From Buffalo Field Campaign’s Update from the Field

It has been an intense week for buffalo. BFC volunteers are out in the field and on the road with the buffalo nearly 24 hours a day. If you are able to join us on the front lines, please see our call for volunteers below. The buffalo and BFC need you!

Near Gardiner, along Yellowstone’s north boundary, National Park Service and Department of Livestock agents have been actively hazing various groups of buffalo. Multiple management actions aimed to appease cattle interests have been taking place within this enormous wildlife migration corridor. So far, there have been no buffalo captured. Yesterday, four bulls were hazed back to Yellowstone, and again today, Park Rangers hazed 32 buffalo to just outside the Roosevelt Arch. Other groups of buffalo are around the Gardiner area, including some in town.

On the western boundary, a few bull bison were hazed back into Yellowstone National Park earlier this week by Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) agents. The buffalo’s “crime” was in stepping onto the private land of the Koelzer family, who allows the DOL to operate the Duck Creek bison trap on their property. Like so many other obstacles the buffalo must face, the Koelzer property and other houses with fenced in yards block a migration route favored especially by bull bison.


There has been a large bachelor group of bull bison roaming the area near Duck and Cougar Creeks, along Highways 191 and 287 this week; they are massive and incredibly impressive. BFC has been with these bulls every day and through the nights, warning traffic of their presence. Buffalo have no qualms about walking right down the middle of the road, sometimes side by side in numbers, taking the highway over. It’s a beautiful sight; this is their land and they are happy to remind us of it. Numerous travelers can’t help but pull over in admiration; being in the presence of North America’s largest land mammals is truly an awesome experience. It is shameful and sad that these magnificent creatures who have been around for over 10,000 years are forced to abandon their ancient practices, and unwillingly yield to the selfish wishes of Montana’s cattle industry. So far, other than the challenges of fences and traffic, these bulls have been left alone, but we don’t trust that the DOL will leave them in peace for long.

Along the south side of the Madison River, the DOL, National Park Service, Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks, and U.S. Forest Service, with aid from Gallatin County law enforcement, have been hazing buffalo in earnest, all week. According to the new adaptive changes to the IBMP, 30 buffalo are allowed to be in this area, but they only have a few miles of ground where they are “tolerated.” These tolerance zones are meaningless to buffalo who know no man-made borders. They continued their migration and agents began to haze them when they approached private property owned by someone who does not like bison, about a mile from Idaho’s border. View BFC’s footage here. The panting and terrified buffalo were run by agents on snowmobiles and in trucks down busy Highway 20, through barbed wire fences and deep snow, before losing them in the thick forests along the Madison River. This area is always a challenge for the agents; the woods are wide and thick and the clever buffalo lose the agents every time. So today the DOL brought out their ATVs and helicopter and proceeded to disrupt the ecosystem. Approximately 29 buffalo, including many pregnant mamas, fled through the forest to escape the thumping blades of the chopper. In the course of the haze, the DOL apparently scared up two grizzly bears, who were disrupted by the pounding helicopter and yelling agents. Hazing operations harm not only buffalo, but all of the creatures who live in this ecosystem including wolves, moose, elk, Sand Hill cranes, bald and golden eagles, fox, badgers, and more.

Bison continue to make their way in and out of the Park, to and from Horse Butte and surrounding areas, having to cross Highway 191 to access critical habitat. We are continuously out on the roads, putting up our hot pink warning signs, and helping prevent bison/vehicle collisions. We are pleased to report that there have been no more bison highway mortalities. Unfortunately, one of our “Buffalo Crossing” signs was vandalized by an unknown antagonist. We are making attempts to fix it, but we may need to purchase a new one.

We expect that agents will be out harassing buffalo full time, through the end of May or even beyond. Even though there is not a cow in sight, and there has never been a case of wild bison transmitting brucellosis to them anyway. The mismanagement of America’s last wild population of bison must end. Please, if you have not already done so, contact President Barack Obama and urge him to take positive action for these gentle grazers who can heal the wounded land.

You can read the entire update here

Media & Outreach
Buffalo Field Campaign
P.O. Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
BFC is the only group working in the field every day in defense of the last wild buffalo population in the U.S.

About The Author

Ken Cole

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. We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.

6 Responses to Hazing Begins: Helicopter Harasses Bison, Grizzlies

  1. bob jackson says:

    What is a “bachelor” bull group anyway? If we applied this to humans we would probably think of a bunch of sexually mature adults who either have not paired up yet or were divorced and hanging out with like kind “buds”. Of course if we looked a bit closer it could be a bunch of executives gathering together at a conference. They have paired but without understanding roles and infrastructure of populations we would not know that, right? Or if we came upon an army base we would see a very, very big bachelor group. we know these guys role in our human civilization but do we know this is how it is in herd populations. The Indians always noted the big bulls heading in front of the mass a couple of weeks in front. The younger bulls would travel as flankers to the main herd and then the bit younger, but still very mature bulls would follow up as defenders of the rear.

    Were all these bulls just “bull groups”? Hardly..and it is so much more exciting and vital to know these males had so much more to them than just being buds as bachelor groups waiting for the rut to compete with each other for genetic superiority. Come on guys, we need to acknowledge in animals what males are for on this earth. Either we as biologists, environmental watchers, or just plain human males have belittled the function of ourselves or have a bad case of superiority over all other (humans and animals) on this earth.

    Since very few guys consider themselves wimps then I’d have to surmise the latter. Both attitudes end up making for very compromised “management” of wildlife, however, and severely limits sensible solutions to reestablishing bison outside YNP.

  2. outsider says:

    “The buffalo’s “crime” was in stepping onto the private land of the Koelzer family, who allows the DOL to operate the Duck Creek bison trap on their property. Like so many other obstacles the buffalo must face, the Koelzer property and other houses with fenced in yards block a migration route favored especially by bull bison.”

    So what part of private property do you not understand?

  3. vickif says:

    The part were owning it negates the federal rights of so many others….
    Private property ownership does not equate supreme rule over everything.

  4. Steve C says:

    Outsider, why should the government spend tens of thousands of public dollars hazing bison off of private land? If it is private land the Koelzer family should build at better fence with their money or rent a private helicopter and haze the bison onto public land themselves. You people always crying “private property” never seem to turn down govt sponsored welfare. Raccoons have been getting into my trash lately. Perhaps the government should station a team of rednecks in my yard on horses and atvs to chase them away before they get near my garbage…

  5. outsider says:

    Steve, I would have no problem with the Pivate land owners being able to take care of the bison that tresspass on their lands, but I doubt that you would like their solutions, it would be very similar to how you will take care of your raccoon problem, leathal force. So maybe its not so bad for the goverment to spend thousands of dollars to keep their wildlife in check. Or maybe this would be a good job for some wildlife group.

  6. Ken Cole says:

    Actually oustider,

    Dale Koelzer, now deceased, did just what you speak of. He was convicted of poaching a bull bison on his property and given a steep fine. All of the carcass was recovered except for the penis.



‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey