RFN Report: Could Things Be Winding Down in Gardiner? – 3/5-8/23

A female buffalo is seen in profiles in the snow.

Roam Free Nation cofounders, Stephany Seay and Jaedin Medicine Elk, made another journey to Gardiner, Montana this week. As we entered the Gardiner Basin, there were buffalo everywhere. Hundreds and hundreds of the gentle giants graced the land, spread out all over the Basin. We were, of course, anticipating the worst, especially with so many buffalo out, but to our pleasant surprise, there were hardly any hunters there and not much killing relative to how terrible this season has been. At first we started to wonder if maybe the hunters had realized that they killed way too many buffalo (one is too many from this imperiled population) and decided to hang up their rifles. We were wrong.

A family group of buffalo walks in the snow at dusk or dawn.

The second day we were there, there was a single buffalo killed at the infamous Beattie Gulch. The next day two were taken: one at the gut pile-covered Beattie Gulch, and another in Cutler Meadows, which is the buffalo’s northernmost habitat where they are “tolerated.” On our last day there, two more were killed at the Cinnabar River Access, which is between Beattie Gulch and Cutler Meadows. While it really sucks that more buffalo were killed, it was not the killing frenzy that we have so often witnessed and come to expect. One of the hunts was actually the most respectful we’ve ever seen. A group of hunters started at Cutler Meadows, where about 200 buffalo were grazing and playing.

The buffalo knew something was up, and as soon as they saw the hunters, they all fled over the hills and onto Church Universal & Triumphant (CUT) land, where no hunting is allowed. However, there was still a bachelor bull group there and we though for sure at least one of those big boys was doomed. To our surprise, the hunters got in their vehicles and headed out. We kept an eye out and followed. Unfortunately, there was a family group at Beattie Gulch, and that’s where the hunters went. But, they didn’t just start blasting away. They took their time. A very long time, in fact. This kind of patience is so rare. When one of them finally pulled the trigger, the buffalo went down with a single bullet – another thing is is also very rare. We share this not to celebrate the hunt in any way, but just to give some credit where it’s due. That kind of patience and skill is almost never seen during these “hunts.”

A truck trailer is filled with the parts of dead buffalo.
A Montana Department of Livestock truck and trailer cart away the wasted parts of dead buffalo from the killing fields of Beattie Gulch. Photo courtesy of Yellowstone Voices.

These hunts, as we’ve said, are really just an extension of Yellowstone’s slaughter. This year has been the worst yet, as you know if you read our report. Beattie Gulch has, as usual, seen the worst of it. It is so very bad that there are literally gut piles spread everywhere just feet from each other. Hundreds and hundreds of them. A lot of the locals complain about them, worried about waking grizzly bears, and the sad unsightliness of it all. They are a danger to any scavengers who will eat them because they are full of lead. Well, the Forest Service and the Montana Department of Livestock are doing a little “clean up” of these gut piles at Beattie Gulch. What other hunt do you know of has such horribly concentrated gut piles that humans feel the need to clean them up? That they are doing so is yet another testament to horrific nature of this unjustifiable slaughter.

A group of buffalo cross the road in front of a semi truck and another vehicle

During our time there, with nearly 1,000 buffalo spread out in the Gardiner Basin, the most dangerous thing was the highway. Many different groups of buffalo were east of the Yellowstone River and up along Highway 89, a dangerous stretch of road for wildlife. During the daytime buffalo are usually safe from collisions, though some residents have very little tolerance for wildlife on or near the road and make some pretty stupid moves, like not slowing down when passing a herd. There were plenty of signs up to help warn traffic, but too often those warnings are ignored. The worst time for buffalo along the highway is at night, when thy are almost impossible to see until it’s too late. Luckily, while we were there, no buffalo were hit. Some elk, however, were not so lucky. These collisions could so easily be avoided if Montana would get it together and implement safe passage infrastructure. It’s a no-brainer, especially right on the edge of Yellowstone National Park. The Gardiner Basin is one of North America’s largest wildlife migration corridors, used by buffalo, elk, mule deer, pronghorn, big horn, wolves, grizzlies, and many others.

A big bull buffalo sits in the snow.

Since the hunt started in 2005, big bull buffalo have been a major target. So much so that we began to see them less and less. In fact, in the high hills way above the Yellowstone River to the east along Jardine and Travertine Roads, which used to be teeming with buffalo, bulls all but disappeared from there. You hardly see any buffalo on those lands these days. But with the snowpack inside the Park making life so difficult for the buffalo, we were seeing tons of massive bulls on lands along the Yellowstone. We hope they play it smart and stay out of the hunt zones until things settle down by the beginning of April. All buffalo are works of magic, but it is really something to be in the presence of those really big, mature bulls. Another thing we were seeing were adult females with multiple yearlings. This means their moms were killed. Luckily buffalo do adopt, giving the babies a bit of a better chance for survival.

On a quiet late morning we decided to check out the new road that leads you into Yellowstone from the north entrance. Many of you probably recall the intense flooding that took place this summer. Inside and outside the park, roads were washed out, houses floated down the river, and lives were lost. As it was the peak of Yellowstone’s visitation season, they rapidly went to work trying to get that part of the park reopened. They did not repair the old road that took you through the canyon, along China Garden, and the Boiling River. They built a new road to the west, on an old re-grown roadbed. The road is nuts! It’s very steep and very windy and we have no doubt it will cause some trouble. It was also quite boring. No more hot soaks in the Boiling River.

A billboard over a fence says, "There is no hunt. It's Slaughter!" and shows a long hunter shooting into a herd of buffalo.
Photo courtesy of Mike Garrity, Alliance for the Wild Rockies.

All in all, our time there was mostly pleasant, spending quality hours and days with the buffalo. It is always so healing to be in their presence. As another small service to them, we are working with our allies at the Alliance for the Wild Rockies to draw more attention to the farce of the “hunt.” On Monday, a billboard reading “There is No Hunt. It’s Slaughter!” was put up in Helena, Montana. On Thursday, another billboard was put up in Billings, Montana along I-90. There will be two more going up very soon – one that hunters leaving Gardiner will most certainly see. Maybe it will give them pause to understand that they are being used as tools by Montana livestock interests to facilitate the destruction of the last wild buffalo. Our accompanying opinion editorial can be read here and our latest press release here.

Wild is the Way ~ Roam Free!

~ Stephany & Jaedin, RFN Cofounders

RFN Report: It’s Worse than We Thought. 2/4/23

A snow covered buffalo looks into the camera.
Each of these numbers was a beautiful wild buffalo.

As a follow up to our report from yesterday, Yellowstone National Park submitted their current report on the wild buffalo who have been eliminated from these sacred herds, and the numbers are grim. Keep in mind, these aren’t numbers, they are wild buffalo. The Yellowstone population is being considered for Endangered Species Act protection, which makes this even more outrageous. This is what state, federal, and tribal governments are doing to the country’s National Mammal.

You can review the report for yourself, but we offer you a breakdown that may be a bit easier to comprehend.

A female buffalo and her tiny calf look into the camera.
The matriarchs are the glue that holds the herd together.

To date, and it is only early February:

  • Total eliminated from the last wild herds by government & tribal action: 1,024
    • Gardiner = 991
    • West Yellowstone = 33 (this does not include those killed on the highway)
  • Hunters have killed 527.
    • 33 of those were taken in West Yellowstone, the rest were taken in Gardiner.
  • State hunters have killed 55.
  • Tribal hunters have killed 421.
    • Note of interest: the Crow Tribe is now listed as hunting under treaty right, so now there are eight tribes descending upon Yellowstone buffalo.
  • Another 37 buffalo are listed as “Other” casualties of the hunt – it is unclear what this means.
  • Yellowstone National Park has had to euthanize 13 buffalo who were shot by hunters and fled into the park terribly wounded.
  • On the west side, 1 injured buffalo was killed by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

Capture for Slaughter or Domestication:

  • Yellowstone National Park has consigned 88 wild buffalo to slaughter.
  • Another 14 are being held for “release or slaughter”.
  • Capture has resulted in the capture pen deaths of 2 buffalo.
  • Yellowstone National Park has consigned 55 buffalo for domestication (quarantine).
  • Yellowstone is holding an additional 338 for quarantine “selection”.
    • Note of interest: Yellowstone has stated that no buffalo have been tested for brucellosis this winter. While the testing is terribly flawed, it makes no sense how they are determining which buffalo they send to slaughter or quarantine if they are not testing them for exposure to the livestock disease.

Toll on the matriarchs:

  • At least 339 adult females (most of them pregnant) have already been killed or otherwise removed from the population:
    • 130 killed in the “hunt”
    • 72 slaughtered
    • 137 await their fate in the quarantine selection pens

We all know how terribly important the adult females — the matriarchs — are to the health, wisdom, and longevity of the herds.

A lone buffalo stands in the snow looking across a river.
Wild buffalo are being decimated by the mismanagement of the IBMP.

Each of these numbers were once wild and free buffalo, living their lives as Nature intended. These numbers — these buffalo deaths and removals — are dangerously high for so early in the Interagency Bison Management Plan’s mismanagement season. Both capture and hunting will continue for the next two months, and hunting will continue almost year-round.

This is a travesty, and right now, we see no end in sight. Nearly 1,200 buffalo have been documented in the Gardiner Basin alone, which is a huge migration. Both members of the imperiled Central herd and the Northern herd are getting absolutely hammered right now.

PLEASE TAKE ACTION! Please contact Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly and urge him to stop this senseless slaughter! He knows it’s wrong. He’s just doing the bidding of Montana’s livestock industry. Tell him to stand up for the buffalo with his actions as he has done with his words. Tell him to represent the people who he works for — which is us. Speak from your heart and hold nothing back! The fate of the 352 buffalo currently in the trap – and of any captured in the future – is in our hands.

CONTACT:
Cameron (Cam) Sholly, Superintendent
Yellowstone National Park
P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168
Phone: (307) 344-2002
Email: Yell_Superintendent@nps.gov

And, please, pray very hard (or send your strongest positive thoughts) for the buffalo who remain…

WILD IS THE WAY! ROAM FREE

RFN Report: Yellowstone Shipping to Slaughter – 2/3/23

The face of a young buffalo is seen through a hole in the trap.
A young buffalo awaits her fate in Yellowstone’s trap.

As we feared would happen soon, Yellowstone National Park began transferring members of the last wild buffalo herds to slaughter! Stock trailers operated by the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes left Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek buffalo trap last Friday, and then again on Wednesday. The buffalo will be driven in these metal coffins over 250 miles to the Flathead Indian Reservation. There they will be taken to White’s Meats in the town of Ronan, the absolute end of the road for them. The tribe has put out a notice saying that buffalo meat will soon be available to tribal members for purchase. They are profiting off of wild buffalo slaughter. What kind of sacred relationship is that?

Yellowstone has informed Roam Free Nation that there will be specific numbers available today – Friday the 3rd. Find our updated post with the grim statistics here.

Just last week, Roam Free Nation counted at least 150 buffalo inside the trap. There is no question that Yellowstone will be opportunistic and capture many more than that. After being lured with hay into the outer catch pens, the Park (dis)Service moves the buffalo deeper and deeper into the trap, into pens that are much smaller and very sturdy. Family groups are separated, mothers and children torn apart. The terrified buffalo are run through an industrial strength livestock squeeze chute. Many suffer injuries in the chute — which used to be called “The Silencer” until public exposure forced the Park (dis)Service to spray paint over the gruesome name — horns get broken off when the trap operators slam a door that aims to hold a buffalo’s head still.

In here they are weighed, teeth are examined for age, and blood is drawn to test for brucellosis. These tests are absolutely inaccurate because blood tests can only determine exposure. Nine times out of ten, exposure means a buffalo has developed resistance (antibodies) to the cattle disease. The only way that actual infection can be determined is with a culture test, meaning the buffalo is already dead. More than 95% of buffalo who have been culture tested over the past couple of decades have all be found to hold resistance to brucellosis. But then it’s just too late because they are already dead.

A terrified buffalo is caught with their head in a trap.
The terror of the “Silencer” is the same, even if the name or the year changes.

With these inaccurate blood tests, those buffalo who test negative may be slated for domestication (quarantine). Those who test false-positive are slated for slaughter. It is an absolute travesty befalling our sacred buffalo, the country’s National Mammal.

Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek buffalo trap is located inside the park, barely a mile from the northern boundary, across which are the killing fields of Beattie Gulch. Just trying to survive, following their ancient migratory instincts as Mother Earth intended for them to do, buffalo are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. In the land where the snow is less deep and food more available, in one direction lies the trap, in the other the killing fields. To date, possibly 600 buffalo, certainly no less than 500, have fallen to “hunters” bullets.

National Park Service employees stand around the buffalo trap with big smiles on their faces.
National Park dis-Service – happy to be working for Montana livestock interests.

Yellowstone is acting contrary to their own science-based information. They have publicly stated that the park alone can sustain upwards of 10,000 buffalo! The population is now hovering around 5,000. They have stood up to the Montana Department of Livestock in meetings, yet they are bending over backwards to do their will. The only reason they are operating this trap and allowing wild buffalo to be mistreated and killed as livestock are, is to appease the unfounded fears of Montana’s cattle interests unfounded fears. There has never once been a single documented case of wild bison transmitting brucellosis back to the cattle they got it from. In fact, there have been over twenty cases of elk transmitting brucellosis to livestock, yet elk are free to roam. Make no mistake: this war against wild buffalo is all about the grass and who gets to eat it.

TAKE ACTION! Please contact Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly and urge him to stop this senseless slaughter! He knows it’s wrong. He’s just doing the bidding of Montana’s livestock industry. Tell him to stand up for the buffalo with his actions as he has done with his words. Tell him to represent the people who he works for — which is us. Speak from your heart and hold nothing back!

CONTACT:
Cameron (Cam) Sholly, Superintendent
Yellowstone National Park
PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168
Phone: (307) 344-2002
Email: Yell_Superintendent@nps.gov

WILD IS THE WAY! ROAM FREE

RFN Report: Another crazy morning in Gardiner – 1/25/23

Buffalo flee back to the park as shots are fired.

Buffalo are damned if they do, damned if they don’t. The buffalo who had been staying safe the past few days on CUT land walked into Beattie Gulch this morning. Lots of hunters were there ready with their rifles. A group of young native hunters walked out towards the buffalo, and as they got closer, began to shoot. In the span of just a few minutes, four went down. An accompanying adult in the background shouted, “Get another one!” And then it was over.

As the buffalo moved south into other portions of Beattie Gulch, more shots were fired. At least two went down that we could see, but no doubt there were more. As all of this was going on, some state hunters from Minnesota headed up Beattie Gulch right along the park boundary. The one holding the tag was hoping to get a buffalo with his bow, with a rifle for back up. The buffalo made it back to the park before he was able to kill.

Wild buffalo need to be free to roam – same as any other wildlife species.

It was such a sad procession to see these buffalo leave their land. They just don’t ever get a break. Going into the park they are safe from the hunters, but threatened by Yellowstone’s trap.

Trucks piled with buffalo parts.

After we left that scene, we drove around some rental cabins where some Yakima hunters were staying, their trucks loaded with buffalo body parts. Apparently, this is heavily frowned upon by the “homeowners association” so my friend, who owns some of those cabins, wanted photos taken. Well, as we were taking pictures, one of the hunters was in the truck and stepped out. What could have been a tense situation turned into a constructive conversation. From the hunter’s perspective, though, it is all about sovereignty and exercising rights. There is no consideration for the buffalo’s perspective, which is terribly sad. It’s all so human-centric, with the buffalo being pawns in this terrible game. We got his contact information, so I will be reaching out to him to continue the conversation and share what is truly happening with the last wild buffalo, and discuss things far beyond “rights” and human interests.

For now, I am packing and about to head out for a spell. But, as we said, myself and others with Roam Free Nation will soon return. We will always represent the buffalo’s perspective. We are buffalo-centric. We are the only true voice they have!! Please support our work to defend these sacred relatives!

WILD IS THE WAY! ROAM FREE!!

Roam Free Report from Gardiner – 1/24/23

Even at point blank range, this shooter could not quickly end this bull’s suffering.

It seemed that this morning might start off a little quiet. There weren’t many trucks around and no buffalo were visible around Beattie Gulch. But then, shots were fired, way back in the hills of Beattie Gulch – too far to see with the naked eye, or even binoculars. I scanned the land with my spotting scope and landed on a woeful scene: three huge bull buffalo had been shot. Two were dead, one looked like he was just bedded down, but we knew he had been hit because no buffalo would stay bedded down like that while his buddies had been killed.

The one gunner who hadn’t killed “his” bull just stood there as the bull lay suffering. Over the course of twenty minutes, he fired nine more shots – walking away from time to time, reloading his rifle, taking his time as the bull suffered. Eventually, the hunter just walked away and joined his party while the bull was left there to bleed to death. If you choose, you can watch a web cam video of this, courtesy of Yellowstone Voices. While the video description says the bull was shot seven times, we know from our observation it was at least ten.

After that heartbreaking scene, I ventured out on a recon to check on the buffalo who had come through Beattie Gulch last evening, miraculously unscathed. They were all safe on private land, yet their number had grown by about 150! Close to 300 buffalo were moving freely near Devil’s Slide. Still shocked that none of them were shot when they moved through the hunt zone the day before, I later came to learn that there are agreements to “use discretion” when trucks are on the Forest Service access road – or “buffalo retrieval road” – as to whether to shoot or not. Maybe that’s why the buffalo were free to move through Beattie Gulch, or maybe the hunters had had their fill for the day. Hunters have definitely had their fill generally speaking; over 400 buffalo have so far been killed in the Gardiner Basin.

Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek buffalo trap is full of buffalo destined for slaughter or domestication (quarantine).

From there, I headed to the McConnell river access road to get a good look at Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek buffalo trap. The Park has been luring buffalo into the trap with hay over the past few weeks. Their destination is slaughter or domestication (quarantine). To view the trap, I had to use the spotting scope, because Yellowstone does not want the public to see what is going on there. They enforce a closure around the trap that is seven miles long. You have to find “perches” elsewhere in the Basin to get any kind of view.

I was able to count 145-150 buffalo inside the outer catch pen, which is the first part of the trap. The other pens deeper into the trap were empty, so they have not yet started the nightmarish “working” of the buffalo, where they tear families apart, run them through a terrifying squeeze chute, and separate them by age and sex until they are loaded onto stock trailers headed for slaughter at White’s Meats in Ronan, Montana; or they are put into the quarantine facility where they will lose their freedom and home forever. Yellowstone also has a quarantine facility at Stephens Creek and the holding pens have been significantly expanded, but thankfully, those pens are empty now.

The killing fields of Beattie Gulch covered in buffalo gut piles.

This afternoon, I took advantage of the opportunity that no hunting was taking place, and hiked up into Beattie Gulch. I wanted to take a look at and document all the gut piles. I knew it would be bad, but it was even worse than I thought. There are gut piles everywhere, pieces of hide, wasted meat, and so sadly, in so many of the gut piles were baby buffalo who will never be given the chance to roam free.

One of many unborn calves in that field that will never live to roam.

They say if you want to keep a population down, or reduce it, to kill the females. Well, that is exactly what these hunters are doing. So many adult females are killed during the hunt, and most of them are pregnant. The adult females are the matriarchs, the keepers of the wisdom, the teachers, the ones who know and show the youth where and when to migrate, where the best grass is, where the safest watering holes are. They are the ones who give knowledge to the younger buffalo, who will then teach their children. With the loss of every adult female is not only the loss of a calf, but the loss of migratory memory and ancestral wisdom.

This is no hunt, it is a slaughter.

Not an hour after leaving Beattie Gulch, I checked on the buffalo who were still safe on CUT land and then ventured into the Park to check on others. As I was crossing the boundary to the south, buffalo were starting to cross the boundary to the north, heading straight for the killing fields of Beattie Gulch. I turned around and got my camera and scope set up, and as I did, no less than 200 buffalo began streaming across the park boundary heading straight for Beattie Gulch. In a normal, healthy world, witnessing that beautiful motion of the flow of buffalo moving across the landscape is a thing of celebration, beauty, and joy. And it still is, but knowing what their fate will be brings a heavy bittersweet taste to the event.

The buffalo just kept coming and coming out of the park, such a sight to behold. And the hunters were waiting for them. They held back until the buffalo moved just inside the hunt zone, and opened fire. At least 20 shots were fired, but it had started snowing so much that it was difficult to see how many actually went down. The vast majority of the buffalo, as they usually do, made an about-face and fled back to the park. This is exactly why buffalo restoration will never happen so long as this kind of “hunt” takes place.

Tomorrow, regretfully, I have to leave for a little while. But I, along with others from Roam Free Nation, will soon return. We need to be here to represent the buffalo’s perspective, to tell the truth about what is really taking place here. We urge you to lend your support to enable us to be a formidable and constant presence in the field. Please consider making a donation in support of our work. And if you can’t make a donation, you can still help wild buffalo by taking action on their behalf. Thank you so much for caring so deeply about these last wild herds!

WILD IS THE WAY! ROAM FREE!

RFN Report: The Relentless Killing Fields of Beattie Gulch – 1/23/23

Arising at 6:30 this morning, it is still velvety dark. I get ready for patrol, ready to be out there at first light when the “hunters” will be there. As I prepare, trucks already begin to arrive at the Beattie Gulch trail head. Seven hunt rigs soon make a bee-line to the north. Last evening a group of about 175 buffalo were north of Beattie Gulch on Church Universal & Triumphant (CUT) land, where they are safe. Being migratory, we knew they wouldn’t stay there long. I gather my things, warm up the car and head out. Sure enough, there are now no less than now fifteen hunt rigs lined up along the north boundary of Beattie Gulch. In the night, the buffalo had moved south into the hunt zone – better known as the killing fields of Beattie Gulch.

Hunt rigs line the boundary of Beattie Gulch in the pre-dawn light.

The beautiful woollies were all bedded down, peacefully awaiting the morning sun. The gunners didn’t care. They poured out of their warm trucks, rifles in hand, and headed towards the buffalo. Shots began to fire off, over and over and over. More than forty shots were fired. Buffalo who had not been hit – or at least not fatally hit – were running back towards the relative safety of the Park. But many fell. Down, down, down they went. Not all were killed. Many were left shot and suffering as the gunners pursued other buffalo, the wounded left wriggling and writhing on the cold ground. One last near-yearling was left, wondering where mom went, unsure of what to do. A rifle made the decision for her. From our vantage point, we counted thirteen bodies, but we know there are more.

Soon after the killing was over, most of the trucks went up a Forest Service access road, known as “the recovery road” where they are allowed to drive in to make it easy for them to retrieve their buffalo.

This is not a hunt.
It is a slaughter.

Leaving them to their field dressing, I ventured into the park to get counts on buffalo in danger of being captured for slaughter or domestication (quarantine), or those who may head north back towards the killing fields. The lands around Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek buffalo trap are teeming with buffalo. There are no less than 600 of the gentle giants gracing the landscape. It is a wonderful, beautiful sight until you remember what fates may await them.

As I write this, a small group of thirteen bulls and one female (an odd dynamic) are getting dangerously close to Beattie Gulch. We are watching closely.


Later in the afternoon, that group of fourteen suddenly turned into a group of about 120. They were headed right down Old Yellowstone Trail, almost across the Park boundary into Beattie Gulch, when they just stopped. They were sniffing around, and some of the bigger bulls started bellowing, like they do when in mourning. Their tails were up, and a sense of unease could be felt among the herd. They could probably smell all the death at Beattie Gulch. It seemed that one big bull in particular wanted to turn the group around, but they continued to stand there.

A few adult females were restless and wanted to go where they could find food, danger be damned. So, a matriarch lead her small family group right into Beattie Gulch, where hunters were still busy field dressing their kills from this morning. The rest of the group remained standing at the Park boundary, but eventually, the dam broke, and they all came into Beattie Gulch, walking right into the hunt zone. We were certain there was going to be another massacre and so we stood watch, ready.

At one point, the first small family group walked right up to where the hunters were field dressing a female – probably a friend of theirs. They walked right up to the hunters’ kill site to pay respects to their relative. Fortunately, the hunters let them have their time and backed off. So often when buffalo come to mourn, hunters will throw stones or sticks or snowballs at them to chase them off. Giving credit where it’s due, these folks allowed the buffalo their time. Then another group approached, and the same was granted. Eventually, all of the buffalo were in the heart of the hunt zone and we waited for shots to be fired, but, none ever came. I guess the hunters had their fill.

A small portion of that large group bolted back into Yellowstone, reasons unknown. The rest are currently safe on private property. But who knows where they will be in the morning, and, as they say, tomorrow is another day.

There is no way that natural wild buffalo restoration is going to happen with what is taking place on the edge of Yellowstone National Park. Barring Endangered Species Act listing, the buffalo really don’t stand a chance. Please be a voice that gives them that chance and take action now.

WILD IS THE WAY!
ROAM FREE!

P.S. Web cam footage from Yellowstone Voices will soon be available, and when it is we will share it with you.

Roam Free Nation Returns to Gardiner

As of January 22nd, 2023, Roam Free Nation has returned to Gardiner, Montana on the north side of Yellowstone to monitor, document, and give a voice to wild buffalo. Watch this space for regular reports!

RFN Report from Gardiner – 1/22/23

Roam Free Nation is present in the Gardiner Basin, along the northern boundary of Yellowstone National Park. There are hundreds of buffalo in the Basin, many of them in safe zones closed to hunters, but many others around Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek buffalo trap, and still others inside the trap slated for slaughter or domestication (quarantine). Two bulls who were at Beattie Gulch early this evening fell to the bullets of ‘hunters’. They are visible outside my window, truck lights blaring in the dark as they carve away on the remains of two of the country’s last wild buffalo. And those in the safe zones will not remain there, as buffalo are a migratory species. So, the hunters will watch and wait and kill as many as they can when the opportunity strikes.

Seen on the road near Missoula, a truck returns from the killing fields with a pile of dead buffalo.

In Gardiner, more than 120 buffalo have been shot and killed in this slaughter being disguised as a hunt. Far more than that when you count all the near-term calves left in their mother’s gut piles, and those who were wounded and fled back into the Park, later to be shot by park rangers. Countless calves have been orphaned as well, but thankfully, buffalo will adopt. But still, to see these calves mourning and searching for their lost mothers is heartbreaking. Gut piles are all over the place, a dangerous feast for many scavengers who will be poisoned by the lead in the hunters’ bullets.

Ironically, many of the people doing this killing say that they want more buffalo on a larger landscape, but by their very actions, they are preventing wild buffalo from accessing available habitat and having a chance to restore themselves. They are also causing the loss of migratory memory and changing the dynamics of herd behavior. They claim they are “forced” to come kill in this manner, but it is their choice to participate in this extension of government slaughter.

We are staying with friends from Yellowstone Voices, who have a web cam set up to gather footage of the killing fields of Beattie Gulch. If you go to yellowstonevoices.org and scroll down to the second video, you can see for yourself the horrible things that happen daily at Beattie Gulch. This video was taken only yesterday.

We will bring you more news and images and the truth about what is happening to the last wild buffalo as tomorrow morning comes.

WILD IS THE WAY! ROAM FREE!

On safe passage infrastructure

From a local supporter:

Hi my name is Pat Kennedy. 

I live in West Yellowstone, Montana, about 4 miles from YNP.

What l am about to tell you is an ongoing problem with our 191 highway. The buffalo come out of the park to where l live to migrate; they are the Central Herd. They have to cross this highway (191) to reach my neighborhood. The speed limit is 70 miles, and at night 55, and always 55 when buffalo are on the highway. Truck drivers only have one route. This story is very sad. Yesterday in the daylight an 18 wheeler was driving very fast. He saw the buffalo but hit it. Not sure if it was a bull or a pregnant mom. He left the scene. The buffalo was still alive, but they had to put it down. About a week ago same situation, mom and baby hit. There needs to be someone who can help. I am a very concerned person who loves my buffalo. Please let me know your options. 

Bison walk on a roadway in front of a line of cars.

Stephany Seay, our co-founder responded:

Law enforcement is aware of the problem. What we need is safe passage infrastructure. When I was with BFC we had a meeting with the Montana Department of Transportation. While they all agreed that safe passage was needed, they said it was not feasible (i.e. worth spending the money) until human life is lost. This is absolute b.s. and I think we need to put the pressure back on the MT DOT and perhaps Montana representative and senators in Congress. I would suggest contacting Governor Gianforte, but we know what he is. If we still had a local paper, I would suggest an advertisement, letters to the editor (the Bozeman Chronicle would still be worthy, and the Billings Gazette), and a PSA on local radio stations. The problem is, you can be there with all the lights and signs in the world but these truckers are in a hurry and warnings are ignored. We really need safe passage. On the edge of Yellowstone, it only makes sense. That, or take a jackhammer to that damn road…. my favorite option.

2022-23 FWP Bison Hunt Regulations

Thank you to everyone who commented! The overwhelming majority of comments – 75% – were for adding additional protections for the buffalo. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks voted to approve the current bison hunt regulations without any change. So much for public comments – but they heard our voices, even if they didn’t want to, enough so that they even skipped over the public commentary period on bison issues at their February 4th public meeting.

Buffalo mourning a fallen relative.

Comments now needed by January 21st, on Montana’s 2022-2023 Bison Hunt Regulations!

This is a great opportunity to raise our voices for Yellowstone’s imperiled Central herd, the last truly wild, migratory buffalo left in the country. It’s also an opportunity to challenge the slaughter disguised as a “hunt” in the Gardiner Basin, especially at Beattie Gulch. Public comments are being accepted for a very short time, now through January 21, 2022.

MT FWP is proposing no changes. Comment and share widely!

1. Urge Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to close bison hunting in the Hebgen Basin, west of Yellowstone National Park to offer some protection to the imperiled Central herd.

2. Tell Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks to work with tribal bison hunt managers and end the firing line at Beattie Gulch.Submit comments here:https://fwp.mt.gov/…/public-comment…/reg-proposals/bison

BACKGROUND:

• The Central buffalo herd – the direct descendants of the 23 survivors of the 19th century government slaughter – remain in danger. Central herd buffalo migrate both west into Montana’s Hebgen Basin, and also north into Montana’s Gardiner Basin, making them doubly impacted by “management” schemes, including excessive “hunting”, capture for slaughter, and capture for quarantine (domestication). Central herd buffalo are the only ones who migrate west into the Hebgen Basin, and they are in so much trouble that for the past few years Yellowstone NP and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials have called for NO KILLING of buffalo in the Hebgen Basin. So far, these have only been recommendations and they have fallen completely on deaf ears. State and treaty hunters don’t seem to care that the buffalo they are hunting are in such dire straits.

• The Gardiner Basin / Beattie Gulch – here, the buffalo rarely ever make it further than Beattie Gulch, Forest Service land adjacent to Yellowstone’s north boundary. What passes for a “hunt” make the buffalo unable to access another eleven miles of habitat to the north. Because of hunting they can barely access one square mile out of the 75,000 acres of habitat they’ve been granted in the Gardiner Basin. That situation is created by hunters. Also in the Gardiner Basin, the Travertine/Jardine/Eagle Creek area used to be teeming with buffalo. Since the hunt began, very few buffalo are found there now. Family groups from 20-30 buffalo at a time are gunned down at Beattie Gulch in the span of 5 minutes; often buffalo are hit but not killed – jaws blown off, gut shot, fleeing back into the Park, for park officials to “dispatch.” Pregnant female buffalo continue to be gunned down just weeks prior to calving season, leaving baby buffalo in the gut piles of their mothers across the Beattie Gulch landscape. There will never be the ability for wild buffalo to restore themselves when every single one who leaves Yellowstone through Beattie Gulch is gunned down. At the very least, the hunting of adult females must end. Too many calves are never born because they are left in their mother’s gut piles. It is the adult females who are the matriarchs of the family groups, the ones who hold the wisdom and teach the others.

PLEASE SUBMIT COMMENTS! Yellowstone’s buffalo herds are this country’s last wild, migratory herds. They are ecologically extinct and fundamentally endangered, though they are afforded zero protections. In either Basin, hunters are teaching the buffalo not to migrate in the direction of restoration. They are also killing off migratory memory and changing the herd dynamics by taking so many of the matriarchs who lead the family groups. Urge MT FWP to place a moratorium on hunting in the Hebgen Basin and end the firing-line slaughter in the Gardiner Basin and allow wild buffalo to recover and restore themselves on the lands that are their birthright. How do we measure recovery? Montana alone could sustain at least a million buffalo. That’s a good place to start.

WILD IS THE WAY! ROAM FREE!

Some good news for the last wild buffalo!

A close up of a buffalo face, tongue sticking out.

Some good news for the last wild buffalo, the Yellowstone herds! In a court battle over Endangered Species Act protections for these imperiled gentle giants, a federal judge has once again ruled in favor of wild buffalo. Yesterday, January 12th, U.S. District Court Judge Randolph D. Moss ordered a “remand” requiring the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to reconsider their (second) 90-day finding. According to one of the plaintiffs, “An affirmative 90-day finding would then compel the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to undertake a 12 month species status review, a comprehensive look at all factors that threaten or endanger Yellowstone bison.”