Happy Mother’s Day, Montana style: Mom and newborn wild bison hazed mercilessly

Buffalo Field Campaign photo

Kathleen Stachowski     Other Nations

The tiny calf pictured was only four hours old and caught up in a hazing operation when the Montana livestock industry flexed its muscle. Mom hadn’t even shed the afterbirth before the harassment began. Regarding the photo, Buffalo Field Campaign reports:

Mom checks on her injured and confused baby, who was having a heartbreakingly difficult time trying to follow her. Nearly rolling down the hill, mom had to come to his aid. These little buffalo don’t know anything other than to stay with mom, keep up with the herd, do what she does and stay with her at all costs. Nothing else matters. They try with all their little might to do whatever it takes to stay with mom. What these agents put the buffalo, including newborns, through is unforgivable.

Buffalo Field Campaign, based in West Yellowstone, MT, has been on the front lines of bison advocacy and activism for over a decade.  Sometimes I wonder if wild Yellowstone bison would even exist anymore had it not been for BFC’s constant vigilance and dedication.

Yellowstone’s boundaries were drawn with politics, not ecosystems, in mind, leaving migratory animals without the lower elevation habitat so desperately needed as the park’s high elevation winter drags on. Most ungulates roam freely; most, except for bison–considered a threat by the Montana livestock oligarchy. Aided by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Yellowstone National Park, and the Gallatin National Forest (USDA-APHIS is also involved in bison mismanagement, and yes, our tax dollars fuel this travesty), the powers that be currently have incarcerated nearly 800 wild bison in holding pens at the park’s north entrance (Gardiner, MT), and have begun hazing operations at the West Yellowstone entrance to put bison “back in their place.”

What’s a pregnant bison to do? Her age-old wisdom tells her to head to lower ground where she’ll find less snow and greening grass, to migrate to traditional birthing grounds on sunny slopes. Here a calf can be born and nurtured.

But then the cattle empire strikes back, as it does every spring.

What can you do to help wild bison moms and babies this Mother’s Day? First, click here to read BFC’s full report with additional pictures. You’ll also find suggestions for actions you can take. Then read a letter from 17 members of the U.S. Congress to National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis asking him to scrap the flawed Interagency Bison Management Plan, the document that has guided bison mismanagement since 2000. (Since its adoption, over 3500 of America’s last wild, migratory, and genetically pure wild bison have been slaughtered in management actions.)

Finally, a shameless pitch for donations to Buffalo Field Campaign. I guarantee you, they are out there right now, monitoring, documenting, sending out news releases, presenting testimony to government officials, intervening through the courts–even directing traffic! Yes, some of the first grass to green up is at the edges of busy highways near West Yellowstone, and bison leaving the park through the Madison River valley are drawn to it. BFC personnel spend long days and dark, cold nights slowing traffic to prevent vehicle/bison collisions.

Because I’ve served on the BFC board of directors, I know for a fact how grassroots this organization really is, and that the handful of paid staff draws nothing close to a “living wage”–they do what they do out of love and respect for this most amazing animal, and volunteers from around the world join them. But activism isn’t free, even when most of the labor is donated. They need gas for patrols, video and camera equipment for documentation, ski equipment for winter patrols, computers for informing the world, and much more.

This Mother’s Day, if you’d like to give a gift to a wild bison mom–a gift that will work toward justice for the new generation of calves being born right now–channel a donation through Buffalo Field Campaign. They’ll see to it that your gift is delivered.

6 Responses

  1. I read the BFC email before I saw your wrap-up of it, Kathleen, and once again shook my head in disbelief.

    Truly, BFC’s description of the hazing of the hours-old bison calf is accurate: “unforgivable.”

    What I’ve done in the past is give a Mother’s Day gift to BFC in honor of a friend in Montana who loves all animals in the way I do: she refuses to harm a single one in any way.

    I hope everyone reading this can think of someone they know to pay tribute to — some mom figure whose heart is tender enough to mother every creature on earth.

  2. Thank you, SBH Clay, for your comment AND your ongoing moral and financial support of BFC and wild bison.

    I’ve just returned from Yellowstone. The hard winter this year was quite apparent–while some bison look great, others–many others–are very thin, their ribs are showing, their humps are painfully thin. Very little of the grass in the park has greened yet and does not hold the nutrition they so desperately need; in fact, it was snowing as we left for home today.

    We did see a few bison outside of the park–thankfully none of the scattered few we saw were being hazed. Several miles outside of West Yellowstone, an official vehicle was pulled off to the side (could not determine which agency it was)–and parked across the road from it? A BFC patrol…I kid you not. They are there for the wild bison and by extension, the rest of us who respect and support native wildlife.

    And now for the sad news–the calf pictured above eventually died from the severe hazing doled out on behalf of the Montana livestock industry. Read the BFC report here http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/media/press1011/pressreleases1011/050511.html

  3. Catching up on e-mail–and the “good” news just keeps a-comin’. While at least one calf was “driven” to death, others, reportedly, “get a break” due to the snow.


    Note the disingenuous reporting:
    “About half the park’s 3,500 bison have been exposed to the animal disease brucellosis, which can cause pregnant animals to prematurely abort their young.”

    Exposure to brucellosis, like exposure to measles, does not mean one is actively infected. Further, brucellosis is transmitted through the birthing process, so while bison bulls might carry the antibodies of exposure, they can’t transmit the disease! Brucellosis has NEVER been transmitted from wild bison to cattle in the nearly 100 years since exotic livestock introduced the disease into the YNP ecosystem…it is a big fat red herring. Now, as BFC and others drive that point home, the livestock industry changes its tune to claim that bison cause private property destruction and threaten public safety.

    “A lawsuit seeking to restore restrictions on bison movements was filed Friday by the Park County Stockgrowers Association. A second lawsuit is expected to be filed this week by Park County officials.” (same link)

  4. If an organization were to sue the stockgrowers associations on behalf of the ecology, I’m sure they could prove that it is the (innocent) cattle bred by the ranchers who ruin the land and threaten the safety (and lives) of all wild animals, not to mention the enslaved ones.

    Thanks for the sad updates, Kathleen. I admire the BFC so much.

  5. And we’re supposed to be an advanced species? Man that’s just sad… harass it til it dies. Great job Montana. Way to protect the wildlife there.

  6. […] Once the winter migration slaughter ends, the springtime hazing of pregnant bison cows, moms, and babies begins; the tragic Mother’s Day story of one calf’s brief life and brutal death is told here and here. […]

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