I arrived at Beattie Gulch this morning to see hunt rigs and hunters lined up on the road, but a big group of buffalo coming from the north ran straight through, sticking to the clean zone, staying safe. Unfortunately, there must have been others towards the back of the field, away from the road, as I heard shots and saw two downed buffalo in the distance.
Two is two too many, but the sight of the larger group running to safety, and the fact that the rest of the area seemed quiet, made me think we might be in for a more peaceful day.
I was wrong.
Later in the morning I came to the bridge over the Yellowstone to see two more dead being butchered. Then I saw what all the hunt trucks were waiting for – a group, maybe fifty strong, coming into the area from the north. At first they stayed on the river side, keeping safe, but eventually made their way across the road. The area is a skinny slice of national forest land between the road and cliff, eventually leading to a hill and a little path that goes over to private land and safety. It is the second choke point where hunters gather, firing line style, to pick off the buffalo who pass through.
It was a horror show. I ran the camera the entire time, just so I could count the shots after. Forty-four. Forty-four shots from people with guns taking aim, shooting gallery style, as the last wild buffalo run past them in a line. From where I stood, I could only see nine go down, but there were many more out of sight, and still more who were injured badly – two were later put down inside the park due to their injuries. The rest made it over the hill to safety, but the herd suffered a huge loss.
I left the shooters to their work. To their skinning and truck winches, and to their discarded feet and fetuses. I passed a woman posing for photos with the severed head of a buffalo. I had to move on.
At Beattie Gulch it seemed they’d made a few more kills. But those deaths, and the new regulations closing the area to shooting during retrieval and processing, bought others time to pass through safely.
As the afternoon went on, snow started to fall and visibility was poor. On the highway, a group of snowy faced buffalo stood in the road. People on both sides waited patiently, hazards on. But a big hunt rig, two buffalo heads in the back, sped up, swerved around me, and went speeding towards the buffalo. He stopped short of hitting them, but when he gunned his engine to move through the herd, he let out a cloud of black exhaust in their faces. It just goes to show how much respect this farce of a “hunt” shows the buffalo.
Evening came, and it was peaceful again. Maybe it was the snow, maybe it was the temporary closure of Beattie Gulch, maybe everyone’s trucks were just too full. I passed through Beattie Gulch at dusk and was greeted by the beautiful sight of the area full of buffalo being left alone. When you see it, it is so right, they are so much a part of this place – and you know that not just Beattie Gulch, but all the lands they once roamed should be filled with their presence once more.
Out before sunrise again, I see the headlights of fifteen or more trucks lining the road at Beattie Gulch. By the time I drive around, it seems it is all over already. I can see the bodies of five dead buffalo, but I expect more lie out of sight behind the hill.
Trucks of the unsuccessful shooters are already racing north, and I follow, expecting the worst at Cutler Meadows – the meadow to the north, near the border of bison tolerance. By the time I, and the racing trucks from Beattie Gulch, arrive, it is all over there as well – three more lie dead on the ground.
The day continued like that. There are so many “hunters” in town – from at least five different tribes. Maybe because it’s a weekend; maybe because snow is forecast for the next several days. They are chasing reports of buffalo in hunt zones, and I’m chasing them, and the buffalo are running for their lives. The town of Gardiner is filled with trucks full of dead buffalo parts. I returned to the place I’m staying to find a rig with blood pooling on the ground under the truck bed.
Three times today I see groups of buffalo, a hundred or more, run across the Yellowstone boundary – sometimes sticking to the road or private land, and one group running right through Beattie Gulch while the area was closed to shooting for retrieval and processing of the last dead. They sense the danger, and sometimes it keeps them safe, but not often enough.
In the afternoon rigs line up at Beattie Gulch again, waiting for one of these big groups approaching from the south, but they stay safe on private land. A smaller group from the north is not so lucky. The shooting is chaos – people running across the field with their loaded guns, chasing panicked buffalo through the sagebrush. One shooter clearly fires from the “clean zone” – the area close to the road that is supposed to be closed to hunting to keep residents and passerby on the road safe. He is spoken to by Forest Service and by his own game wardens, but will anything really change?
It quiets down again, but I see they are not opening the retrieval road. Two big, beautiful bulls cross the road heading to the hunt zone. I talk to them, plead with them, to go the other way. They are so stunning. The shooters go nuts, seeing their prize. They line up on either side of the bulls, waiting for them to enter the huntable area. If they started shooting, they’d be shooting right at each other. But these bulls are just teasing these “hunters” – they stayed there, grazing, maybe twenty-five feet from the hunt zone, for over an hour and a half. The big group gets bored and heads back to their warm trucks, leaving one guy, in his orange vest, sitting the sagebrush for another hour – if nothing else, you have to admire his patience.
About twenty minutes before the cutoff of hunt time, two others show up, not inclined to be patient. They’re hooting and hollering at these bulls, trying to get them to move. One starts throwing rocks at them, and these big old bulls just look back, unfazed, not moving. It gets dark and the men with the guns leave. The buffalo outsmarted the hunters this time, and hopefully they will again and again. The herd needs these smart old bulls, with their wisdom to survive another day.
I arrived in Gardiner Tuesday evening – greeted on the way in by the most handsome group of five bachelor bulls. They were proudly making their way north – they know the way, and given half a chance they would restore themselves on their lands. I was struck, immediately, by the numbers of buffalo outside of the park – I’ve been coming here for many years and this, by far, is the largest migration I’ve ever seen. And while that should be a beautiful thing, it’s been a devastating thing. According to the most recent report published on IBMP.info (the website of the Interagency Bison Management Plan), 1270 buffalo have been killed or otherwise removed from the population so far. That’s over twenty percent of the population, and it’s only mid-February.
Before sunrise my first morning, I sat with a huge group far to the north of the park border. It was an idyllic scene – hundreds and hundreds of buffalo, in the snow, with a crescent moon in the dawn sky. No hunters arrived there that morning – I guessed the recent snow had blocked the road. These were the lucky ones – they’d made it past the gauntlet of the Park’s trap and the firing line at Beattie Gulch – they’d made it nearly to the end of their allowed habitat, showing just how much farther that habitat needs to stretch. There were over a thousand buffalo out of the Park that morning – the most I’ve ever seen north of the boundary. That early morning was peaceful, but it didn’t last – later that day we think at least six were killed, but it’s hard to count when looking through binoculars at the masses of gut piles from previous kills. That day, the 15th, marked the end of the state “hunt”, so at least it is one less group out there gunning for the buffalo.
My second day here was a bloody one. Morning hunts killed three in the idyllic meadow where I’d sat the morning before, two near the bridge over the Yellowstone River, and another eight at Beattie Gulch. After the killings at Beattie Gulch a lone yearling wandered back and forth in the area, clearly looking for their lost mama. The desperation, the confusion – it is heartbreaking.
The afternoon saw a break in the hunting, so I took the time to tour the horrors of Beattie Gulch. To document, to mourn. I touched fur, and hooves, and noses. Bits here and bits there. Telltale signs of pregnant females. Gut piles everywhere, far into the distance. It’s the battlefield after a war, except this war is still going on. These photos are awful, but important, but they are covered so you can choose to skip them of you wish.
Back in Beattie Gulch at dusk, a group approached the boundary. And the shooters waited. And I waited, trying to will the buffalo to choose a safer path with my thoughts. Most tribes are supposed to stop shooting a half hour after sunset. As it got darker and darker, the shooters lined up in the snow with their guns, and the family group, with a very young, still red yearling in tow, headed closer and closer to the boundary. Another hunt party member and a tribal game warden stood in the way trying to block their path to the safe route through. But the group moved slow, seemingly undecided – and it really looked like they were going to hesitate enough to stay safe for the night. But at 6:18, in the dark, four minutes before the cutoff time, one shot – and one more dead buffalo. The others scattered, back to the relative safety of the park.
Today, Friday, was the worst day yet. At my dawn start I could see the headlights of hunt rigs lining the road by Beattie Gulch, but I didn’t even make it there, as more hunt rigs lined the road by the bridge. Men climbed the hill with their guns towards a sleeping group of buffalo. The buffalo were up and running quickly, but not quickly enough.
Seventeen shots, five dead buffalo, and the rest running for private land and a bit of safety. Again, a lone yearling looks for a lost mother, looking back to where the shooting happened, calling out, unwilling to move on with the rest of the herd.
While documenting that hunt, I could hear the gunshots from the direction of Beattie Gulch. When I got there, trucks lined the roadway, and the orange flags that signify retrievals in process were already up. Eleven were killed that morning, and more later – when they took a break from the butchering to clear the space for more shooting. We think at least nineteen were killed in Beattie Gulch today (plus unborn calves). The rest of the day was a whirlwind – hunts were happening all over, and buffalo were scattering, trying to escape. At least another eight were killed by the bridge, and it seems another six at the idyllic meadow – where again the shooting went until near dark. It brings the death toll for the day to 38 – an insane number for a killing season that runs for nearly six months.
These days with the buffalo, seeing their pain, their struggle, the insane obstacles humans put in their already difficult path to survival – they are long, and sad, but also powerful, and beautiful. This land is amazingly beautiful, but it needs the buffalo. We need the buffalo – they will show us the way. If we’d only let them.
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.
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”
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.
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…
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
As many of you know, on November 30, the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) partners (state, federal, and tribal) held a working meeting, which Roam Free Nation attended and spoke at. We wanted to give you a brief recount of some of the meeting’s highlights.
Getting to the meeting was no small feat. For now, we are about 250 miles away from Yellowstone, in NW Montana, on the Flathead Indian Reservation, and all the roads leading to West Yellowstone were treacherous with extreme winter conditions. Thanks to the skilled driving of our co-founder Jaedin Medicine Elk, we made it there and back safely. Although, the whole time we were questioning why in the world would we put ourselves in such danger, as to travel these roads. The answer was simple: because we love the buffalo so much.
This was probably the least frustrating IBMP meeting yours truly has ever attended. In fact, I would go as far to say that quite a lot of positive things were discussed that day. Let’s not delay, then:
Straight from Yellowstone’s bison biologist Chris Geremia’s mouth: “Yellowstone National Park can support upwards of 10,000 buffalo.” TEN THOUSAND. We’ve known over the years that the Park alone could sustain more buffalo than have ever existed since the shameful slaughter of the 19th century, but to hear the Park’s bison biologist state 10,000 was music to our ears. Buffalo create and manage their own habitat. They know what to do and humans should let them do it. The Earth created and chose them for a reason. The current population stands at approximately 6,000. That’s the largest it’s been since the Park has been in existence. The Montana Department of Livestock (DOL), of course, wants to severely reduce that number and bring it down to 3,000 as is stated in the Interagency Bison Management Plan. Three thousand is an arbitrary number that has nothing to do with any kind of science, biology, ecology. It’s merely a number of convenience that the DOL believes will limit bison migrating into Montana. Yellowstone stood up strong to them. I have to hand it to Yellowstone’s Superintendent, Cam Sholly, who really stood his ground and supported the current (and growing) population. He was direct in saying to the DOL that the population is higher than it’s ever been (since colonization), and the IBMP is still meeting their objectives, so what’s the problem? He said conflicts have gone down as the population has grown, so what’s the problem? He directly asked the Montana/DOL State Veterinarian, Marty Zaluski, to give him a scientific reason that the population should be reduced. Zaluski could not do it.
Yellowstone will no longer set kill target numbers for each year. Every year they come up with a number of buffalo to be killed to meet “IBMP objectives”, but, due to new information, real time on the ground, and strong public support for wild buffalo, they will no longer do this. This does not mean that Yellowstone will not capture for slaughter or quarantine, but it does mean that they will not be pressed to kill. Yellowstone stated that “meeting IBMP objectives does not require saying we need to remove X number of buffalo…. viable does not mean the minimum.”
Public comments were all strongly in favor of more buffalo on a larger landscape. Everyone spoke well and from their hearts and experiences. One gentleman who really stood out came from the Southern Cheyenne/Northern Arapaho tribes, also representing the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota — the great Sioux Nation. He read a letter from the tribal leaders of these tribes, calling the DOL to task, stating that they do not have authority nor jurisdiction on open and unclaimed federal lands. It sounded like legal action may be brewing, and that would be powerful.
While Yellowstone stated they would no longer set a kill target, they did write that they would not take more than 25% (!!!!) of the population. A representative from the Nez Perce tribe strongly objected to that, stating that his tribe would only agree to 10-11%. The DOL, of course, strongly objected to that, stating that a 10-11% reduction, after calving season, would mean an increase in the population, and the DOL — true to livestock and enemy #1 of wild buffalo — wants the population decreased. They never came to an agreement on this issue; so much remains to be seen. Roam Free Nation will state that we support a 0% reduction to allow wild buffalo to recover and restore themselves.
That’s the bulk of hot topics discussed at the meeting. While much of this seems positive, and it is because there is a shift happening, bad things are going to happen to the buffalo in the coming weeks, months, and years. But Roam Free Nation will be there to defend them every step of the way.
Here is a current example: while we were there, a group of about a hundred buffalo were in a buffalo safe zone on Horse Butte, but hunters were scoping them out and talking amongst themselves about how to get them out of there so they could shoot them. It is so frustrating to hear good words from (especially) tribal treaty hunters, who keep saying they want more buffalo on a larger landscape, but by their very own actions they prevent this very thing. This is the point of integrity. Humans have to walk the talk. It is not enough to say you want something or someone, only to get in that something or someone’s very way. There has got to be some restraint. You can’t say pretty words and not take action to make them reality.
We really want to thank the folks who joined and supported Roam Free Nation for this meeting. Our board treasurer Lee Fulton, buffalo defenders Taliyah and Earl, and Pat Kennedy, lucky resident of Horse Butte, and all the folks who were with us in Spirit.
Well, our brothers and sisters, it looks like things are slowly moving towards the Buffalo’s favor. If we keep applying pressure in a positive, healing way, it won’t be long until we have wild and free migratory Buffalo throughout the state of Montana. Buffalo should be just as wild as elk, moose, and deer. They should be respected to roam the same lands our indigenous ancestors have seen them roaming on for tens of thousands of years. Buffalo will help all other wild life and mother earth too, as well as humans. Haho everyone! Have a good time thinking “Wild and Free for our next generations to come!”
WILD IS THE WAY ~ ROAM FREE!
~ Stephany Seay ~ Jaedin Medicine Elk Co-founders of Roam Free Nation