Wild buffalo have returned with the Spring!

Buffalo Field Campaign: Buffalo have returned to Horse Butte Peninsula

Here is an excerpt of today’s Buffalo Field Campaign Update from the Field. You can read the entire update here

Dear Buffalo Friends,

Wild buffalo have returned with the Spring!

Buffalo grazing on Horse Butte ©Buffalo Field Campaign
Buffalo grazing on Horse Butte ©Buffalo Field Campaign

The song of mountain bluebirds is in the air, and tracks of the mighty bison are upon the land once again. After a long winter without the buffalo in Montana, the unspoken question hung in the air: would the buffalo return this year? Wild forces prevail, and on the Vernal Equinox the steady, determined footsteps of approximately fifty buffalo made their way down the Madison River corridor, out to their calving grounds on Horse Butte, heralding the season of rebirth. The buffalo’s return has raised the spirits of everyone at camp. The energy is palpable, and we are once again running full patrols and basking in the presence of these prehistoric wonders.

Of course, the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) also knows the buffalo are here and local DOL agent Shane Grube is keeping a watchful eye on every move they make. Change is afoot, however, and right now the buffalo on Horse Butte are being left alone. In December, as a direct result of your persistence, the Interagency Bison Management Plan agencies signed a new Adaptive Management Plan which states that an unlimited number of buffalo are allowed to occupy Horse Butte until May 15th, with other agency-defined numbers of buffalo “tolerated” on lands north and south of the Madison River. The new rules don’t respond to the natural movements or behavior of wild buffalo, so the agents, by drawing more lines in the sand have set them up to fail. Simply crossing a creek or river, or having one too many buffalo in a group could trigger severe management actions against them. Further, everything is up to the discretion of Montana’s State Vet, who could decide at any time to scrap the minimal tolerance. So we are, as always, monitoring the buffalo’s migration and watching every move the agents make to ensure that they uphold this new “tolerance” they’ve agreed to, while we continue to push for the buffalo’s right to make their own decisions. But, at the moment, according to the agency’s new plan, the buffalo on Horse Butte are immune to agency action.

Family groups with multiple generations are enjoying the fresh spring shoots of grass they’ve waited for all winter. Buffalo of all ages, including expectant mothers, are taking in the warmth of the waxing sun and the goodness of nutritional spring grasses, and whether or not they know it, they have put a bright gleam in our eyes and quickened the beating of our hearts.

Roam Free!!

P.S. Here’s a glimpse of the return of the buffalo to Horse Butte:

Buffalo Back on Horse Butte ©Buffalo Field Campaign
Buffalo Back on Horse Butte ©Buffalo Field Campaign
Making the land complete ©Buffalo Field Campaign
Making the land complete ©Buffalo Field Campaign
A couple of young bulls close by ©Buffalo Field Campaign
A couple of young bulls close by ©Buffalo Field Campaign

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  1. Indamani Avatar

    It’s great to see the buffalo grazing peacefully on Horse Butte. Love the pics, thanks for posting them.

  2. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    I need to get down there soon! Very exciting and good news so far.

  3. paulWTAMU Avatar

    I keep hoping the feds smack Montana down hard on this, but it ain’t happened yet, and I’m not sure Salazar has the balls to go against a state government.

    I’d give my left nut to see a real, wide ranging bison reintroduction program put into place; the mid-US (Montana to Texas) could probably still support a decent number of them. There’s probably even space for some herds on the coast…

  4. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    what do you mean, the Feds Smack Down Montana!!! hell the feds have been henchmen in this process since it started, APHIS is one of the main culprits in the slaughter of Bison in Montana, the Feds are as much if not more culpable in the Bison Slaughters that have happened over the years!

  5. Indamani Avatar

    Save bears,
    You took the words right out of my mouth, only you said it better.

  6. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    With all of the other crap Ken has going on, I would be surprised if he really even knows what a Bison is…there are several agencies responsible for the Bison being slaughtered, Montana is following orders from the top down…APHIS really a main component of “Bison Management” there just happens to be an agency in Montana controlled by livestock growers that rejoice in their thoughts!

  7. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    I agree paulWTAMU. Have you (or anyone else) ever heard of the Buffalo Commons movement that has been proposed by Frank and Debra Popper? It is an ambitious project that is trying to restore much of the plains to the Lewis and Clark environment. I’m not sure it can take up all of that but I think there is space for pockets of buffalo (and maybe some wolves and grizzlies to keep the population in check 😉 )

  8. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I am sorry, I have been a Bison advocate for over 20 years now, but trying to reintroduce them to great swaths of the land, is not going to work, we need to focus on getting the slaughter stopped when it currently resides, I don’t think you are going to see Bison in the wild other than where they currently reside and perhaps some Native American reservations…much of the land from Canada to the Texas area is private lands, and I just can’t see it happening…I have heard of the Buffalo Commons project as well as other projects that have proposed introducing animals to the middle part of the country, but I don’t hold any hope that it would happen.

  9. mikarooni Avatar

    If you play down the possibility and convince people it can’t happen, then they won’t bother to talk about it, to spread the word about it, advocate for it, or fight for it and it won’t happen. Then again, maybe you already know that.

  10. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I just feel we should concentrate on where we can see bison thrive and live without threat of persecution! I know for a fact, you don’t like my positions, but I am a realist, I understand the western culture and would prefer to have some, then none and when we start getting out there, we are leading to the none..

    Now are you going to tell me I am stupid again and I should have a group shove it?

  11. JB Avatar

    Population densities in North & South Dakota are extremely low and declining; don’t give up on the buffalo commons just yet!

  12. paulWTAMU Avatar

    I know the feds have been involved, but I was hoping for some change (cough cough) with the new administration. Ain’t happened yet.
    And I think that we could probably allow some repatriation/reintroduction; there are numerous national and state parks as well as national forest and grasslands, and wildlife reserves in the western US that could (probably) sustain bison. Hell, look at the size of Big Bend State and National parks, look at the Araphoe National Forest in Colorado, or Kiowa Nat’l grasslands…

  13. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Why would this administration be any different, Bush wasn’t, Clinton Wasn’t, Bush I Wasn’t, unfortunately Wild Bison are not high on the priority list of any admin that has been in office going back to Washington! As far as the Fed’s Being “Involved” heck they started the whole mess when they sanctioned the slaughter of millions of Bison and it has not got much better since those days! Bison and Native Americans where plain and simple in the way! Again, the Fed’s weren’t involved, they started the whole darn mess!

  14. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    In bison news, the MT Senate bill that would deny Mont. FWP from moving bison across state lines failed in committee yesterday on a 12-6 vote. That means FWP will transfer the unfortunate quarantined Yellowstone bison to the Wind River Reservation for the Northern Arapaho.

    In the AP article, the state Senator who proposed this and got it through the Senate let it slip to a reporter that he’s concerned about range competition, which is the real issue with bison – not the brucellosis red herring. It’s unusual for the livestock industry proponents to fall of the talking point, but this bill was pretty blatant.

    See AP – http://www.casperstartribune.net/articles/2009/03/28/news/wyoming/343100ef269414c98725758600824e5e.txt

    and Bozeman Daily Chronicle – http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2009/03/28/news/20bison.txt

  15. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Save Bears,

    I think we have been effective in exposing the fact that the bison controversy is all about domination. Brucellosis is a red herring, as shown in the articles Jim Macdonald linked to and the many other stories showing the fraud of brucellosis.

    The way to get wild bison spread about, the way to have more elk, more pronghorn, the way to have more bighorn sheep, the way to have more of almost every kind of wildlife is to take on the livestock industry, expose them, and replace their stranglehold in the offices of the West.

    This isn’t easy, but fighting for your rights against cultural domination is never easy, but look at all the groups that have overcome throughout American history.

    I’m not suggesting you are not doing so. In fact, tt sounds like you have given much more than the average person. We thank you!

    You do sound a bit tired and depressed.

  16. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I am not depressed, what I am tired of, is people making blanket statements without knowing exactly what has happened over the last 200 years, we can prevail, but with blanket statements of we need to introduce animals from the Canadian Border to the State of Texas, all we do is shoot ourselves in the foot, it is taken by the other side as the same extremist ideals that those who want wildlife do with them and their livestock…

    Tired yes, relentless yes, depressed NO, I hope I don’t have to go to my grave fighting for the wildlife I love, but I suspect I will and the next generation will take over, I post my views here based on my experience both working in the system as well as outside the system, we all have goals, but we need to be realistic in what we can accomplish, we can win but it will be a little bit at a time, and we are doing that..we now have verified wolves in Oregon and Washington, we have packs in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming despite the hate that always seems to come to the front..

    Anyway, as long as I am able, I will work for wildlife and I will continue to post my ideas anywhere I can, I have no way of knowing who will read them and who will be the next big personality on the range wars, and that is exactly what it is a range war, the same as it has been since Euro White man came to the North American area..

    Again, Tired, Yes, Depressed Nope.. not at all..

  17. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I will just add, I have no faith in any administration that takes the office of president, despite what they say when they are trying to convince us to vote for them, I lost that faith when I was in the Military based on actions I saw, and people sold out, so no faith in the admin at all…

  18. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Save Bears,

    Did you make a typo? I can’t understand the sentence.

  19. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I May have, sometimes I type faster than my brain works, which sentence don’t you understand? As we all know, it is often productive to have someone else look at what we are typing..


  20. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    15 bison killed on the highway? It was posted this morning and seems to have disappeared. What’s that all about???

  21. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Jerry, I was wondering about that very thing???


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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Ken Cole