5/14/09 Montana Department of Livestock chasing baby buffalo with broken leg

Last Thursday, Montana Department of Livestock chased/hazed/harassed/played ‘cowboy’ with a mother buffalo and her calf, despite the broken leg the calf sustained – all on behalf of Livestock’s stranglehold over our public land and wildlife management..




  1. Ken Cole Avatar

    I just got back from West Yellowstone and there were about 40 cows and calves on Horse Butte already after the hazing activities of last week.

    There are not, and never will be, any cattle on Horse Butte. The buffalo are on private property and are welcomed by the landowners. These bastards need to stop.

  2. Mike Avatar

    This is an outrage.

  3. william huard Avatar

    On page 29 of this month’s Smithsonian is an add from the State of Montana. It shows a buffalo in a stream- with the words “There’s nothing here but wolves and bison and grizzlies and trout.” The number is 1800 visit. MT. I called them last week and asked them why they didn’t depict the real Montana- Dept of Livestock helicopters hazing bison into the water where I think 11 of them drowned. The lady on the other end of the phone had very little to say- needless to say when these incidences come to light people are embarrassed. People need to keep calling the Governor’s office until they are forced through public outrage to make this stop.

  4. Indamani Avatar

    Where are the other animal rights group? It’s heartbreaking to see the little calf hobbling on the broken leg. Does anyone know the status of this little calf and the other one that was separated from its mother?

  5. Ken Cole Avatar

    The other groups are too busy fundraising for ranchers to do anything real about this issue.

  6. buffalorunner Avatar

    Helicopters, horses, and livestock agents…Oh my! Unfortunately, I think this poor little calf has little chance of surviving. It will not be able to keep up with rest of the herd, and infection may set in as well. We should bombard the DOL and the governors’s office with phone calls about this horrible mistreatment of wild bison. Also, I think this image should be on some billboards!

  7. Ballgame Avatar

    This is just more of the same bullshit perpetrated by the DOL–I will bet the State of Montana wont want to use this image in their advertisements encouraging people to visit Montana to see the abundant and “protected” wildlife.

  8. Sherrie L Avatar
    Sherrie L

    This is just wrong! They need to just leave them alone. With people like that on earth we will soon have no Wildlife!
    This SUCK’s!

  9. Brian Ertz Avatar

    Bombard the governor’s office, the DoL, the NPS etc. with official FOIA requests asking for any emails, memos, etc. on the the official or unofficial policy concerning humane treatment of buffalo which may be relevant to this incident & the wellbeing of the baby buffalo for media purposes – then report back to this blog (in the month or so when the bureauns respond).

    Letters and emails go in the trash bin – FOIAs require an official reply –

  10. Virginia Avatar

    I did send the governor an email, but if I get the same smart-ass response I got from him the last time I wrote to him I will not be surprised.

  11. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    Where the hell are the “DEFENDERS OF WILDLIFE”…..Oh ya, just saw Ken’s comment. “Fundraising for Ranchers”. Now I understand. ” Consensus building” and “collaboration” are really making a BIG difference.

  12. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    Brian…I may be wrong as it’s been a few years since I filed a F.O.I request, but aren’t they only good for federal agencies? I know they only have 30 days to respond to the request and I’m not sure that a request to the State or DOL has any time limitation and would be put in the “ignore” file. I do know that Montana has a “right to know” law, which from past experience takes forever even if they send the info.
    Anyone with legal knowledge of F.O.I.’s please step up.

  13. Brian Ertz Avatar

    jerry b,

    there are state information act statutes – we can get the information for montana states. the federal FOIA is the same all over. in idaho, if the response to a request includes more than 100 pages (i believe) they start charging 10cents a page – which is why many specific requests over time are better – and report on what you find, there’s a public interest in exposing the truth. it’s better that way anyway,

  14. Mike Avatar

    I think this is “the” moment in the Yellowstone bison saga. The video of the baby bison should seal the deal on change if there is proper exposure.

    I have set up a “Digg” and “Twitter” feature on my site just for this story. Simply go to:


    and look for the little shovel symbol at the bottom, just below “share and enjoy”. Click it to “Digg” this. If you are not a Digg member, you will have to sign up. It’s free. Digg gets 25 million monthly visitors, and this story will get HUGE exposure on the internet if it gets “Dugg”. Only one person each can “digg” the story. The more diggs, the more the story will gain exposure.

    While calling in is good, the story can really get much bigger in this fashion.

    Thanks, and let’s raise the awareness of this tragic video. This will *really* get people who normally don’t care about this sort of thing on our side.

  15. Brian Ertz Avatar

    you can also :

    1. send a letter to the heads of the agencies — make sure to ask very specific questions – and ask for a written response – questions that a form letter will not answer.

    2. if the bureaucrat sends you a form letter, take it to the next level up the chain of command – make a copy of the original letter, a copy of the unresponsive bureaucrats’ reply, and ask that their boss (whomever is next up the chain) to direct the original bureaucrat to respond to the specific question — ask the boss for a written response as well.

    3. if that still doesn’t work – send those responses to your congress-person, explain your qualm – what you asked – and that the bureaucrats were unresponsive – ask the congress-person to direct the original recipient(s) of your letter to respond. This works remarkably well, especially if you went through the chain … congress-folk of both parties have ‘constituent services’ staff that will write a letter on your behalf.

    4. repeat from step 1 …

  16. Mike Avatar

    Also, there is a link to both Ralph’s blog and the Buffalo Field Campaign blog in that story. This should gain even more exposure to the problem that quite honestly not many people know about.

  17. Really? Avatar

    Looks to me like the DOL agents were taking special care NOT to push this pair. The horse and rider stays ahead of the injured calf and mother, and at no time in this footage do we see them pushing these animals forward. If anything, it appears that the presence of the camera crew is pushing the animals forward. It is very unfortunate that this calf broke its leg, but these things happen. This calf could have broken its leg just running and bucking in a meadow, just as easily as under these circumstances. I do not see any evidence of the DOL “chasing/hazing/harassing/playing ‘cowboy’” with this buffalo and her calf in this video.

  18. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    I think this is “the” moment in the Yellowstone bison saga. The video of the baby bison should seal the deal on change if there is proper exposure.

    Mike, you are totally right. While I do not wish specific harm on people and I’m glad he wasn’t hurt, that was satisfying to see the mother make a bluff charge at the cowboy. This video needs to make it on CNN.

  19. Lynne Stone Avatar

    Did the cowpoke on the horse feel any remorse for the hurt bison calf? I doubt it. The only thing that matters to most cowboys and most elected politicans in the West is the holy cow (or in Idaho, sheep.)

    The footage in this video is stunning.

    If readers reading this, are still eating beef, isn’t it time to stop? The bison calf is hurt and probably will die because of the power of the beef industry.

    I hope that somehow, the video footage of the mother Bison and her hurt calf will be a turning point to help bison, if it can somehow get onto TV or other media and reach Americans, who seem to spend most of their time watching NASCAR, reality TV, or here in Idaho, frothing over hunting wolves come September 1st.

  20. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    I called the governors office. His aide blames the incident on the photographer!!! The bas—-s.

  21. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Like the photographer did this. What an idiot. And I actually voted for this guy before I left Montana. I am sure the cowboy did not feel remorse for the calf. These are usually the same people who dynamite coyote dens or dig up the pups and stomp them to death. I would also be willing to bet that the horse is just ranch equipment.

  22. Mike Avatar

    Yeah the aide blamed the photographer too when I called.

  23. mountain man Avatar
    mountain man

    How do you know he didn’t feel any remorse for the calf?

  24. Ken Cole Avatar

    Because he wouldn’t leave them alone. That would be one clue.

  25. Steve C Avatar
    Steve C

    I honestly dont see how McCain could have done a heck of a lot worse where the environment is concerned.

  26. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Mountain man if you have seen the video you would be able to see that he didn’t feel remorse for the calf.
    Steve, I am starting to wonder if that is true.

  27. mountain man Avatar
    mountain man

    I have see the video three times and he didn’t look like he was pushing them around. He was just making sure they didn’t back track. Maybe he did push them I don’t know but the video I saw didn’t seem that way to me. Just curious, what was he supposed to do besides leaving them alone in your view?

  28. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    She really did not need any more coaxing. She would have followed the herd even after the stop to graze. The fact that she did the bluff charge shows that she was being harassed.

  29. mountain man Avatar
    mountain man

    Sorry, I just don’t see it that way. He didn’t look too aggresive to me. I think she didn’t feel comfortable but she wasn’t being harassed and he didn’t look like he was coaxing her along. He looked to me like he was just waiting for her to move a long. I did notice a cowboy up in front of her letting her lag behind and not pushing her up with the rest of the herd. She just acted like a mother with a calf to me and wanted her space. Hey I wasn’t there I was just watching the video and yes, I do think it sucks the calf broke it’s leg. I have a question. There was a statement made that the land owners welcomed the buffalo on there property. How do you know this and I how is the buffalo population in yellowstone doing?

  30. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Notice the horseman in the video with the rope coiled on the right side of the saddle. It has no purpose. It does not help in moving buffalo. Its presence is also a safety hazard to the rider and his horse because it can get snagged on branches etc.. If that cow would have bluff charged the guy in deeper timber the rope would have been a safety hazard for sure.

    Thus, for these guys to be carrying ropes means only one thing….the image, the personal show to fellow riders is more important than the “work’ at hand. These are true John Wayne cowboys and I could spot these types and predict their behavior most all the time in Yellowstone backcountry….. for who they were.

  31. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Notice also the boot inserted all the way to the heel (seen as the guy is adjusting his cowboy hat). In this close quarters situation with a cow and newborn meant a ball of the foot stirrup position was a must. Knocked off the horse and you can have a foot hung up. By the way he is leaning back in the saddle also means it would have taken longer to react. He also is leaning back as he is turning the horse with the reins. Besides making it slower to react it also makes the horses head go higher than it should be when turning. This is why you see the horse fighting the bit and his action to play two handed rein cowboy. I saw these types, private and govt., all the time in my 30 years as a backcountry ranger.

    Image is a killer when it comes to safety for horse and riding. I made it 30 years and 60-70,000 miles on a horse without getting hurt and it was only because I didn’t allow myself to become part of horse cultures play world. It makes you a steep slower in reaction time for one and I couldn’t afford that in a place by mself 30 miles from any roads.

    Playing cowboy also doesn’t allow one to the make honest assessments of ANYTHING because it all is a “game of who you are”.

    The most effective activism on this guy is to yell out to him and his cowboy buddies just what his actions with his horse and John Wayne demeaner are. Call a spade a spade and you will hit home. Tell him you are going to send all this show cowboy stuff to Western Horsemen and post the video with explaination at his local town gas stations…and then do it. Don’t worry about him ever changing to a real world focus. He can’t because it is too well ingrained in him. You will have damning footage of him forever.

    The worst thing I see out of all this video’ed scene however is what behavior in the future this macho cowboy will have caused to this cow by being too close. On our farm any charge from a bison cow means you have to be identify and then be prepared to change that behavior. It is a 100% likely hood she will charge again if gotten too close to…whether she has a calf or not beside her…on our farm or in Yellowstone. Enough bluff charges to tourists in the Park, if she is from one of those family groups that stay near the road, and she can cause someone to be gored…and then she will be put down. All because some guy(s) are playing cowboy.

  32. mountain man Avatar
    mountain man


  33. Ken Cole Avatar

    mountain man,

    I suggest you read more about the history of this issue. You don’t sound very informed.

    To answer your question about the landowners welcoming the bison on their property. The Galanis family bought the Munz ranch a few years ago specifically to allow bison to use it. There is also a subdivision on Horse Butte adjacent to the ranch and the residents have formed a group named Horse Butte Neighbors of Buffalo (HOBNOB) which has been asking the DOL to leave the bison alone there too. There are no cattle on Horse Butte and there never will be. There is absolutely no point in hazing them from this area other than for the livestock industry to tell other people how they need to manage their own private property.

    Frankly, what the DOL does here each year is bullshit and only benefits a bunch of screaming, whining ranchers who aren’t affected by buffalo on Horse Butte anyway.

  34. mountain man Avatar
    mountain man

    I am trying to learn more about this issue. That is why I asked.

  35. Indamani Avatar

    Feel free to ask mountain man because there are good people here who will be more than happy to help you. A year ago, I was in the same position as you are.

  36. Ken Cole Avatar

    mountain man,

    I’m sorry if I came off as a little gruff. I didn’t mean to make you feel as if you should know more about this issue but it has been going on for 12 years. Here are a couple of links that may help you understand my position on this issue a little better.


    There truly is no reason for this issue to persist.

  37. Barb Avatar

    I think this would even be considered “criminal” and punishable by law!

  38. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    You have hit the issue on the head, virtually every state in this country has laws covering cruelty to animals, which is punishable by fines and well as jail time. I know for a fact that Montana has prosecuted people for similar instances of abuse on domestic animals. I remember a case a few years ago that a cattle ranch owner and his “cowboys” were given 6 months in jail as well as hefty fines! because they were “rounding up their cattle and injured many calves” I can’t understand why some of these high powered lawyers with the conservation organizations don’t demand that criminal charges be filed..

    Instead of getting in touch with the governors office, I would target the Attorney Generals office with demands of criminal prosecution for cruelty to animals…

    This is not the first time bison have been hazed “To Death” which this calf was, in addition to the ones that were hazed into Hebgen Lake and drowned..

  39. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    Save Bears….I did contact HSUS 3 days ago about the cruelty issue. They’re “looking into it”. It appears that DOL could claim an exemption under Montana Code 48-5-211 which would put them in a category of “Generally accepted agricultural practices or wildlife exemptions.”
    I agree…..the mainline conservation organizations are sure quiet.
    Don’t want to piss off the ranchers, I guess.

  40. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I am familiar with the code, unfortunately, while with FWP I never could get an acceptable definition to the “Wildlife Exemptions” part of it, I have requested an answer several times over the last few years, to only be continually stonewalled by higher ups, this is an issue that the public must demand answers to, the more official requests and pressure they get the better.

  41. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    The “Wildlife Exemption” part of a cruelty law should no apply to buffalo as they are classified as livestock in Montana.

  42. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Well Pro, that has changed a bit in Montana since the FWP actually is in charge of the hunting of Bison, so there are some legal points that can and should be made in court..

  43. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    DOL has no right to manage wildlife as FWP has no right to manage livestock…so legally in which category do bison fall in? I know the answer but would like to see a court ruling on the issue..

  44. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    DOL has no right to manage wildlife as FWP has no right to manage livestock…so legally in which category do bison fall in? I know the answer but would like to see a court ruling on the issue.

    Are you saying that buffalo have a joint classification?

  45. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    When I worked for the state of Montana, they were an unclassified animal, not classified wildlife and not classified livestock, the only bison that are classified livestock are those that are owned and living on ranches that raise bison..the bison that come from the park carry no classification..the bison at the national bison range are federally recognized as wildlife under the control of the USFW service and possibly the Indian Nations…

  46. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY


  47. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    There was a push to put them under the control of FWP this year, but it went down to defeat, in part because of the DOL which opposed it..it would have charged FWP to manage them as wildlife and taken most of the power away from DOL, FWP did not take a official stance on the bill…

  48. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    There were a couple of articles posted here on the blog about the issue of control over bison:


    And this one:


  49. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    The Park and other members of the interagency from the beginning had the bison leaving the Park and being herded and corralled labelled as “experimenta study”. Thus, they were and still are above the law. Earth Justice contemplated having a friendly legislator introducing a bill into the Montana legislature so there would be at least the same protections as available to livestock.

    Mike Mease, head of BFC, Bear Creek Council, the 6 state regional Humane Society head, Dave Pauli, and Earth Justice’s Doug Hounald met at Earth justice’s Bozeman office a few years ago. BFC and I initiated the meeting and I gave a lengthy power point presentation detailing all the abuse (mostly in the corrals at Stevens Creek). The effect was imprinted and post presentation Earth Justice was to do the legal stuff and Pauli was to coordinate with the National office of the Humane Society. In the end Doug did his part but Pauli was scared out by the Park Service.

    Dave thought it would be the same as their other work with other National Parks (such as Roosevelt) and tribal animal problems…work behind the scenes to correct the problem. I tried to tell him what it would be like. Dave was totally shocked by Yellowstone’s response. They told him the Humane Society could film and meet with them but Bob Jackson was not to be a part of any of it. Of course, I was the one the Park knew had all the knowledge of bison handling, what the corralling people were doing to blatantly abuse, the coverup of activities at the bison corrals and the intentional switching of congressional hard money funds away from corral fixing. The Park knew this because I gave the same presentation to some of the Park administrators the day before I gave it to the activists group. They also knew Dave and the original “experts” who signed off on the original corral design knew next to nothing about corralling bison and how to handle them.

    Dave found out the Park was being very “tough guy” (the inside Park people helping had to shut down and feared for their jobs. I was even told by the second in command of the biologists the head of the biologist office was in serious trouble for even listening. Soon the biologists head “retired” and the lap dog took over) so in the end Pauli let it die and the abuse, continue. I wrote him many letters trying to get them to start addressing it (even after Bush left office) but I think he was afraid for his job if he pushed it. He had been head of the Montana Trappers Assoc. before the Humane job and the Regional director was a lot better for him.

    Without the support of the Humane society and BFC having other things on the plate Earth Justice sort of shelved it.

    I’d ask Earth Justice what the experimental study designation is if you want to know more. I can say the Interagency and the Park had specific language inserted to keep them from ever being taken to court regarding abuse.

    To me the fact the Interagency is above the law is the most damning PR item activists can use. The experimental designation, I think, can effectively be argued that it is not applicable in this case.

    If anyone wants to see the power point I can send an e mailable friendly version. And all the communications are available also. It is not over till the fat lady sings!!!

  50. wyogreeny Avatar

    What about the Animal Legal Defense Fund aka ALDF, would they perhaps be a group that could help stop the idiocy w/the Bison in MT?

    HSUS in the animal welfare world, with those of us who have been around a while, is not an agency that will do much unless it concerns good press for them, which equals donations. They are not in the no-kill camp regarding dogs and cats if that opens some eyes. Dave Pauli covers a huge area and is IMO ineffective much of the time because of that. Folks in these humane agencies are paid huge salaries (the directors anyhow are in the 6 figure range) and since they depend on donations to pay themselves, it is usually geared towards that end.

    I am getting frustrated w/Defenders because my donation seems to be spent sending out mailers to me asking for more money over and over.

    I am surprised the private landowners in MT cannot take the DOL to court to stop trespassing on their land?

  51. izabelam Avatar

    Ijust came back from Yellowstone and I saw the ugly part of hazing inside the park.
    The worst part is the people inside the park have no clue what is going on.
    Visitors stop and take pictures and they dont’ understand the process. The visitors can be strong weapon in this fight BUT they don’t know.
    I have talked to few of them and educated them but we need press and more info in the media. I have no clue how to do it.
    I guess , I am no help here.

  52. Linda Hunter Avatar

    I haven’t watched TV for many years but doesn’t this story seem like the perfect piece for CBS news 60 minutes. I don’t know enough about it to write a pitch email but if it hasn’t been done before maybe if a few of us did that they might look at it. Their email address is 60m@cbsnews.com. I will do it anyway and make it as convincing as I can, but if more of you did it as well, they might have more of a tendency to look into it. I am sure someone one has brought this up with them before, but no marketing agency can ignore a chorus of voices.


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Brian Ertz