RFN Report: Action, Not Despair – 2/20/23

Monday the 20th was my last day in Gardiner for a while. I went out for one last patrol at dawn, leaving the place I was staying at the same time as a hunt party and one of the game wardens. Well, they were apparently late, because as I got to a spot where I could scope out Beattie Gulch, the shooting was already about to begin. Again, a group of buffalo came running through from the north. And again, a frenzy of shooting started. Too many gunshots to count, but in the end, I could see 23 bodies on the ground, and at least one that that hobbled off injured into the park, to later die or be killed because of their injuries. The ‘hunters’ shot one in the clean zone and one on private property, not even able to abide by the few protections in place for both the buffalo and for safety.

A collage of photos showing the 23 bodies of dead buffalo from the morning's 'hunt'.
This gruesome collage shows the death toll from the morning’s ‘hunt’.

I cannot help but wonder if these ‘hunters’ forget that each of these bodies on the ground was once an individual, beautiful, majestic animal – buffalo brothers, sisters, mamas, and yearlings.

A photo collage of the faces of 23 living, breathing buffalo
Never forget – each body on the ground was a living, breathing, individual buffalo just moments ago.

They also shot at buffalo who were mourning their dead relatives – just as disrespectful as it would be to attack those gathered at a human funeral. To see the buffalo mourn is a powerful sight. To see them shot at while they mourn is absolutely enraging.

In two short hours of patrol I saw 23 buffalo die, another dead in the park later, laws broken, and bodies piled high by the retrieval road.

Is the history of the slaughter of the last wild buffalo repeating itself? Or did it never stop? Does it matter, in the end, who is doing the slaughtering?

The retrieval road in Beattie Gulch is piled with the bodies of dead buffalo as the hunters skin and process them.
When will it be enough?

It is easy to forget, when out in the thick of the slaughter at Beattie Gulch and beyond, that the other arm of buffalo eradication is just a mile or so away, hidden inside a huge closure in Yellowstone Park. As of last Friday, the Park had captured 608 buffalo. Of these, only ten have been released. Eighty-eight have been shipped to slaughter, and another 192 have been sentenced to a life of domestication in the quarantine program. Another 316 are being held in the trap for quarantine, slaughter, or release. Please contact Yellowstone now and tell them to release ALL of the buffalo left in the trap! The toll on the population has already been much too great; they can make a difference by releasing those they have captured – but they need to hear from you!

Long photo collage of many buffalo in a trap.
This is a composite photo of the trap. Click to open in a new tab, then click on the image to zoom in.

It was a very difficult week in Gardiner. This final day of my week of patrols, the tears came in earnest. It is devastating to witness what is being done to the last wild buffalo. In the six days I was there, over 135 buffalo were killed – the population cannot sustain this kind of loss. The death, the disrespect, the lack of any concern for the very viability of these last herds – it is hard to witness. But it is important work. The buffalo need people on the ground to bear witness, and to tell their story. May the tragedies we witness, and that we share with you, spur us into action, as opposed to despair.

For the buffalo,

Thank you for reading and sharing our reports from the field. We want to spend more time on the ground here in Gardiner with the buffalo, but it is costly. If you can, please support the work we do. If you cannot donate, please support by taking action, sharing our reports and action alerts, and spreading the word. Thank you!