

On this particular haze, Livestock Inspector Bridger attempts to haze wild buffalo by himself. He soon learned that he was no match for them. In the second photo, you can see his shotgun, which he uses to shoot "cracker rounds" to scare the buffalo. Bridger's poor horse was ridden incredibly hard this week, and like the buffalo, is not likely to get much rest in the near future. BFC file photos by Stephany. Click photos for larger images.

Even after calling in "reinforcements" which included another DOL agent on horseback and an FWP agent on an ATV, more buffalo migrated into this area. Groups of buffalo were scattered about, and the agents would try to group them together then leave to round up another group. While they were gone the buffalo would disperse and go back to their roaming and grazing. Mr. Povah's lands are choked by strands of barbed wire, which buffalo are pretty good at navigating when not being harassed. But during the stress and fear of hazing operations, as the buffalo try to escape the agents, they are many times run through barbed wire fences as we have documented numerous times. On this particular day, after a number of hours trying to control what should not be controlled, the livestock agents were forced to give it up and the buffalo were left to enjoy the rest of the day in peace.

These buffalo arrived at the Denny Creek/South Fork area while two DOL agents were having their work cut out for them, trying to chase around various groups of wild buffalo. These buffalo are running simply because they felt good! They were bucking and kicking and sparring and feeling the good warm Earth Day. They did not end up getting hazed this day, and in fact, the DOL had to call off hazing other wild buffalo because the buffalo were too much of a challenge for them. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.

Over the course of the week, nearly two hundred buffalo were chased by DOL and FWP agents on horseback, with one DOL livestock inspector, Bridger, firing numerous cracker rounds to frighten the buffalo into moving. This happened nearly every day this week. After each haze ended, the buffalo would return to the area because it is quite simply perfect wildlife habitat, but it is "owned" and controlled by the Povah family who have no interest in sharing the land with her rightful roamers.

This photo shows nearly 170 wild buffalo that were rudely forced off of their chosen habitat by four horsemen, three with the DOL and one with FWP. This is outstanding habitat for wild buffalo, yet one ranching family's intolerance causes all this trouble and waste of federal tax dollars. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.

The following day, more DOL and FWP agents - complete with National Park Service and US Forest Service law enforcement - arrived to again harass the buffalo who had also increased in numbers. The agents' tempers were up and they treated the buffalo badly. During the course of the haze, cowboys were yipping and yelling while they exploded numerous cracker rounds. A BFC field patrol positioned in the forest documented a cow buffalo with her eye bulging from the socket and blood streaming down the side of her face. Later during this same haze, another cow buffalo started to show her resistance, and bluff charged one of the DOL agents numerous times. BFC patrols reported that another DOL agent said he'd "like to make a crotch rocket out of her."

This photo shows the smoke from cracker rounds fired, which the DOL agents use to scare the buffalo into moving. BFC file photo by Cindy. Click photo for larger image.

On Tuesday the agents found that the buffalo had returned to their chosen ground and the haze resumed. On Wednesday morning, DOL and FWP agents returned to the same area, this time with a Gallatin County Sheriff. But the DOL's day was over: there were no buffalo present for them to harass.

DOL livestock inspector Bridger runs his horse back and forth behind the buffalo, trying to get them to move. The agent left this group to go harass more wild buffalo, and as soon as he left, the buffalo dispersed. This haze, which took place on Earth Day, was called off before it got very far. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.

On Wednesday's morning patrol we saw two Yellowstone Park Rangers pulling a horse trailer, so we followed them and spoke with them. They offered that they were doing a recon into the Park, along the northeast bluffs of the Madison to see what buffalo they could see, but also to take a "warm up" ride in preparation for the more intense hazing that is yet to come. We have heard that the agents intend to chase all the buffalo off of Horse Butte beginning May 9th, but after the conversation with the rangers today, it may come sooner and we are ready. Hazing wild buffalo makes about as much sense as damming the ocean or trying to control which clouds can float across "your" sky. We pray that one day the light of this wisdom will dawn in their minds, and until it does, we will be here with the buffalo, every step of the way.

Wild is the Way ~ Roam Free!!

* Thank You Tuscon, Arizona!

Mike Mease has returned to BFC headquarters after a week in Tuscon, Arizona, talking with buffalo advocates, sharing video footage from the field and stories from first-hand experiences with America's last wild buffalo. Mike - and all of us at BFC - extend our deepest thanks for the warm (he'd say HOT!) welcome he received and has absolutely raved about his experience there. He will be giving a shout out to everyone who made this trip possible in next week's update. Thank you, Tuscon, Arizona, for welcoming BFC into your community and your hearts!

* Only One Week Left! Nominate Buffalo Field Campaign for the 2012 Green Awards

Buffalo Field Campaign is in the running for Great Nonprofits' 2012 Green Awards to identify top-rated nonprofits focusing on environmental issues around the globe. We need you to speak up for us right now. Your story can help BFC gain valuable feedback and guide others who might provide support by donating or volunteering.

Please take three minutes to help nominate Buffalo Field Campaign by writing a review by April 30th!

* Outreach Volunteers Wanted for Summer Tabling!

Buffalo Field Campaign will begin starting our summer outreach inside Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park in June, and we are looking for passionate, articulate folks who can help run our information tables, talk to hundreds of park visitors and build a strong constituency for wild buffalo. BFC provides food, lodging, camping, gear, and transportation to and from our table in the Park. We ask for at least a three-week commitment in order to accommodate training and orientation. This is a great opportunity to get involved and advocate for America's last wild buffalo! Please contact Tony for more information.

* BFC Wish List: Assorted Optics

We could use some help to (literally) keep our sights on the buffalo. We find ourselves in need of new optics: Cameras, binoculars, spotting scopes, and equipment to steady these optics. Below is a section of our wish list that focuses on optics including quantities that will help keep all BFC field volunteers well-equipped. Any contribution for these items is extremely helpful and important to the campaign, whether it is a ten dollar donation towards optics or the purchase of one or more of the items below. Thanks to each and every one of you for loving the buffalo and for keeping BFC going and our volunteers prepared in the field every day. If you can help with these assorted optics wishes please contact our gear coordinator.

Zoom lenses for SLR digital photo cameras (Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR Zoom Lens; Rokinon 650-1300mm Super Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon Digital SLR still cameras; Opteka 650-1300mm High Definition Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon Digital SLR still cameras)

(6-10 pairs) compact high-resolution binoculars, water- and fog-proof, 7-10x 35-70mm magnification

(6-10 pairs) full-size high-resolution binoculars, water- and fog-proof, 7-10x 35-70mm magnification

(3-5) high-resolution spotting scopes, standard tripod- or window-mounted, with zoom, 16-60x 60(+)mm magnification

(3) compact tripods

(3) full-size fluid head video tripods

(3-5) Walking/Ski pole Monopods with standard camera mount (eg. Leki, Tracks brands)

Click HERE to view BFC's complete Wish List

* Endangered Buffalo Fact of the Week

This one is well worth repeating:

"Yellowstone bison are designated as wildlife in Montana.... Within Montana, bison are designated with an S2 ranking, defined as: 'At risk because of very limited and/or potentially declining population numbers, range and/or habitat, making it vulnerable to global extinction or extirpation in the state ... The Montana Comprehensive Fish and Wildlife Conservation Strategy (MCFWCS) identifies bison as a Tier One Species. In the MCFWCS, a Tier One Species is a species considered in greatest conservation need.' "

This language - which strongly begs the question as to how Montana can justify the continuation of such harmful management of wild bison - is from Montana's response to a comment asking the State to consider the status of wild bison in Montana in their Gardiner Basin Environmental Assessment. Montana's response is listed as #5 on page 6 of the IBMP Joint Decision Notice to expand tolerance zones for wild bison in the Gardiner Basin, North of Yellowstone National Park, which you can read here.

Have a fact you'd like to share with us?

* By the Numbers

AMERICAN BUFFALO ELIMINATED from the last wild population in the U.S. The last wild population is currently estimated at fewer than 3,700 individual buffalo. Wild bison are currently ecologically extinct throughout their native range in North America.

2011-2012 Total Buffalo Killed: 29

2011-2012 Government Capture:
2011-2012 Government Slaughter:
2011-2012 Held for Government Experiment:
2011-2012 Died In Government Trap:
2011-2012 Miscarriage in Government Trap:
2011-2012 State & Treaty Hunts: 28
2011-2012 Quarantine:
2011-2012 Shot by Agents:
2011-2012 Killed by Angry Residents:
2011-2012 Highway Mortality: 1

2010-2011 Total: 227
2009-2010 Total: 7
2008-2009 Total: 22
2007-2008 Total: 1,631

* Total Since 2000: 4,001*

*includes lethal government action, trap-related fatalities, quarantine/experiments, hunts, highway mortality

* Last Words ~ Earth Day in Honor of PHILbarb

Every earth day, our dear friend and buffalo warrior barb abramo would send out an email to her personal contacts, in celebration of the life of the love of her life, Phil Morton, who passed away on Earth Day 2003. She would honor Phil and the buffalo, as Phil's passion for them was incredibly strong. And if you knew barb, you know she carried that flaming passion also. Now that barb has rejoined Phil, we wanted to share this Earth Day message in both their honor. Earth Day in Honor of PHILbarb

Do you have submissions for Last Words? Send them to Thank you for all the poems, songs, quotes and stories you have been sending! Keep them coming!
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