Helicopters continue harassing all kinds of wildlife inside Yellowstone National Park


Buffalo Field Campaign
Yellowstone Bison
Update from the Field

May 28, 2009

In this issue:
* Update from the Field
* Help BFC Help the Buffalo
* Ground the DOL’s Helicopter: Contact the FAA
* Traditional Prayer Ceremony on Horse Butte May 31
* Support the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act
* BFC Needs Summer Volunteers in Yellowstone
* Last Words
* Kill Tally

NOTE: This will be the last weekly Update from the Field of this season. Updates will come every other week or as often as necessary to convey urgent news. Thanks for being with us for the buffalo!
~ Buffalo Field Campaign


* Update from the Field

These buffalo calves, hazed yesterday inside Yellowstone, are struggling to make it across the Madison Rivers strong spring currents.  Some barely made it.  Photo by BFC volunteer Lake.
These buffalo calves, hazed yesterday inside Yellowstone, are struggling to make it across the Madison River's strong spring currents. Some barely made it. Photo by BFC volunteer Lake.

Since our last update, agents have been harassing bison every day. As I write, bison are once again being chased off of cattle-free Horse Butte, forced off of private lands where they are welcome, and off of public lands habitat where there will never be any cattle. Today, DOL agents again violated the private property rights of the Galanis family, using their helicopter, flying extremely low, to haze bison off the 800-acre buffalo safe zone. Buffalo have even been repeatedly shoved off of grassy meadows within Yellowstone National Park, deeper into the park’s interior to “make room” for the bison being hazed off of surrounding Gallatin National Forest lands.

Using U.S. tax dollars, Montana livestock inspectors bask in their assumed taxpayer-funded power while all the involved agencies cooperate, betraying the public trust and the wildlife and wild lands in their care, as they terrorize this unique facet of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Neither buffalo-friendly private lands, Gallatin National Forest, nor Yellowstone National Park are safe places for buffalo – livestock interests, including Yellowstone National Park, are seeing to it that buffalo have no sanctuary.

BFC documents Yellowstone National Park rangers hazing wild bison within the park.  Photo by BFC volunteer Lake.
BFC documents Yellowstone National Park rangers hazing wild bison within the park. Photo by BFC volunteer Lake.

Yellowstone National Park willingly plays into the DOL’s hands, ignoring their mission “to protect park resources unimpaired,” and allowing these atrocities to occur within park boundaries. Yellowstone allows agents on horseback and the DOL’s helicopter to force wild bison off the ground they choose to be on, right in front of the eyes of park visitors. They create hours-long traffic jams, and when questioned by park visitors they misrepresent the issue and act as if they are doing the buffalo a favor, claiming that if hazing didn’t occur, the DOL would kill the buffalo. But Yellowstone participates in slaughter as well as hazing, and last year, of the 1,600 killed, they were responsible for the death of 1,400 wild bison. Hazing can also kill, and it certainly causes intense stress and injury to the buffalo. Injuries have been numerous, and the overall condition of the buffalo we have seen has been deteriorating since hazing activities began.

BFC has been documenting numerous injuries to newborn buffalo, as well as all other age groups. Buffalo have been run for miles without rest, water, or time to nurse; chased across swollen rivers, through thick mud flats, fallen timber, paved roads, and dusty trails. While the DOL denies knowing whether they are the cause of injuries, they are without a doubt aggravating existing injuries as well as causing new ones. It is heartbreaking to witness.

A calf that barely escaped the strong current.
A calf that barely escaped the strong current. Photo by BFC volunteer Lake.

Yesterday, this little calf barely escaped the river as Park Rangers hazed it and its family for more than twelve miles inside Yellowstone National Park. Park rangers attempted to prevent BFC from documenting these actions against buffalo, but patrols persist so that people will know how Yellowstone and Montana cattle interests are wasting federal tax dollars to squander our natural heritage and placate the livestock industry. BFC has also been documenting the DOL’s helicopter flying extremely close to the ground, sometimes lower than 20 feet, hovering over buffalo in rivers, endangering residents and BFC patrols, and terrorizing all the creatures in the ecosystem. It is a centuries-old, cattle industry driven war against wildlife.

Park Rangers trying to prevent the documentation of their actions.
Park Rangers trying to prevent the documentation of their actions. Photo by BFC volunteer Lake.

Buffalo belong on the landscape. They are attempting to restore themselves and heal the injuries that more than a hundred years of intense livestock production has caused. One example has been playing out on the south side of the Madison River, where agents have been repeatedly harassing and harming the buffalo; since the wildfires that burned the area two summers ago, this area has become favored habitat. The bison are coming to do their ancient work; they are taking advantage of the new areas of green, nutritious grass the fire has helped produce, and by gently grazing, tilling and fertilizing the area with their critical presence, the buffalo will help restore this section of forest, making it a healthier place for all creatures. The buffalo are trying to heal the wounded land, and we must press on to ensure that they are able to fulfill this critical role.


* Help BFC Help the Buffalo

The government agencies carrying out the Bison Management Plan want us to believe that hazing is a sane and humane way to treat buffalo. The events described below, and those captured in still and video images by BFC patrols every day, tell a very different story. Over the course of the past two weeks, BFC field volunteers have witnessed and documented the hazing of newborn calves with broken legs; calves separated from their mothers; DOL helicopters intruding upon private lands against the wishes of the landowners; intensive industrial-strength hazing operations occurring miles within the borders of the world’s first National Park and on Forest Service lands outside the Park; and grizzly bears, moose, sandhill cranes and other sensitive species being disrupted. Perhaps worst of all, hazing keeps the buffalo from their critical winter and spring habitat and violently interrupts their birthing season.

Buffalo Field Campaign is the only group documenting these operations on the front lines. If we weren’t here to tell the story, you would only be hearing the livestock industry’s sugar-coated spin, if anything at all. With your help we will remain with the buffalo, in the field and in the policy arena, until they and their migration are adequately protected.

Please make a tax-deductible contribution today and ensure that we remain a strong presence in the field and on the policy front. Together we can bring these actions against America’s only continuously wild population of bison to a halt and earn the bison the protection they need and deserve.


For the Buffalo,

Dan Brister
Executive Director
Buffalo Field Campaign


* Ground the DOL’s Helicopters: Contact the FAA

DOL helicopter N1095T.  Photo by Lance Koudele.
DOL helicopter N1095T. Photo by Lance Koudele.

The Federal Aviation Administration has been hearing your calls. Please continue to make your voice heard to the FAA and file a complaint about how two FAA-registered helicopters are being used by the Montana Department of Livestock to harass and harm members of America’s last wild population of bison. The helicopter disrupts the entire ecosystem and all its inhabitants, including wild bison, grizzly bears, wolves, nesting birds such as Sand Hill cranes, bald and golden eagles, and white pelicans. Human residents on the western edge of Yellowstone National Park are also disturbed by the use of the helicopter, which flies extremely low through neighborhoods to scare up bison, hazing them towards Yellowstone. Yellowstone National Park has shamefully allowed the DOL’s helicopter to intrude within the boundaries of the world’s first national park.

DOL helicopter N1095T. Photo by Lance Koudele.

TAKE ACTION! Please contact the FAA to complain about the use of these two helicopters used by the Montana Department of Livestock DOL during bison hazing operations: N7770X and N1095T. The co-pilot is DOL agent Rob Tierney. Mention that the helicopter has been flying low (20 feet or lower at times) on May 14, 15, 27 and 28. If you have personally witnessed the helicopter hazing bison, your voice is especially needed, but all voices are critical and will make a difference. The DOL is, after all, using federal tax dollars to fly the helicopter to harass America’s last wild bison on National Forest and National Park lands. If enough complaints are received, we may be able to ground the DOL’s chopper.

FAA Hotline:

Contact FAA Investigator Paul Hurlbert at paul.hurlbert@FAA.gov or call 406-449-5270.

* Traditional Prayer Ceremony on Horse Butte May 31

View a larger image of this poster from our home page. Special thanks to BFC volunteer Cindy for this beautiful design!

We are honored to announce that on Sunday, May 31, beginning at 11am, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th generation keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe, will come to Montana to hold a traditional ceremony on Horse Butte in honor of the buffalo. The event is co-sponsored by Buffalo Field Campaign, Horse Butte Neighbors of Buffalo, and Seventh Generation Fund’s Tatanka Oyate Project.

All are welcome. Following the ceremony there will be a pot luck community meal in the town of West Yellowstone. Please RSVP with Stephany at bfc-media@wildockies.org.

For more information and directions click here.

* Support the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act

H.R. 980, the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act is being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Parks, Forest and Public Lands. NREPA designates tens of millions of acres of roadless areas as wilderness in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, eastern Oregon, and Washington. NREPA also includes the designation of over 3 million acres of backcountry wilderness in Yellowstone, Glacier and Grand Teton National Parks. The only place in the lower-48 where all native species and wildlife remain is in the Northern Rockies. NREPA connects natural, biological corridors, ensuring the continued existence of native plants and animals and mitigating the effects of global warming and it restores public lands severely damaged from roads built into critical wildlife habitat. It is the most important single action that Congress can take to protect wildlife and wildlands in the Northern Rockies. Finally, NREPA specifically mentions the last wild population of American bison in Yellowstone!

Read an informative and compelling opinion-editorial by our friend Paul Richards.

Then take action to help ensure that NREPA becomes law!

* BFC Needs Summer Volunteers in Yellowstone!

BFC is looking for summer volunteers to help 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 Chris at volunteer@buffalofeildcampaign.org or call 406-646-0070.

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

* Last Words

“These are some of the greatest citizens the state of Montana or the nation have produced–citizens willing to risk their lives to protect our wildlife and our buffalo heritage. I am speaking of the men and women of the Buffalo Field Campaign of West Yellowstone, Montana. These men and women need to be supported by our national and state governments, not tormented. And they need to be heard. These people have ideas that can be of help to everyone concerned.”

Marian Rose, West Chesterfield, NH

* Kill Tally

AMERICAN BISON ELIMINATED from the last wild population in the U.S.
2008-2009 Total: 18

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!


Take Action!








  1. Craig Avatar

    I was there for 7 days and never seen them hazing any Buffalo. The West Yellowstone, Hayden Valley or the Madison river had very few Buffalo! 90% of the Buffalo we saw were in the Lamar,ect. Only a handful of Bulls were near fishing Bridge or Hayden valley. We never seen anyone from the BFC either.

  2. Ken Cole Avatar

    Are you saying that this didn’t happen?

  3. Brian Ertz Avatar

    i think he’s saying that he wasn’t where it happened.

  4. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    There are several firsthand reports online (and another in my email box from someone else – which I heard before anything from BFC) that do in fact verify that it happened outside of what BFC has very credibly reported. In fact, one blog even has a response from NPS spokesman Al Nash himself on the hazing within the park.

    (Brian, I’ve been very bad at corresponding – a lot of other life things in the way; I should be in touch.)

  5. izabelam Avatar

    I have been there and I have seen the harassment. OMG…from West, down the hills to Madison river and up Norris ..been there seen that..horrible. Craig, where have you been? Road from West starting at Madison river was always full of buffs beeing moved by rangers. Caused traffic jams. Same from the Madison Junction up to Norris…
    I have sent tons of letters to the officials….THEY DONT’ CARE

  6. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    This really needs to make national news. Has the Buffalo Field Campaign ever gotten any of this to major news networks like CNN? If this kind of thing gets exposure it could help the case. That was what helped stop the clubbing of seal pups in Canada and elephant culling in South Africa. (I am not taking a position on either of those, they are just an example). Too bad this couldn’t somehow make it on Montana’s tourism web sites.

  7. izabelam Avatar

    ProWolf ..
    I have sent e-mails to NY Times, LA Times, and even KSL, here is Salt Lake.
    Nothing..not a single response.
    I was in YS 2 weeks ago and I saw the little buffs running after mammas, not even stoping to get a bite of a fresh grass.
    And I saw a birth of a baby bufallo on the banks of the river. The ranger was really good man, watching the mama to help the baby to get up and move on.
    I saw a dead buffallo mama and skinny, maybe 2 weeks old calf not knowing why there is no more warm milk..grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr and I saw rangers pushing buffalo thru the traffic into the Norris area.
    ..and in the West yellowstone they were showing painted buffallos..and tourists had no idea what’s going just few miles down the road….

    and maybe we can call Larry King.????????????????

  8. izabelam Avatar

    And where in the world are Defenders of Wildlife? Is a buffallo a wildlife or not?
    I care about monkeys and elephants BUT I care about our Native American wildlife more…

  9. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Isabelam, Defenders of Wildlife does have a section on buffalo:

    I think they need to step up their campaign. They did help get wolves back into Yellowstone, surely they can help buffalo. Did you send video footage to those news agencies? It probably would be good to send them to CNN or come other news network as well.

  10. izabelam Avatar

    I have sent the links and copied the material. I am not sure how to send stuff to CNN. I guess, I can check.
    I wonder why BFC is not sending it to CNN and other news?

  11. Craig Avatar

    I’m not saying it didn’t happen, I was just surprised we didn’t see it. We went into the park on May 22nd and left on the 30th both were through West Yellowstone. We stayed in Gardiner and spent most of our time in the Lamar Valley.

  12. Ken Cole Avatar

    Thanks for the clarification. I wasn’t sure where you were coming from.

  13. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Izabelam, that is a good question. Why isn’t Buffalo Field Campaign sending this material to CNN?

  14. soules2007 Avatar

    FAA? The FAA does not care about the bison. The only way the FAA will care is if the r44/r22 is violating flight rules or entering restricted airspace. Are there noise abatement procedures in place for the area? No. Did the helio violate class bravo, charlie, or echo airspace? No. If the helio is VFR not much he cant do and he is not tresspassing on private property, did he land on the property? FAA not going to be much help, as far endangering people, might be another story. Knowing pilots and how much they like have that hard earned ticket, i find it hard to believe they would recklessly endanger human life. Hate helis myself always happy to see one or two less but the FAA is the wrong way to go. You might complain and the next thing you know the FAA will let them use f18s in the park (just kidding).

  15. izabelam Avatar

    I just may need to ask Susan from BFC.

  16. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Good idea izabelem.

  17. Indamani Avatar


    Did you receive any response from Susan of BFC? If you did, please let us know.

  18. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    Sounds like your not well versed about flight rules especially in and around the park..


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.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ken Cole