Roam Free Reports

Packed House for Yellowstone Voices Film Screening

A flyer announcing the film screening on November 9, 2023.

Dear Friends, 

We are very pleased to let you know that Thursday’s screening of Yellowstone Voices: A Path Forward for the American Bison was a wonderful success!  

Before the event, RFN co-founders Stephany Seay and Jaedin Medicine Elk met with Rochelle Salois, Confederated Salish & Kootenai tribal member; Steve Kelly of Alliance for the Wild Rockies; Bonnie Lynn of Yellowstone Voices; her incredible lawyer, Jared Pettinato; the producer of the film, Greg Cairns; and Bonnie’s son, Adam, who ran security for the event. We shared updates, new information, and had some great brainstorming sessions. Good things are on the way.

Two people stand at a podium in front of a film screen.
Bonnie Lynn of Yellowstone Voices introduces the film.

The Museum of the Rockies was the perfect venue! As we arrived, we noted quite a few vehicles in the parking lot. When we got to the auditorium, there were some new and familiar faces. More and more people continued to arrive. Just a few minutes before we started, the whole auditorium was packed! It was such a terrific turnout. Our friend, Nikos Pastos, Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal member, opened the event with a very thoughtful prayer. Bonnie welcomed everyone and spoke some powerful, heartfelt words. Then the film began.  

Buffalo on a film screen in a darkened auditorium full of people.
The full audience was captivated by the film.

Most of the folks who were interviewed for the film were there, and would be on a Question & Answer panel at the end of the evening. As the film played on, there were scenes of the beauty and grandeur of the buffalo, and, of course, the heartbreaking, maddening scenes of what befalls them when they migrate out of Yellowstone into Beattie Gulch. Gasps of shock and sorrow could be heard throughout the audience. Those of us who have been bearing witness lived through these scenes over and over again. Everyone in the auditorium was moved. When the film ended, there was huge applause. People were touched. Touched enough to want to do something, anything, to stop this senseless slaughter disguised as a hunt. 

After the film was over, we had a big screen zoom call with Dr. Peter Nara, M.Sc, DVM, PhD. He was in total agreement with the concerns we all raised about the wrongness of the concentrated killing fields at Beattie Gulch and how that negatively impacts the buffalo, the ecosystem, and some of the human players involved.  

A panel of people on stage, the one on the right is standing and speaking into a microphone.
Panelists here include, left to right: Jaedin Medicine Elk, Northern Cheyenne tribal member
and co-founder of Roam Free Nation; Edwin Johnson, licensed Montana outfitter and resident;
Stephany Seay, co-founder of Roam Free Nation; Rochelle Salois, Confederated Salish & Kootenai tribal member; Clint Nagel, President, Gallatin Wildlife Association; Rick Wallen, former head bison biologist for Yellowstone National Park; John Meyer, lawyer at Cottonwood Environmental Law Center; and Nikos Pastos, Confederated Salish & Kootenai tribal member. (Photo by Dagmar Riddle)   

Following that, there was a Question & Answer session with most of the folks who were interviewed for the film sharing information and ideas with members of the native and non-native audience. Even Rick Wallen, Yellowstone’s former head bison biologist was there with us, finally able to say the things he had not been allowed to convey while working for the Park Service. Natives, scientists, lawyers, outfitters, activists – everyone an advocate – represented splendidly. There was no opposition from the audience. We were all on the same page. We all want to end this brutal killing. We all want a path forward for the mighty buffalo.

During the panel session, it was mentioned that it was Bonnie’s 80th birthday that day! The whole auditorium sang Happy Birthday to her. She replied saying: this is not about me, but about the buffalo, it’s a birth day, a new day for this path forward. At the very end, our dear, long time friend, Jimmy St. Goddard, Spiritual Leader of the Blackfeet Nation, closed the evening with the drumming of a buffalo song. It was an amazing event and we are so thankful for and proud of having been a part of it. 

Thank you for allowing us to be there and for your wonderful support. Roam Free Nation would like to give a special thank you to Steve Kelly for providing us housing and hospitality, and so much more. And a special thank you to Bonnie Lynn and her team for bringing this issue – and us as a team – so far along. We thank each and every one of you who stand in defense of wild nature and the last wild buffalo. The field season draws near. Soon we will need to return to the front lines and we will need your help to facilitate our being there. Please consider financially supporting our work to make this possible.  

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!  

Wild is the Way! Roam Free!  

~ Stephany 
Co-founder, Roam Free Nation 

Reporting from the October IBMP Meeting

Dear Friends,

Jaedin Medicine Elk and I traveled to Chico Hot Springs, MT, for the fall Interagency Bison Management Plan meeting, which took place on Halloween. Not exactly how we wanted to spend this holiday, but the buffalo come first. This is our report back to you. 

A close up of a buffalo eyeing the camera

We learned that the Montana State Vet (Dept. of Livestock), Marty Zaluski, has retired. The new state vet is Dr. Tahnee Szymanski. She is a native Montanan and a graduate from Oregon State University, a big agriculture school. To our knowledge, she may be the first female state vet for Montana. We hope she will be more gentle than the men before her. 

We also learned that one of Yellowstone’s bison biologists, P.J. White, has retired. 

There was much hoopla from the Montana Dept. of Livestock in regards to language the Park and other agencies wanted to strike from the Operations Plan in regards to vaccinating wild bison. In 2014, Yellowstone squashed the idea of vaccinating buffalo, because it doesn’t make sense on so many levels. It is domestic, invasive cattle who should be vaccinated, not wild buffalo. To date, there is no safe and effective brucellosis vaccine because former President George W. Bush placed Brucella abortus on the Center for Disease Control’s bio-terror agent list – a foolish move that prevents scientists from working to find a vaccine that works. On cattle.  

A meeting room full of people facing a speaker.
A full house at Chico Hot Springs for the October IBMP meeting.

More urgently, Yellowstone released their summer bison population estimate. The Yellowstone buffalo population dropped by 2,000 in the last year. This is mainly due to excessive treaty hunting. The Park reported that 60-70% of the population migrated into the Gardiner Basin (on the north edge of Yellowstone) where there was a record “harvest”, as we have previously reported.

Chris Geremia, Yellowstone’s head buffalo biologist, reported that the imperiled Central herd continues to decline. As he has for over five years now, he again recommended that no buffalo be hunted in the Hebgen Basin, on the west side of the Park. But, the hunters will not listen. The Central herd are the only buffalo who migrate into the Hebgen Basin, but they also migrate into the Gardiner Basin, so they are doubly impacted by “management” actions (hunting, slaughter, quarantine). 

Astoundingly, he also recommended that hunters kill MORE females than bulls!  The females are the matriarchs, the ones who teach the youth where to find the best grass, the best water, the safest lands and routes to get there. They are also the ones who carry in their wombs the next generation. As we stated in our public comments, killing the females is what destroys a nation. 

Once again, they set no quota, meaning if we have a heavy winter like last year, it could be another free-for-all killing frenzy. They did suggest that no more than 1,100 should be “taken”, but that’s only a suggestion that holds no weight. Buffalo advocates know that killing one is too many right now. These populations need federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. They must be allowed to recover and restore themselves on the lands that are their birthright, and ESA listing is the only thing that will give them the respite to do so. But, restraint and respect aren’t something that agencies or hunters really care about. 

The MT Dept. of Livestock appealed to treaty hunting tribes to actually help them by hazing with bullets, should buffalo approach or breach the so-called tolerance zones, beyond which, buffalo are currently not allowed. Once again, they want to use tribes to do their buffalo-killing dirty work. 

In an interesting twist, some members of the Interagency Bison Management Plan began questioning what they were doing, why do they exist, what is their purpose in moving forward? They currently have no purpose other than to maintain the status quo and make the lives of the last wild buffalo one of unnecessary challenges and misery. 

Jaedin Medicine Elk speaks at the meeting.

The public comment period actually came before lunch, this time. There were some really great words said on behalf of the buffalo. One person really stands out – Wendy Whitehorn, someone we’ve been in touch with since last winter. She is a native Montanan, born and raised on a Montana farm. In her comments, she sang a version of “Home on the Range” that put the DOL to shame. It was brilliant. She had visual aids, some blown up photos of ours that really helped illustrate the travesty she was conveying. It was an honor and pleasure to meet her.

View Jaedin Medicine Elk’s comments above and check back soon for videos of the other public comments!

There were a couple of decent articles that came out about the meeting and population count:
From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Livestock Department, Yellowstone, Exchange Blows in Annual Bison Meeting
And from the Billings Gazette: Yellowstone bison population estimated at 4,800 following deadly 2022-23 winter

A young buffalo sits in a snowy landscape of sage.

Winter is here now, and the deep snows are just around the corner. We need your support to be in the field, to stand in defense of our buffalo family. There is a lot of travel and lodging involved to keep us on the front lines, so please, do what you can to support our work in standing with the last wild buffalo. Thank you so much for loving wild buffalo! 

Next week, November 9, we will travel to Bozeman to watch a public screening of Yellowstone Voice’s “A Path Forward for the American Bison” at the Museum of the Rockies. We will be part of a panel discussion after the documentary plays. We wish you all could be there with us. Trust that we will represent. 


~ Stephany
Co-founder, Roam Free Nation

Reporting back from the IBMP meeting

Three buffalo calves nuzzle each other.

Roam Free Nation’s cofounders traveled to Gardiner, MT recently, to attend the Interagency Bison Management Plan meeting and speak on behalf of the buffalo. On our way there we had the pleasure of meeting up with our friends Mike Garrity and Steve Kelly of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. These are the good folks who have been funding the “There’s No Hunt. It’s Slaughter” billboards, and assisting us with gaining lots of media attention. We give thanks for these fine comrades.

A room full of people looks at a screen.

Given the tragic winter and early spring the buffalo had, we expected the meeting to be much more intense than it was. It was a packed barn (yes, the meeting was held in a barn), but there were very few tribal representatives there, and some of the tribes who “hunted” this year were not represented at all. And, of course, the buffalo don’t have a seat at the table.

People look at a graph on a screen that shows "Hunting by Treaty Tribes"

The most disturbingly revealing part of the meeting was the overview of the “hunt”. While it’s a bit hard to see in the photo, the graph demonstrates how many buffalo were killed by the state and tribes.

Here are the grim numbers that graph represents:

State: 75
Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes: 151
Nez Perce: 417, plus 5 elk
Shoshone-Bannock: 28
Umatilla: 99
Yakama: 30
Blackfeet: 171 (they reported 70 bulls and 101 females!)
Crow: 36, plus 28 elk
Northern Arapaho: 78
Unidentified kills: 136
Wounding loss reported by NPS and FWP: 37

With some new figures reported at this meeting, the number of buffalo killed in the “hunt” now stands at 1258.

Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks (FWP) and the tribes who were represented went around the room reporting how the “hunt” had gone for them, and I quote:

FWP: “Went pretty well.”
Confederated Salish & Kootenai: “Two violations. Went pretty smooth.”
Nez Perce: “It was a banner year!”
Yakima: “No issues. Smooth Season.”
Shoshone-Bannock: “Everyone’s happy. No complaints.”
Blackfeet: “Seventy bulls, a hundred and one females.”
Crow: “This hunt, they call it. Why do we have to participate? We’d rather have live buffalo than dead buffalo.”

We applaud the Crow representative, Leroy Stewart, for that statement. But he also said, reluctantly, that his people will continue to hunt because they have a right to do so.

They went on to discuss gut pile (and dead baby buffalo) clean up. The fact that they need to clean up a testament to how wrong this hunt is. Jaedin remarked that there shouldn’t be a clean up at all because tribes should be taking everything.

After that, there was a long lunch break, and when we returned, the public got a whopping two minutes to give comments. You can watch videos of our comments, and those from a couple of our powerful friends:

Jaedin Medicine Elk’s comments
Stephany Seay’s comments
Bonnie Lynn of Yellowstone Voices comments
Dagmar Riddle, Earth advocate’s comments

The IBMP officials came back to discussing the hunt again, and some good words were said by a few people. Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly remarked that the hunt, “can’t be a free-for-all”.

Ervin Carlson, President of the InterTribal Buffalo Council and Blackfeet tribal member said, “leave those animals. Let them be alive. Let them be wildlife like other animals.”

And Tom MacDonald, Tribal Chairman for the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, cautioned the group to, “try not to manage for numbers. You will always fail. Manage for conflict. Give back to the buffalo. Let them express themselves and restore them on to the landscape.”

In the end, without action, these are just words.

Two buffalo cross the highway in front of a semi truck with "teeth" displayed on the grille.

Lastly, there was a safe passage presentation by HDR, Inc., who are consultants for the Montana Department of Transportation. In the Hebgen Basin, near West Yellowstone, runs Cougar Creek. Highway 191 runs over it, and the bridge is currently being redone. They are going to raise the bridge so that wildlife, such as moose who are very tall, will feel comfortable walking under it. They will put in a quarter of a mile of wildlife fencing in both directions to help encourage wildlife to move that way. They are also going to be putting up live (real time) animal detection signs along Hwy 191 from Cougar Creek all the way south to the town of West Yellowstone. This means that the buffalo will get a bit more help. They reported — as we know — that current warning signs and speed limits aren’t working, and that historic records show that most of the buffalo — as we know — are hit and killed near the Madison River. So, we asked them if they were planning on putting in safe passage at the Madison. They said they were discussing it. I guess that is better than a “no”.

A car drives pasta billboard that says "There is no hunt. It's slaughter!"

After the meeting we had the pleasure of having dinner with our dear friend, Bonnie Lynn, of Yellowstone Voices, then hit the hay early so we could head out first thing in the morning. Making our way west, as we drove through Belgrade we we got to see one of our billboards. That was really cool to see!

Just a few hours after we returned home, Mike Garrity sent me this Daily Montanan article about the meeting. It includes an image of our billboard and a quote from Stephany.

That’s all from here, for now. The next IBMP meeting will take place on Hallowe’en at Chico Hot Springs, about thirty miles north of Gardiner, in the Paradise Valley. We will be there to represent.

We appreciate all of you being with us so much, and are especially grateful for your support making it possible to attend this very important meeting. Thank you! 

Wild is the Way ~ Roam Free!

Spring Arrives, and Buffalo in the Trap are Released

The latest IBMP report is out and the big news is that Yellowstone has kept their word and released the 803 buffalo they were holding in the trap.

A young buffalo looks out from a chained gate.
An older photo of the buffalo in Stephens Creek capture facility, from when they allowed media tours.

This is cause for a huge celebration, and as the grass greens, the snow disappears, and new calves appear, we celebrate with the buffalo, and give thanks for the hardy survivors of this year’s slaughter.

A brand new buffalo calf stands below his or her mother

At the same time, we mourn the losses the buffalo herds suffered this season. In the past two weeks since the last report:

  • 2 buffalo died in the trap before they could be released
  • 33 more buffalo were killed in the “hunt” – the majority of these are listed as “unknown” age and sex, and were not reported by any tribe in particular, so we can be sure there are the deaths of adult pregnant females hiding in that number.

One would think the slaughter would stop, now that the calves are arriving, but we have reports from Gardiner that there are still a few “hunters” around the area. We only hope that the buffalo released from the park’s trap headed south to the safety of the wilds of Yellowstone.

We will continue to update you if these numbers go up, but for now, we hope that the buffalo are left in peace.

As of now, this deadly season for the buffalo looks like this:

  • 1548 buffalo have been removed for the population – 25% of the population.
  • 282 buffalo were sentenced to a life of domestication and captivity through the quarantine program
  • 1266 were killed by mismanagement actions – 21% of the population.
    • 1172 in the “hunt”
    • 88 shipped to slaughter
    • 6 deaths in the trap

This does not include winterkilled buffalo or those who died on the roadways.

This is the most deadly year for the buffalo since 2007/08.

A pie chart shows the breakdown of buffalo eliminated from the population. 68% killed by treaty hunts, 18% sent to quarantine, 6% shipped to slaughter, 5% killed by state hunts, and 2% killed by fatal hunt wounds.

As this deadly season winds down, we are angry at the loss of so so many buffalo, we are frustrated with the games of politics played by humans that should be the buffalo’s allies, and we are committed to continue to speak for the buffalo until they roam free. Now, we breathe the spring air, celebrate the arrival of the calves, and take their boundless energy with us to carry the fight on into the future.

Management Runs Amok for the Last Wild Buffalo

The latest IBMP report was released last Saturday. We once again bring you our breakdown of the bloody details.

A buffalo looks back at the camera

As of Saturday, March 31st, 2,318 of the last wild buffalo have been removed from the population – 38% of the population.

Yellowstone is holding 805 of those buffalo for release. This means the park has captured 432 buffalo since the last report! Even if the park honors their promise to release those buffalo, still 1,513 will have been removed from the population – 25%.

While we feel a huge relief to hear from Yellowstone that they will set the captured buffalo free, there are big concerns about how holding them for so long will impact the dynamics of both the distinct herds. While in captivity, Central and Northern herds are kept together in ways they would not be in the wild, and they tend to grow strong bonds. Some buffalo may leave one herd for another, which has unknown negative impacts for each herd and for the population as a whole.

Click on the image to see composite photo of the small trap, then click anywhere on that image to zoom in. This is a photo from February; there are now many, many more buffalo in the trap.

The Central herd, who is already imperiled, can’t really afford to have herd members leave to join the Northern herd. An additional concern is that we are barely two weeks away from calving season — if buffalo start to give birth in the trap, that could spell big trouble, because buffalo are fiercely dedicated to their calving grounds and we do not want them to think of the trap as a calving ground.

“Hunters” are still killing buffalo as well – 72 were reported killed in the last two week. This killing of pregnant mamas just weeks away from giving birth is insanity.

Hunters in hi-viz yellow jackets stand in front of a group of running buffalo.
Buffalo flee back to the park as shots are fired.

Right now there are ten tribes hunting under treaty right, but there could be a dozen more who decide to participate. How in the world is this buffalo population supposed to survive all these people coming to kill them? How do the tribes and partners with the IBMP plan on working together to sustain a healthy buffalo population?

Even with the victory of this coming release, 1,231 have been killed this season – that is 20% of population. This makes this the most deadly year for the Yellowstone buffalo since the massive slaughter of 2007/08.

Yellowstone Holds the Fate of the Buffalo in Their Bloody Hands

Once again, the latest IBMP report came out last Saturday. We bring you our breakdown of the bloody details.

A frost covered buffalo rests in the snow.
  • 30% of the last wild buffalo have been removed from the population. Thirty percent!
  • That is 1,814 beautiful, sacred buffalo who have been killed or are being held captive.
  • 1,158 buffalo have been killed as of March 18th, 2023. This includes 148 killed in the “hunt” in the last two weeks.
Six buffalo heads lay in the grass next to a game sled.
Photo courtesy of Kay Scott Ensley.
  • At least 421 adult females have been killed this season – nearly every one of those females will have been pregnant. That’s nearly 421 calves that will never be born.
  • “Hunters” have killed 36 adult females in just the last two weeks. In mid March. The calves in those mamas’ wombs would have been born in just another month.

Yellowstone has been complaining lately – claiming they have no control over what happens to buffalo once they leave they park – they have been trying to pass the blame and pretend that their hands are clean. Let’s look at how “clean” their hands are…

  • Yellowstone has trapped 781 buffalo at the Stephens Creek Capture Facility inside the park.
  • 88 were shipped to slaughter – of these, 70 were adult females, so that is another nearly 70 calves who will never be born.
  • 282 of the captured buffalo have been sentenced to a life of domestication in the quarantine program. You can call it the “Bison Conservation and Transfer Program” if you want – it still means buffalo who will never be wild again.
  • Of the 781 the Park has trapped, only 34 have been released so far.
  • 374 buffalo are being held in the trap for “release or slaughter”. Yellowstone needs to commit to releasing every single one of those buffalo. Contact Yellowstone now!

This devastating slaughter, combined with natural winterkill, which could be high this year because of the rough winter, puts the survival and the genetics of both herds of buffalo in Yellowstone in danger. The “hunt” has been, and continues to be, an irresponsible slaughter that disregards the very survival of the population. The fact that Yellowstone has captured, slaughtered, and consigned to quarantine another huge group of buffalo only compounds the cost to the herds.

How can those out there doing the bulk of the killing say that they want more buffalo on a larger landscape? How can Yellowstone say the park could host 10,000 plus buffalo while they contribute to removing 30% of the herd? When does it end? When the buffalo are gone?

The buffalo need an END to the killing, a MORATORIUM on hunting until the numbers recover and habitat increases, an END to being treated like livestock, and an END to being “managed” by Montana livestock interests. The buffalo can recover; they can find their way back to their traditional lands. We just need to get out of the way.

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

Over a quarter of the last wild buffalo GONE.

The latest report on bison mismanagement from Yellowstone National Park is up on the site. Certainly look at the report in all its horror, but here is a bit of a breakdown.

A female buffalo looks at the camera.
When looking at these horrible numbers, we have to remember that each one was a living, breathing, wild buffalo.
  • 1,675 buffalo have been removed from the population as of Friday, March 3rd.
  • That is 28% of the population.
  • 919 have been killed in the “hunt” – and this includes 247 killed in just the two week period since the last report. This means nearly twice as many have been killed in the “hunt” as the last most deadly year – in 2016 when 486 were killed in the hunt.
  • 276 have been sentenced to a life of domestication through the quarantine program, with another 32 being held for quarantine “selection”. This already puts them over the stated capacity of the quarantine facility of 260.
  • 357 buffalo are being held by Yellowstone in the trap for “release or slaughter”.
  • 158 have been captured by the park in the last two weeks.

The Central Herd, which was at an estimated 1,500 animals before this season, has been in trouble for a long time. Now the Northern Herd, which was estimated at 4,500 animals, could be facing the same trouble, with the huge capture and slaughter numbers on the north end of the park. While we will not know the toll taken on the distinct herds until the summer count, it is entirely possible that the Northern Herd is now below the 3,000 number suggested as the minimum for herd viability.

With 28% of the population being killed or removed from the wild, this year’s toll on the buffalo has surpassed the cap suggested by every partner of the IBMP. The Park suggested that a 14% reduction would keep the population stable. The Nez Perce Tribe suggested that no more than 12% be taken. Even the Montana Department of Livestock (who has no business “managing” wild buffalo) suggested a cap of 25% removal. (These numbers can be seen on page 13 of the draft report from the last IBMP meeting.)

If even the buffalo’s worst enemy says the killing should stop at 25% of the herd, why are the buffalo still dying? Why is the Park still capturing? Why has Yellowstone not released the remaining captured buffalo?

Contact Yellowstone and ask!

Cameron (Cam) Sholly, Superintendent
Yellowstone National Park
PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168
Phone: (307) 344-2002

Springtime in Beattie Gulch

It’s spring in Beattie Gulch, the killing fields where buffalo go to die when they leave Yellowstone National Park. This is the runoff from all the blood and gore of the hundreds of gut piles left behind in this war waged against wild buffalo. “Blood Creek” video credit goes to Greg Cairns of Yellowstone Voices.

Warning, this video is graphic and disturbing.

Blood Creek video courtesy of Greg Cairns of Yellowstone voices.

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!