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Yellowstone Buffalo Headed to the Slaughterhouse

Jim Little  /  May 30, 2007  /  3 Min Read  /  Activism

I just received word this morning from my friends up at the Buffalo Field Campaign in West Yellowstone. Montana’s Department of Livestock is planning on trapping and slaughtering 300 wild buffalo – including calves as young as a few weeks, and their mothers. The agency plans to begin the roundup on Thursday, May 31.

It’s crucial that we flood these offices with comments today!  Capture could begin as soon as tomorrow, with transport to slaughter beginning Friday.


I spent a couple weeks with the Buffalo Field Campaign in January 2005, as part of Patagonia’s environmental internship program. As you may know, the company pays our salaries and benefits for up to two months while we volunteer with an environmental group, and these guys are the real deal. Ron Hunter (Patagonia Enviro Programs, Reno) and I went up there to help out and got the full story. We were even granted an audience at the statehouse with Governor Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat with presidential aspirations, who expressed sympathy, but has done little more than pay lip service to protecting wild buffalo in his state.

The conflict in Montana is a modern day range war: cattle interests (avery powerful lobby there) pitted against the last genetically purewild buffalo in the country, which live around Yellowstone park …

The buffalo eat grass; hence they sometimes compete with cattle for rangeland. And some female buffalo carry a bacterial disease called brucellosis, which can infect cattle, though there’s never been a recorded instance of this happening. Long story short, commercial interests want to keep cattle and buffalo apart. And their interests supersede any rights wild nature has to exist. Government agencies in Montana, both state and federal, are incredibly intolerant of the buffalo and their protectors. In fact, they delight in harassing them, using helicopters, snowmobiles, and shotguns. They’ve been known to chase them to their deaths, drowning them in icy waters and running them through barb wire fences. So when the buffalo wander out of Yellowstone National Park, which they do quite naturally, they’re hazed, captured and all too frequently, killed.

The buffalo are losing ground. Their numbers are down from historical highs of an estimated 30 million in the day, to fewer than 4,000 these days. Last year alone, government employees from Yellowstone National Park rounded up almost a thousand wild buffalo (inside the park, where they’re supposed to be safe!) and sent them to the slaughterhouse. (Your tax dollars hard at work.) Yellowstone Park Superintendent Suzanne Lewis oversaw that bloodletting, and now she’s about to become complicit in the next round.

Back to the matter at hand. The Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) say the most recent decision to kill the buffalo was made at an “emergency” Board of Livestock meeting in the governor’s office on Tuesday, by Montana’s acting state veterinarian Jeanne Rankin.

The rest of this post is copied from the BFC’s email. If you feel empathy for the buffalo, I hope you’ll take action on their behalf. It’ll only take a couple of minutes to help light up the switchboard at the Montana statehouse and fill the email boxes of the responsible parties.


PLEASE CONTACT these three decision-makers TODAY demanding that they cease plans to capture and slaughter the buffalo who are trying to live wild and free!  Contact each by phone, fax, and email and let’s not let them forget that the world is watching!

* MONTANA GOVERNOR BRIAN SCHWEITZER:  Demand that Schweitzer keep his campaign promise to provide tolerance for bison in Montana.
(406) 444-3111 (phone)
(406) 444-5529 (fax) (email)

* MONTANA ACTING STATE VET JEANNE RANKIN:  Urge her to withdraw her decision to slaughter Yellowstone bison calves and family groups.  Remind her you are boycotting beef and your friends are joining you!
(406) 444-1895 (phone)
(800) 523-3162 (phone)
(406) 444-1929 (fax)  (email)

* YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK SUPERINTENDENT SUZANNE LEWIS:  Ask her if it’s really worth the lives of 300 wild buffalo, including newborn calves, to have Montana ship them to slaughter rather than deeper into the Park.
(307) 344-2002 (phone)
(307) 344-2005 (fax) OR (email)

It’s crucial that we flood these offices today!  Capture could begin as soon as Thursday, with transport to slaughter beginning Friday.  Read BFC’s press release from Tuesday for more information.

[Photo: Jim Little]

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