Yellowstone bison slaughter hits all time record

Dear Buffalo Friends, 3-20-08

Thank you all for responding to so many calls to action in defense of the buffalo. We must press on with endless pressure, endlessly applied. Please continue to contact your members of Congress to share solutions and urge them to stop the senseless slaughter and take proactive steps to defend the migratory freedom of the last wild buffalo herds.

Now that Yellowstone and Montana have conducted the worst wild buffalo slaughter since the 19th Century - having killed 1,181 buffalo, or more than a quarter of the population, Yellowstone National Park has announced that they will "transition" operations at the Stephens Creek bison trap and begin holding captured bison until spring green-up. While this means some of the buffalo may not be shipped to slaughter, their wild integrity is still at risk since those that remain in the pens will be confined and fed hay like livestock.

The stress placed on the captured buffalo could also - as it did two years ago - result in pregnant buffalo having miscarriages, and pen-related deaths. So far this season at least three wild buffalo have died as a result of being captured and held for slaughter.

Yellowstone also just announced that they will begin testing bison calves for exposure to brucellosis. Thirty-seven calves were shipped this morning. Up to 100 calves could end up being sent to the Corwin Springs bison quarantine feasibility study, better known as a livestock assimilation program. Only calves testing negative for exposure to brucellosis will be sent to this prison. Calves that test positive for exposure, meaning those that carry antibodies to fight brucellosis, will be shipped to slaughter. In all of Yellowstone's press releases during capture and slaughter operations, the Park claims they do not want to hold bison because they don't want to domesticate them, yet domestication will be the fate of all the orphaned calves.

Along the western boundary of Yellowstone, things in the field have been relatively quiet. Of course, the local Department of Livestock agent, Shane Grube, makes his daily runs up and down the highways and onto Horse Butte, wasting time and taxpayer money, scouting for "rouge" buffalo. But, thus far, the heavy spring migration has not yet begun. Of course, with so many buffalo already killed, we wonder how many we will see making their way along the Madison River corridor to calve on Horse Butte.

We are pleased to report that the family group of buffalo we wrote about last week, the ones in the buffalo-friendly Yellowstone Village neighborhood, are still alive. They are currently in a safe place and we can only hope they'll hold out there long enough to survive this season.

Roam Free,

AMERICAN BISON ELIMINATED from the last wild population in the U.S.
2007-2008 Total: 1,181
2007-2008 Slaughter: 1,012
2007-2008 Hunt: 166
2007-2008 Quarantine: 37

Total Since 2000: 3,137*
*includes lethal government action, quarantine, hunts


* Unfortunate Opportunity: BFC Sees Inside Bison Trap
This week I had the unfortunate opportunity to go on a tour of Yellowstone National Park's Stephens Creek bison trap, where nearly 1,000 buffalo have been captured and shipped off to to slaughter so far this year. On Tuesday morning, instead of going out on morning patrol to monitor the Park Service's hazing and capture of bison I got to sleep in a little later than usual. At 7 AM I arrived at the north entrance to Yellowstone, right next to the big stone arch, to meet Al Nash from the Park's public affairs office, and representatives from several environmental groups and media organizations (including the New York Times). From there we caravaned several miles down to the Stephens Creek trap. After driving through several miles of land that has had its native plant communities exterminated by agriculture before being incorporated into the Park, we turned down a road I never thought I would be driving down. The road to Stephens Creek is marked with large signs warning the public not to go down the road, though the only sign indicating what happens there says "corral operations." If I had turned down that road on any other day I would have been arrested. After passing through rows of snowplows, junk cars and assorted debris, we arrived at the bison trap.

We arrived just in time to see bison being loaded into a semi trailer designed to haul cattle. In order to move the bison through the facility into the truck there were park employees up on catwalks above the bison with whips and cattle prods. Of all the park employees present, I don't think one was a wildlife biologist (or trained in anything related to wildlife), they were law enforcement rangers, maintenance workers, and horse wranglers. Watching the bison being loaded into the truck was one of the saddest sights I have seen, just days earlier these buffalo had been roaming free, looking for the first shoots of green grass, and now they were being loaded into a big metal box, to be trucked hours away to a facility designed for handling cattle, and then they would be slaughtered. As they moved through the trailer they rubbed against holes in the side of the truck and large chunks of hair were sheered off their flanks and fell to the ground. Throughout the loading of the bison we're not allowed to approach closer than 15 feet to the truck or the facility; the Park's reason for this was that *we* would traumatize the bison. After two trailers had been loaded with bison, they formed a convoy with several other trucks from various law enforcement agencies and headed off to the slaughterhouse.

Once the loading had finished the wranglers who had been loading the bison headed off to go get their horses and head out to haze more bison. Later that day they captured 10 more bull bison. At that point we were taken on a tour of other parts of the facility, including the larger pens where approximately 160 bison were still being held awaiting their fate, including calves who later in the week after being tested for brucellosis would be shipped of to quarantine, where they would be separated from there families and domesticated in the name of science. Throughout the tour we had time for questions and answers with Al Nash, our tour guide from the Park. At one point Al said one of the most disconcerting things I have heard from a Park employee about bison management. He said that deciding when to send bison to slaughter is "an art, not a science." I guess that explains the lack of biologists on the scene.

At the end of the tour I headed back to the BFC trailer in Gardiner to go pick up my patrol partner and head back into the field to document and bear witness to yet another bison hazing and capture operation.

For The Buffalo,
Jesse Crocker


* Comment by April 2 on Horse Butte Bison Trap
In 1998, the U.S. Forest Service issued a special use permit to the Montana Department of Livestock to operate a buffalo trap on America's public lands on Horse Butte for the next 10 years. The current permit expires December 31, 2008.

The U.S. Forest Service is currently accepting public comments during a scoping period on a plan to renew the livestock agency's trap for another 10 years. The Forest Service is likely to renew the livestock agency's permit through a categorical exclusion - pre-empting any analysis of the trap's environmental impacts. The notice is available online at

TAKE ACTION! Please comment on this plan and help us stop the U.S. Forest Service from allowing this madness to continue for another 10 years. Comments are due on April 2, 2008 and can be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or mailed to:

Gallatin National Forest
Attn: Horse Butte Capture Facility Special Use Permit
PO Box 120
Bozeman, MT 59771

Here are some suggested points to include in your comments:

* Why give a livestock agency a 10-year permit to trap wild buffalo on public lands?

* Conditions on Horse butte have changed significantly in the past 10 years, thus it is necessary for the public lands agency to conduct a full environmental impact statement.

* Cattle no longer graze on public or private land on Horse Butte Peninsula, 24,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat, and thus there is no justification for harassing, trapping and removing wild Buffalo from Horse Butte.

* The Department of Livestock has not used the Horse Butte for three of the last four years but has still successfully implemented the IBMP without it. The Department of Livestock also maintains a permanent capture facility on private land, and has used a temporary facility on already heavily impacted state owned land. If the IBMP can be successfully implemented using other capture facility sites with less impact, why use the Horse Butte site?

* Horse Butte is home to three breeding bald eagle nests. The livestock agency's trap is located within .5 miles of one of the eagle nests, and in prime foraging habitat for other bald and golden eagles that frequent the Madison River and Hebgen Lake. The Montana Bald Eagle Management Plan and the Greater Yellowstone Bald Eagle Management Plan direct that developments which may increase human activity not be permitted within .5 miles nest sites. A standard is a standard and not a loophole to permit the livestock agency to disrupt bald eagle habitat.

* Horse Butte is grizzly bear and wolf habitat. Moose, elk, black bear, coyote, and a lot of other wildlife depend on managing public lands on Horse Butte as wildlife habitat.

* Hebgen Lake, which surrounds Horse Butte, is critical habitat for migratory birds, including trumpeter swans.

* Increased development on private lands on the north side of Horse Butte has degraded available wildlife habitat, making the south side where the trap is located even more critical for wildlife.

* The amount of livestock inspector and law enforcement vehicle traffic associated with the trap is far higher than predicted in the U.S. Forest Service's initial analysis.

* The original analysis called for the Department of Livestock to perform soil reclamation including planting native grasses on several acres impacted by the trap. This promise has not been kept, resulting in degraded forage.

OTHER ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TO PROTECT HORSE BUTTE FOR BUFFALO: If you haven't already, please join the over 20,000 wild bison advocates who have signed on to the letter addressed to the people in charge of bison management requesting that wild bison be allowed to range on Horse Butte without being harassed, trapped and slaughtered by government agents.


* Church Universal and Triumphant Land "Deal" Bad Deal for Wild Bison
The Greater Yellowstone Coalition, National Parks Conservation Association, Montana Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks have announced a $2.8 million dollar bid to negotiate a 30 year land lease with the Church Universal and Triumphant removing cattle from private lands west of the Yellowstone River in the Gardiner Basin. Taxpayers are being asked to fund their bid.

The 30 year lease offers little for wild bison. Initially, only 25 bison would be allowed to range a portion of Church and Gallatin National Forest lands but only after being run through a tortuous gauntlet: forcing them off their habitat into traps where blood is extracted, wild bison tagged or collared, and for pregnant females, implanted with vaginal telemetry devices. At most, 100 bison could roam there. Extensive fencing could block a critical migration corridor that the bison share with bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, and a distinct population of pronghorn antelope.

The question arises what happens after 30 years? Why re-visit this issue another generation from now when the lease agreement expires?

U.S. taxpayers paid the Church Universal and Triumphant $13,000,000 for wild bison to access these lands in 1999. Check out our web site to learn more about the "safe haven for bison" that never materialized: .

The Church and the Gallatin National Forest still have an obligation to ensure that wild bison benefit from the 1999 land deal. The only way to stop the bison slaughter on Yellowstone's northern range is to buy the grass in perpetuity for native wildlife.

If the U.S. Congress appropriates taxpayer funds to benefit Yellowstone's wild bison, it must do so with guarantees that the conservation value of protecting habitat for wild bison will exist in perpetuity.

The migration corridor and habitat west of the Yellowstone River from Gardiner, Montana to Yankee Jim Canyon is an important link in the bison's migratory range.

Thousands of wild bison have been slaughtered in the Gardiner Basin to make way for a few hundred cattle to graze on the bison's native range. It's time for the U.S. Congress to settle this matter and buy the grass to let bison roam forever.

* Write your Senators:
* Write your Rep:


* Photo of the Week

Captured wild buffalo inside Yellowstone National Park's Stephens Creek bison trap.
Photo by Jesse Crocker.


* Last Words
"I felt a deep sadness for the deaths of the buffalo, but what really distresses me is the condition of human beings. We see everything as a disposable commodity already and that is not good. What we need to be seriously concerned about is humanity's callousness towards an entire species. Unchecked violence is happening again here and that should send a strong message. It's not a one time tragedy. It's not even an unfortunate necessity. It's habitual cruelty. We can do it here and we can go to other parts of the world and do it to other human beings. The buffalo slaughter represents government's capacity for unconscionable, habitual violence. That is what is dangerously contagious. It sends a chill through me."

~ Rosalie Little Thunder
Co-founder, Buffalo Field Campaign


Media & Outreach
Buffalo Field Campaign
P.O. Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.