Buffalo Field Campaign says volunteers wrongfully arrested

 Post 1111

Here is more about the arrest of two BFC volunteers who were filming Montana Department of Livestock’s pointless hazing of Yellowstone bison. If Brister’s account is true, it seems the livestock industry bureaucrats and their irregular police force are notching up the level of harassment. It could also be that MHP stumbled into the situation. It is typical, however, that lawless “law enforcement” generally likes to go after those with the cameras. RM

Note: this was written by Dan Brister.

On Wednesday, as I documented the harassment of hundreds of bison and newborn calves near the Madison River, I was tackled head-first into the gravel by a Montana Highway Patrol (MHP) officer, arrested on false charges, and had my video camera and tape confiscated.

I was out that afternoon, as my friends and I have been for hundreds of days during the past ten years, to document government actions against the Yellowstone bison, America’s only continuously wild herd. It was a particularly troubling day as more than 400 bison were being incessantly run for more than eight miles from National Forest lands to Yellowstone National Park. As you will read below, newborn calves and pregnant cow bison are the primary target of these operations and one newborn collapsed due to exhaustion and the inability to nurse while being pursued by the helicopter. In the past we’ve documented bison giving birth during the chaos of a haze, and newborns dying due to the incredible stress of running for miles without rest.

A freelance photographer had made arrangements to come photograph a hazing operation and on Wednesday afternoon I escorted her into the field, with the goal of positioning ourselves to document bison being chased by the helicopter. We arrived on highway 191 near the Madison and attempted to position ourselves for a good view of the operation. We tried to set up in a few spots but were quickly approached by Forest Service and MHP police officers and told to move. Eventually a Forest Service officer told us we could photograph from a gravel road that runs parallel to highway 191 on the east side of the highway. As soon as we’d positioned ourselves on the road with our cameras ready bison began to emerge from the woods across the highway and I began to film.

As I trained the lens on a group of mothers and their bright red calves I heard screaming from the woods and a moment later the words “my patrol partner is being assaulted” came through my two-way FM radio. Then I heard Pete screaming from the woods, “Get my camera! I’m being arrested!” At this, I decided to head further along the gravel road in the direction of Pete’s calls. As I made my way down the road a MHP car came into view and I quickly realized Pete was in custody in the back. I saw a highway patrolman standing near his car and with the camera recording I asked him why Pete had been arrested and what he was being charged with. The officer wouldn’t tell me and appeared very uncomfortable with me filming him. I told him I had a right to be there, on public lands, documenting government activities. He approached me and tried to grab the camera from my hands. I did not attempt to run from him and he reached out, grabbed my arm, and forcibly removed the camera and placed it on the trunk of his car. The next thing I knew I was being tackled to the ground. As the officer still had my arm I couldn’t break the fall and my head hit the gravel hard. The officer is a heavy man and he dug his knee into my back with his considerable weight behind it. As I lay on the ground with my head in the gravel, I was handcuffed. The officer started to pull me up by my wrists and I complained, saying I could stand on my own. I gained my feet and stood at the back of the patrol car with my hands cuffed behind my back. In front of the car hundreds of bison, being chased by agents and their helicopter, ran eastward.

Standing there with blood dripping down my face I noticed that the glass in one of the rear windows of the patrol car was missing. Later, in jail, Pete and I were given our charges. Pete was charged with “Obstructing a Peace Officer” and “Criminal Mischief,” a felony, for allegedly breaking the patrol car window. I was charged with “Obstructing a Peace Officer” and “Resisting Arrest,” both of which charges I intend to have dropped. After being booked and held in a jail cell in West Yellowstone for a couple of hours I was fitted with leg shackles, handcuffs, and an immobilizing belt and transported to the emergency room at Bozmean Deaconess Hospital, where the lacerations on my face were cleaned and my head wound closed with three surgical staples.

With the police in possession of our cameras and video footage, at this point it is our word against theirs. We can only hope that the footage will be returned without having been tampered with, as the truth of the events was captured on film. BFC is here to stand truth to power and despite the violence directed against us we will continue to do so. Defending ourselves from these charges and bringing justice for my injuries will be a long and costly process. If you would like to help or would like more information, please contact dan@wildrockies.org.

For the Buffalo,

Dan Brister
Project Director
Buffalo Field Campaign

Read BFC’s press release from yesterday:








  1. Trout Underground Avatar

    Officers of the state confiscating personal property (cameras). Nice touch.

    I’m sure the police will make some sort of evidenciary claim to the images on the cameras, but I wonder if a prior restraint argument wouldn’t get the images released to the owners before the next millennia…

  2. Buffaloed Avatar

    The video has been returned and the officer has been pulled from the field for at least the week.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thank you for the update. I suspected the case against the BFC volunteers would soon unravel.