Bison on Horse Butte Mercilessly Hazed out of Montana


Buffalo Field Campaign
Yellowstone Bison
Update from the Field
May 14, 2009

In this issue:
* Update from the Field
* The Wild in Us
* Join the Front Lines
* BFC Media Crew Needs a Laptop
* Last Words
* Kill Tally


Montana Department of Livestock Helicopter violating private property rights.  Photo by Lance Koudele
Montana Department of Livestock Helicopter violating private property rights. Photo by Lance Koudele

* Update from the Field

Though a day early, the dreaded time has come: All the buffalo have been cruelly forced off of Horse Butte.

All week patrols have been documenting the Montana Department of Livestock, Yellowstone National Park, Gallatin National Forest and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks agents carry out massive and relentless hazing operations, harassing and harming America’s last wild bison population.

Helicopter Hazing on Horse Butte.  Photo by Lance Koudele
Helicopter Hazing on Horse Butte. Photo by Lance Koudele

On Tuesday, agents were set to haze bison within Yellowstone National Park to “make room” for the bison that would be hazed off of Horse Butte. But Mother Nature had different plans: one group of bison the agents planned to target consisted of forty bulls who would follow none of the agents’ orders. An incredible hail storm assisted and the haze was called off for the day. But such luck was momentary.

Every day this week agents chased bison family groups, including newborn calves and pregnant mothers, off of the south side of the Madison River, and today they set their sights on cattle-free Horse Butte. In fact, all of the Gallatin National Forest lands where the buffalo roam are cattle free, yet livestock interests insist on assaulting them with mounted cowboys*, ATVs, local and federal law enforcement and the DOL’s helicopter.*

BFC volunteers documented some heartbreaking scenes this week: Yesterday, patrols documented a radio-collared bison female with a calf who had suffered an injury in her attempts to flee a cowboy in pursuit of she and two other buffalo moms and babies. Today, patrols discovered a calf who was orphaned, having been separated from its mother during a hazing operation. Typically, bison mothers will return to look for their calves, yet agents are pushing bison deep into Yellowstone – nearly 20 miles – so it is unlikely that the calf’s mother will be able to return, or find her baby before it dies. Today, patrols following the buffalo being hazed off Horse Butte witnessed a calf with a broken leg. The little calf, in spite of it’s likely fatal injury, still somehow managed to keep up with the herd for a long distance. Finally, the calf and its mother dropped behind. Nevertheless, a DOL agent insisted on flexing his authority over the bison and tried to push them forward. The mother charged the agent numerous times. After prompting by the bison mother and BFC, the DOL agent finally left the scene. The calf was last seen still trying to keep up with mom, as she made her way in the direction that her family was pushed.

Montana Cowboys brutalizing cows and calves Photo by Lance Koudele
Montana Department of Livestock Cowboys assaulting cows and calves Photo by Lance Koudele

The DOL and other agents violated private property rights* on Horse Butte today as well. They flew their helicopter low to the ground inside the Galanis’ Yellowstone Ranch Preserve, Montana’s largest “Buffalo Safe Zone.” Agents on horseback and an ATV, accompanied by a Forest Service law enforcement officer, also patrolled the housing area of Yellowstone Village; for years the majority of residents in Horse Butte’s Yellowstone Village have been resisting the DOL’s intrusion upon the bison in their neighborhood.

Agents are pursuing these tormented, exhausted buffalo deep into Yellowstone. By the end of the day, bison from Horse Butte will have been hazed for approximately 20 miles.

Please continue to speak for the buffalo by writing to President Barack Obama and urge him to stop allowing U.S. tax dollars be wasted by Montana’s livestock industry to harass and kill America’s last wild bison population. Choose wild bison, not cows or condos!


*Photos courtesey of Lance Koudele
* The Wild in Us

Montana Department of Livestock Helicopter assaulting public wildlife.  Photo by Lance Koudele
Montana Department of Livestock Helicopter assaulting public wildlife. Photo by Lance Koudele

Does chaos allow people to appreciate stillness? It does me. Does the continual chaos of present day culture shut people down? Turn them off? It seems the wild within us has become a very faint and distant memory. Chaos has allowed me to appreciate the stillness, the beauty, the quiet. It is the calm after the storm. It is the stillness after weeks of continental winds. It is the power of another herd heading to their ancestral birthing grounds after days, weeks, years of being hazed by “management men” and their machines. It is the knowledge that it will happen again and again and again if we as a citizenry do not shout Enough!

Is this not just a micro example of what is happening to us? Are we not constantly being hazed ourselves? “Pay the bills! Do this! Take that! Go here! Buy this!” Cracker round shots fired at us in the form of commercials, billboards and terror alerts. It is no wonder we have become so disconnected from our wild roots. Yet the hawk continues to pierce the stillness of the sky and raven caws as well. And there is something within me that is trying to strike some balance between outrage and understanding. That this game between us and them is so much bigger than me. That maybe I am not here to “save the Bison,” but to save the wild in me. Buffalo have been and continue to be a gift to the people. What will it take for America to awake? The intelligence of these animals goes beyond words. They have been around many lifetimes before me, and this is not their first time dealing with the viciousness of man–a particular breed of man whose well will never be full enough. Yet something has brought us all here together. That something is America’s last wild and free herd of buffalo.

This Friday marks Montana’s official “zero tolerance” for any buffalo left in the state. As we have been witnessing year after year, this Monday began the full-fledged efforts of the government to remove every last buffalo from the state of Montana. These last four days have been filled with buffalo being chased by ATVs, men on horseback, law-enforcement vehicles, and thundering chopper blades–creating chaos and mayhem for buffalo mamas and newborn calves as well as yearlings, bulls, and all the other wildlife that lives in this migratory paradise. Not only have hazes been occurring outside the Park, the Park Service has been actively participating in hazing various herds that are currently within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. A place where bison are supposed to be able to “roam free.” Yet we are being told that they need to be moved deeper into the Park! Today we witnessed as the chopper flew up and down, back and forth, kicking up dust, and blasting a loud siren on top of it’s already obnoxious thundering blades. Calves were forced to swim against the river’s current in order to keep up with their exhausted mothers. Another calf was separated from its mother and as of this writing is wandering alone along the Madison River searching for her. Yet another newborn calf had its leg shattered and was forced to run for miles supporting its weight on the knee joint. Yet the haze pushed on.

And the buffalo will push on. They will again return to reclaim their stolen ground, and one day not too long from now, they will succeed.

~Roman Sanchez
BFC Volunteer and Board Member

* BFC Needs You on the Front Lines!

Buffalo Field Campaign is looking for volunteers to join us on the front lines now. Buffalo migration is in full swing and our shaggy friends are everywhere, keeping us busy nearly 24 hours a day. Extreme and invasive hazing operations have begun, and will likely continue throughout the rest of the month, and possibly beyond. We need you to join us on the front lines! BFC provides room, board, training, and gear; the ecosystem provides the magic and mystery. If you are interested, please contact Chris, our volunteer coordinator at or call 406-646-0070.

We are also looking for summer volunteers to help us with outreach in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Talking to park visitors who are in the company of the buffalo we are trying to protect is a great way to raise awareness and make more friends for the buffalo. If you would like to spend some or all of your summer with BFC, please contact Mike at or call 406-646-0070.

See you in West Yellowstone in the land of the last wild buffalo!

* Apple Laptop Computer Needed for BFC’s Media Crew

BFC’s media crew is looking for a good Apple/Mac laptop computer. All of our computers are currently stationary systems, and a laptop will enable us to work from other locations and consequently be more effective with communications and outreach. All donations to BFC are tax deductible and are very much appreciated! If you can help us acquire a laptop please contact Stephany at or call us at 406-646-0070.

* Last Words

“If your mercy is so cruel, what do you have for justice?”

~ Bernard Pomerance, from The Elephant Man (The Play)
* Kill Tally

AMERICAN BISON ELIMINATED from the last wild population in the U.S.
2008-2009 Total: 17

2008-2009 Slaughter: 0
2008-2009 Hunt: 1
2008-2009 Quarantine: 0
2008-2009 Shot by Agents: 1
2008-2009 Highway Mortality: 16

2007-2008 Total: 1,631

Total Since 2000: 3,698*
*includes lethal government action, quarantine, hunts, highway mortalities

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.


Join Buffalo Field Campaign — It’s Free!


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  1. Ken Cole Avatar

    When I read stories like this I am just filled with absolute rage.

    Could you possibly imagine what would happen if you or I chased their precious livestock through a subdivision using a helicopter? Can you honestly say that you have any sympathy for the livestock industry when they will stoop to lows as low as this?

    These people have no conscience.

  2. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Disgusting.

  3. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    If I was the landowners, I would circumvent the local government and be on the phone with the FAA and filing a compliant for air space violations and minimum flight height regulations..I would start out by making formal requests for the flight plans of the dept that is using the Helicopter to do the hazing operation, I would also file for an immediate federal injunction to prohibit this based on those complaints due to unsafe flight actions..

    There are things that can be done if people are willing to do it..

  4. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    That was “If I were” not “if I was” doh!

  5. Brian Ertz Avatar

    that top photograph with the sign ought be sent to the governor’s office

  6. JB Avatar

    I’m just as enraged about what’s being done to bison, but I don’t think claiming private property rights is the way to go about dealing with this problem. Folks here may recall a few years back when an FWS agent who was darting and collaring wolves from a helicopter was actually charged with littering for leaving the wolves on private land. The case was later thrown out by the courts.

    Perhaps the landowners should consider erecting a wind energy farm. That ought to keep the helicopters away. 😉

  7. buffalorunner Avatar

    This is just appalling and a shameful waste of taxpayer dollars!! How come private landowner rights only apply to those who restrict public access to hunting and instead sell those priveleges to outfitters for big $$ ? Imagine what would happen if helicopters came swooping down over elk herds on private ranches and wealthy out-of-state hunters during the fall hunting season, in the name of brucellosis risk management!!!

    These folks on Horse Butte have generously opened their lands to wild bison without any compensation from anyone, and yet they are subjected to the blatant harrassment of the very wildlife which they have offered refuge at no cost.

    This is waaaayyyy out of control and the federal government or FAA needs to shut down these operations immediately!

  8. Indamani Avatar

    The agencies involved in the merciless hazing of wild bison are not only without conscience, it almost seem like they derived great pleasure in the blatant abuse of their power. They are nothing more than scum of the lowest order.

  9. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    JB, I agree with you that the “private property” angle is a dangerous and not useful way to go; it does score short term points, but it’s not good in the end to make this argument for a lot of reasons.

    However, the DOL is an equal opportunity kind of organization; they go after buffalo no matter what. The BFC report from the field was heartbreaking.

    Being at the rally in Bozeman today will do little to ease the negativity I feel right now – and yes, year after year.

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Private property rights as a political argument are usually just a tool to advance or retard some other issue. The same is true with “state’s rights.”

  11. montucky Avatar

    Permitting this is not only a Montana disgrace, but a national one. The Montana politicians will not stop this insanity, nor will they support most any kind of state conservation effort, but they will complain when a Representative from New York sponsors the NREPA. Clearly, I think, this should be part of a national agenda and maybe people of good will (there don’t seem to be any in Montana politics) will be able to rectify the problem.

  12. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Even though private property rights are being violated, which in Montana is a serious situation, I agree it is not going to be the avenue to pursue, but the safety aspects of low elevation high speed flying is a concern that should be addressed with the FAA. I would really be interested in who owns the aircraft used in the hazing operations..I know a couple of years ago, I voiced a complaint about hazing going on in June over the Bakers Hole campground and found out through inquiry that the owner of the helo being used was not aware that they were doing low level high speed flights with his equipment and refused to lease it to them again..

    As the landowner, I would demand to see insurance documentation before they do any hazing operations over my land to protect the landowner in case of damages caused if there was an accident…

    Like I said above, there are avenues to pursue that is not directly connected, you have to hit them from all sides, and most of all the side they are not expecting..

  13. buffalawyer Avatar

    One reason a private property approach may be justified and helpful in this instance: it is the livestock industry directly versus landowner buffalo supporters. The livestock industry (through DOL and the other tag-along agencies) is asserting its disproportionate power over those whose interests do not favor their actions. DOL’s actions (including trespass and telling family members outside their home that they have to “leave and get out of the way”, and low-flying helicopters) disempower people creating bison safe zones as havens of habitat where the state and federal agencies have otherwise excluded them.


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