Protecting America’s Last Remaining Herd of Wild Buffalo

Justine Sanchez of Ward Colorado has been volunteering with the Buffalo Field Campaign  for 16 years.  The mission of the BFC is to stop the slaughter of Yellowstone’s wild buffalo herd and to protect the natural habitat of wild free-roaming buffalo and native wildlife.  Sanchez says that while the local Department of Livestock (which has oversight of the herd) aims to keep the herd inside park limits, which is not a realistic expectation for wild animals. “The bison like to migrate out of the park following the Madison River and on to the beautiful Horse Butte peninsula and that is where they like to calf.”

Sanchez spoke to KGNU from a patrol with the Buffalo Field Campaign in Yellowstone. The biggest challenge right now, according to Sanchez, is that the Department of Livestock is “in control” of wild free roaming buffalo.  She says advocates for the wild bison would like to see that the Department of Livestock be taken out of the management of wild buffalo.  In recent years, buffalo have been hazed by helicopters and shot in an effort to keep them within park boundaries and away from local cattle ranches.

On Wednesday May 25th another hazing operation, the second of the year, took place yesterday. More than fifty buffalo, with at least twenty calves, were chased from habitat on the south side of the Madison River by three Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) agents.

Sanchez says that the bison are designated as “animals in need of disease control” instead of being designated as wildlife. “If they were designated as wildlife like elk, then they would be able to access public lands that surround Yellowstone National Park.”

There was a recent incident in Yellowstone where a baby buffalo was euthanized by park rangers after some tourists took the baby from a field saying they were worried it was cold.  Sanchez says that incident stems from efforts to keep the buffalo confined inside the park.

“It is I think in part a failure of the bison management plan where we’re not allowing or haven’t been allowing, until this year actually, buffalo to migrate out of the park and access public lands and therefore not be held up in the park.  And what you have happening is a lot of tourists stopping and get out of their cars and look at the buffalo.”

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There will be a fundraiser for the Buffalo Field Campaign on October 22nd at Rembrandt Yards in Boulder. Mike Mease co-founder of the Buffalo Field Campaign will speak about the organization.

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