. Update from the Field

Wild buffalo move into a blizzard in the Gardiner Basin.  Winter may be releasing her grip, but impacts will be felt for weeks to come.  BFC file photo by Stephany.  Click photo for larger image.

As the Spring Equinox approaches, wild buffalo calving season is barely a month away. This is a most critical time for buffalo and other wildlife who have struggled to survive the harsh winter, living on the meager offerings of sleeping grasses and their own stores of body fat. With these stores are nearly depleted most of the buffalo we are seeing appear thin with protruding ribs, backs, and hump bones. Being forbidden access to lower elevation winter range takes a huge toll on the bison. In the past few months more than 630 wild buffalo have been killed by humans and winter kills will also be significant. Though snows are quickly melting, green-up is still weeks away, and now is the time when only the strongest will survive. There is danger even in the new ultra-rich spring grasses that will come as the digestive systems of buffalo (and elk), used to breaking down coarse, dry winter-fare, are vulnerable to overindulgence in the green grasses they so desperately need.

This bull and his companion walked through a field of gut piles, stopping to investigate and mourn the violent passing of relatives.  BFC file photo by Stephany.  Click photo for larger image.

Meanwhile, treaty hunting has continued.  Twenty-three more wild buffalo, including pregnant cows, were harvested over the weekend. Thankfully, no wild buffalo have been killed since Monday.  We anticipate that treaty hunts will finally be over soon, though it is difficult to predict.

  A bachelor bull group allows an orphaned yearling, who’s family has been killed by hunters, to take shelter in their company.  It is not unusual for cow-lead family groups to adopt orphans, but this is the first time we’ve seen bulls seemingly accept such a young one.  BFC photo by Stephany.  Click photo for larger image.

Yellowstone National Park issued a press release on Tuesday, announcing that three buffalo were poached in the Blacktail region of the park; shot and killed. While this news is very disturbing, we find great hypocrisy in the fact that the Park Service can capture and send hundreds of buffalo to slaughter while condemning others for committing similar crimes against the buffalo. Closure signs are still in place all around Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek bison trap, and we have noticed a few more horses arriving to their corrals.  While capture and slaughter operations may have ceased for the time being, we are ever-vigilant for hazing (harassment) operations to take place.

  A late-born calf, still donning is red baby coat, grazes alongside its mother.  Most buffalo calves turn this color by July or early-August.  Survival is more challenging for baby buffalo born closer to the cold, unforgiving months.  BFC file photo by Stephany.  Click for larger image.

Livestock interests are attempting to turn year-round habitat for buffalo into a slaughter agreement. Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks and Department of Livestock met this week to discuss a draft proposal that would exchange wild buffalo lives for access to year-round habitat in the Hebgen Basin west of Yellowstone National Park. Essentially, if there are 4,000 bison or more, no additional tolerance will be given, and so-called tolerance would only be given as the population declines.  The proposal is unacceptable to Buffalo Field Campaign, as we will not compromise the buffalo or make them pay a blood-sacrifice to gain ground.   This proposal shows that broad public support for year-round buffalo habitat has been corrupted by ranchers to force an agreement, a public buy-in, for slaughtering buffalo and driving the population down to a few thousand. The proposal is still in draft form and we are currently reviewing the details. In the meantime, please send a letter to Montana Governor Steve Bullock telling him you reject slaughter-for-habitat, and urge him to step up and take a meaningful leadership role for America’s last wild, migratory buffalo. It is, after all, Montana’s livestock industry anti-bison policies that currently drive all of the mismanagement of the world’s most important bison populations.

Though the buffalo are up against incredible odds, there is a new BFC video below that shows they have awesome friends in many places. Enjoy this light-hearted piece and know that everyone, everywhere, who cares about wild buffalo is Buffalo Field Campaign.



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