Buffalo Field Campaign
P.O. Box 957
West Yellowstone, Montana 59758
Phone: (406) 646-0070
This page and the pages connected to it are taken from newsletters and archives of the Buffalo Field Campaign. All rights and privileges to the contents belong to their organization unless they specify another source. The contents on these pages areput here with their permission and therefore cannot be copied without consent without contacting them directly. Spitiwalker
BFC is the only group working in the field every day to defend the last wild herd of buffalo in America.
Buffalo Bill of Rights
1. To be honored with respect to their cultural and spiritual significance
to the Indigenous people of this continent.
2. To be recognized for their potential to educate our communities
regarding sustainable co-existence between humans and wildlife.
3. Re-establish historical migration patterns.
4. Establish a sustainable population growth rate.
5. Fulfill their inherent ecological role within their native range.
6. Exist within their innate social structure and functional herd dynamic.
7. Live out their natural life cycle as a wild species.
8. Exist as the genetic wellspring for future wild, free ranging
Weely Update from the Field
* Update from the Field- March 2, 2006
After so many intense weeks of wild buffalo slaughter, with nearly 1,000 lost to us forever, there is an eerie quality to the government's recent inaction. This week there have been no management-initiated captures or slaughter. Things have been relatively quiet for both wild buffalo and BFC volunteers. But, like a calm before a storm, it carries an uneasy feeling.
Yellowstone National Park wranglers in Gardiner have been harassing wild buffalo on a consistent basis, hazing them off of land that for ten millennia has been part of the wild buffalo landscape. One private landowner - the Church Universal & Triumphant (CUT) - owns less than 150 cattle that graze freely in a valley critical for wildlife forage and movement. This church claims to be "one" with all Life, claims to be part of the Great Mystery, yet the slaughter of wild buffalo seems to sit well with them. In fact, they demand it. Their frequent calls to the Park Service, urging them to "deal" with America's last wild buffalo that are on "their" land have caused great and shameful slaughter. What if god is a Buffalo? Surely, one form the Creator takes is that of buffalo. Yet, in contrast to their chanted "truths," CUT allows their cattle to wander, defiling the Yellowstone River, mocking the wild buffalo and giving the Park Service "reason" for their slaughter and imprisonment. Just across the street from where CUT cattle graze, 100 wild buffalo calves whose mothers and relatives have been slaughtered, are caged and tagged, forced into an existence of humiliating domestication.
Following their natural instinct to migrate, the nomadic buffalo are constantly punished for doing what Nature created them to do. One, two, three strikes and a buffalo is "out'; deemed "unhazable" and can be shot or captured and sent to slaughter. Even the Park Service, an agency sworn to protect wild species, disrespects the wild nature of buffalo. Expecting them to adhere to man-made demands falls into the category of domestication. "Unhazeable" is indeed admirable, but unfortunately it can mean death as the current tally of 849 slaughtered buffalo are testament to. This is what it looks like when you give ignorance power.
In West Yellowstone warmer temperatures have brought wet snow, rain, and a slushy landscape. Should a cold snap come again, freezing could spell serious trouble for our gentle, grazing friends, like it did during the winter of 1996-1997. The buffalo depend on their awesome strength to move snow with their massive heads, enabled by the pronounced hump muscles atop their shoulders. Cratering, as it's called, is difficult enough and would become impossible through solid ice, making a mass exodus to snow-less grasses imminent. But, for now, a taste of Spring is in the air. Seasonal migrations along the Park's western boundary are heavily increasing. An awesome event to celebrate, but the dangers of the highway and looming "management" make it bittersweet at best.
BFC field patrols are very busy warning motorists of the presence of wild buffalo along highways 191 and 287, routes that dissect and interfere with critical wildlife migration. BFC patrols are basically doing the job of the local law enforcement who choose to ignore the buffalo's massive presence. Warning traffic can be a dangerous job for our patrols, but it must be done. It was extremely poor planning to place a major, commercially used, high-speed thoroughfare through the heart of a passage critical to our wild relatives. BFC is here for the safety of the wild buffalo and the safety of motorists. Buffalo are huge and have little respect for vehicles; they also have the awesome ability to make quite an effective roadblock. Knowing the dangers of highways to wildlife, one can't help but admire the buffalo's ability to do this. Yet some do so at their peril.
Last Spring, after losing more than 20 wild buffalo to auto collisions, BFC submitted a request to the Governor and Department of Transportation, asking for warning signs and a reduced speed limit. It only made sense - even if you look at it from the totally human aspect of personal safety. We thought we were heard; at the start of Montana's hunt (long before mass-migration began), the state set up two electronic road signs in the West Yellowstone area, on the north and south ends of 191, north of Duck Creek and south of the Madison River. These huge signs helped to warn motorists that a wildlife migration was in progress. The speed limit was also lowered from 70 mph to 55 mph. The signs and reduced speed certainly helped raise awareness of the presence of wildlife and calmed speed on the road. Especially the semis; highway 191 is largely used by tourists to Yellowstone National Park and Gallatin National Forest, locals and giant semis. Semis need to have fair warning, so these signs were especially helpful to them. But, just as the heavy migration is about to begin, the signs were inexplicably removed this week and the speed limit is back up.
We have to wonder: were the migration signs placed as a feel-good gesture by the State to make their hunt seem less insulting? By what "logic" do they justify removing these signs and raising the speed at the exact moment the mass-migration is beginning? It's a no-brainer: the buffalo are migrating and traffic must be warned. Further, it's a critical corridor for many wild animals and the speed should be reduced and traffic warned. When the DOL resumes their massive hazing operations, buffalo road crossings will increase at an unnecessary rate (buffalo that crossed safely will be pushed back towards the Park and forced to cross roads again and again) and traffic nightmares will be common.
BFC patrols will continue to do what we can to help the buffalo cross safely, and help motorists avoid collisions with them. It is the responsibility of the State to do this, and much more needs to be done. For the buffalo, the highway is a walkway, a dangerous path of least resistance that landed in the midst of their ancient route. Should a serious accident occur, the state might be held accountable since they removed all warning of the presence of buffalo. For the buffalo, it's yet one more challenge of living in an ever-expanding human-dominated world and it is man's responsibility to learn to coexist, which requires patience and admiration for life's awesome events.
With the Buffalo,
Press Release- 2/17/06
YELLOWSTONE BISON KILL EXCEEDS 900
Park Officials Send 30 More Buffalo to Slaughter: Trap Empty
For Immediate Release, February 17, 2006
Contact Seamus Allen, 406-646-0070
GARDINER, MONTANA. This morning Yellowstone Park officials shipped the last 30 of 266 bison trapped this week to slaughter, bringing to 853 the number of buffalo killed by the Park Service in recent months and to 903 the total number killed by hunters and management actions. None of the bison slaughtered this week were tested for brucellosis. As with the bison captured in January, Montana has refused to transport Yellowstone buffalo to slaughterhouses.
Total Yellowstone Buffalo Killed 2005-2006: 903
Shot by Montana Department of Livestock (DOL): 3
Drowned During DOL Hazing Operation: 2
Shot by Hunters: 45
Slaughtered by Yellowstone National Park: 849
Died in Confinement in Yellowstone National Park: 3
Shot by Yellowstone National Park: 1
"Wild buffalo should be revered and respected, not killed and caged for cattle that roam free on the landscape," said Dan Brister of the Buffalo Field Campaign.
Some of the bison captured by the Park Service migrated onto or near the Royal Teton Ranch, owned by the Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT). The ranch dissects the center of North America's largest wildlife migration corridor, just outside Yellowstone's northern boundary. U.S. taxpayers spent $13 million in 1999 on land and conservation easements to allow wild bison access to CUT lands. The government never finalized the deal and the slaughter continues.
None of the adult bison slaughtered by the Park Service this year were first tested for brucellosis. Fear that bison may transmit brucellosis to cattle is the purported justification for the aggressive management of wild buffalo by state and federal agencies. Yet there has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting brucellosis to livestock, even in the years before the current plan was enacted.
"The Yellowstone buffalo are national treasures, symbols of America's wild and untamed spirit," said Stephany Seay of the Buffalo Field Campaign. "Rather than spending time and resources slaughtering them, the Park Service should be safeguarding habitat and protecting the buffalo under their care."
Eighty-six calves were sent to the Corwin Springs quarantine facility earlier this year, joining 14 that have been held there since last year. At least half of these bison will be slaughtered under an experiment being conducted jointly by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) and the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
"The government is misguided in thinking quarantine is the way to restore bison to the American landscape," said BFC's Mike Mease. "The Yellowstone buffalo are restoring themselves and the government is getting in the way."
The Yellowstone bison herd, America's only continuously wild herd, now numbers fewer than 4,000. Wild bison are a migratory species native to North America and once spanned the continent, numbering an estimated 30 to 50 million.
Carfentanil- Immobilizing Bison
Several bison which have wandered into Idaho have been immobilized with Carfentanil, a drug in the opiate family. This drug is administered in conjunction with the sedative, Xylazine. Both drugs can exhibit extreme side effects in animals, possibly resulting in death. This drug combination is also used within the YNP for immobilizing bison when biologists collect samples for research.
Carfentanil is the most potent drug and is potentially toxic and lethal to humans. It is recommended that any game animal which has been drugged should not be consumed for at least 45 days. However, the literature states that it probably not wise under any circumstances to consume animals that have been immobilized with Carfentanil. There have been reports of humans developing symptoms of drug toxicity from consuming animals given immobilizing drugs. As little as 20 ug (micrograms, an almost invisible drop) of Carfentanil is lethal to humans.
There are several major side effects which bison may suffer from this drug, respiratory depression, hyperthermia (increased body temperature) and "recycling". This "recycling" occurs because Carfentanil has an affinity for fatty tissues and is stored there. It also has a longer half life than the antidote (or antagonist) Naltrexone. Once the Naltrexone has been completely metabolized and cleared from the body, Carfentanil can be released from the fatty tissue and recirculate though the animal causing a renarcotization event. This event could occur several hours to days after the intitial immobilization. If there are no trained personnel watching over the animal when this occurs, it could suffer injury or death as a result.
Xylazine can exhibit major side effects such as hypotension (abnormally decreased blood pressure), bradycardia (slowed heart rate), and disruptions in body temperature regulation. Respiratory depression may also occur, especially when used in conjunction with drugs such as Carfentanil.
Bloat and decreased gastrointestinal mobility can occur with these drugs particularly in ruminants such as bison. It is recommended that bison and other ruminants who have been immobilized be placed either in a sternal position or on their right side to prevent this. Bloat is caused when excess gas resulting from normal fermentation accumulates in the rumen of ungulates. This causes the rumen to enlarge and and compress the diaphragm and lungs resulting in respiratory impairment.
BFC volunteers were able to document abuse and disrespect of immobilized bison. Several Idaho law officials each took a turn posing for pictures while sitting atop a bull and holding his head up by his horns, trophy style. We did not witness any monitoring of vital signs or medical attention as recommended in the literature. Nor was much attention paid to body position, critical for bison.
Although we have allowed to witness and document the immobilization of bison in Idaho, we have been prevented by law enforcement and park personnel from witnessing the recovery and release of these bison within YNP. The disposition of a particular bull was especially suspicious as we had been given conflicting information regarding his recovery. And, one week after his release a grizzly sow and her cubs were seen feeding on a large bison bull carcass near the area where he had been susposedly released.
The safety of Carfentanil use in bison is debated even among the experts. BFC is concerned that bison immobilized with this drug have not been properly monitored and may have suffered fatal outcomes. We are also concerned that tribes might receive meat from bison who were administered this drug without any precautions or warnings.
What are park officials trying to hide when they prevent our volunteers from witnessing the release of these bison after immoblization? And is it safe for endangered predators such as grizzly bears and eagles to consume these bison carcasses after they've been drugged? The government agencies involved in this activity have declined to comment. BFC will continue their efforts to monitor and document all actions perpetrated upon migrating bison.
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Jenkins, Stephen H. (1995) "Carfentanil, Bison, and Statistics: The Last Word?", Letter to the Editor, Journal of Wildlife Disease, 31(1) 104-105.
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