Mourning the Loss of Our Friends


Buffalo Field Campaign
Yellowstone Bison
Update from the Field
June 18, 2009


In this issue:
* Update from the Field – Four Bulls Killed by Agents
* Our Friend Frog: BFC Celebrates His Life, Mourns His Passing
* Last Words
* Kill Tally

* Update from the Field

Bull bison rubs on a tree. BFC file photo.

We lost four brother buffalo yesterday to the ignorance and greed of Montana’s livestock industry.

We are sad to report that the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) sent three bull buffalo to slaughter yesterday after capturing them on private land at Duck Creek, in a trap just 200 yards from the boundary of Yellowstone National Park.

Read the full press release here.

In addition, agents shot another bull buffalo on Gallatin National Forest land yesterday. Both DOL and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) participated in the killing and processing of this beautiful emblem of the wild. In a disgraceful act, the FWP agent, game warden Jim Smolzynski, even brought his young daughter along to help participate in the violent act. Just three weeks ago, she participated in the prayer ceremony with Chief Arvol Looking Horse. The FWP agent’s dog was also present at the kill site, and was allowed to sample the buffalo carcass, which will likely be processed and given to a food bank or a Native American charity organization.

This bull bison was on Gallatin National Forest land, where, according to the Adaptive Management Plan, bulls are supposed to be allowed year-round. However, a local hobby rancher insists that the bull co-mingled with cattle, which in Montana is an immediate death sentence for buffalo under the ill-intentioned Interagency Bison Management Plan.

The bulls captured at Duck Creek were also set up to fail. The Adaptive Management Plan put forth by the Interagency Bison Management Plan participants states that bull buffalo will be allowed in certain areas outside of Yellowstone year round. However, the agents made sure to make it as difficult as possible for buffalo to live through these changes as they exclude bison from areas north of Duck Creek, the favored migration corridor for bull bison along Yellowstone’s western boundary lands.

You can view footage of both incidents here but please be warned that some of the images are very graphic and disturbing. It is important to remember that federal tax dollars are being used to carry these atrocious activities out.

The Adaptive Management changes have been used by the agencies in an attempt to tranquilize the public and make us believe that things are actually getting better for the buffalo. It is a lie, these incidents – like last month’s intensive hazing – clearly demonstrate that little, if anything, has actually changed on the ground.

Bull bison cannot transmit brucellosis to cattle. The disease, which no wild bison has ever transmitted to cattle, is the excuse Montana uses to justify the harassment and slaughter of wild bison. A closer look at the issue, underscored by the death of bulls, reveals that it’s really about grass, and the cattle industry would rather kill bison than share the grass with them.

Make your voice heard for these buffalo so that their lives are not lost in vain:

1. Contact Montana Department of Livestock State Veterinarian Marty Zaluski and let him know how you feel about these tragic and senseless incidents: / 406-444-0782

2. Then, please contact President Barack Obama, even if you have done so before, and keep pressure on until he takes positive action to help the buffalo and stops the slaughter once and for all!

BFC file photo.

Roam Free!

* Our Friend Frog: BFC Celebrates His Life, Mourns His Passing

The buffalo and our community lost a dear friend this last week. On Thursday, June 11, 2009, “Frog” passed on in the waters around the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington. His last days were beautiful and happy, filled with oysters and canoe camping, friendship and love.

Brian Gharst arrived at BFC early on, and was a passionate advocate for the wild. As the third Brian at camp, he was quickly dubbed with a new name – another volunteer called him “Frog” after he leaped up the slopes behind the cabin on a hike. Frog brought so much caring, peaceful energy, humor, and brilliance to BFC, and to this world. Friends and acquaintances knew him as someone who could do or create anything, as a person with an enormous heart, as someone who accepted people without judgment, and as a person who cared genuinely and deeply about this planet and its creatures.

Before arriving at BFC, Brian had been baking with the Bionic Baking Brigade; and he went on to actively support and work with many other campaigns and causes – with Seeds of Peace, Wild Rockies Earth First!, and more. During his time in Missoula, Brian crafted rickshaws and bicycle trailers, built greenhouses and gardens, revived the free community bicycle shop, and sought treasures throughout town from dumpsters to mountain streams. He took his brilliance and offerings to the world everywhere he went.

This weekend, many friends and family are gathering in Missoula to honor Brian, mourn our loss, and celebrate his life and this community of people he continues to bring together. For those also affected by Brian and his life, and who wish to participate, you can contact the campaign (406-646-0070) or friends in Missoula for more details. Another ceremony will also take place on Horse Butte in West Yellowstone, a place special to Frog and many of his friends. Some of his ashes will be offered there, and his spirit will continue to bless the buffalo, and bless us all.

We love you, Frog. Thank you for all you gave this world.

* Last Words

“In the eyes of the agencies, ‘tolerance’ merely means delaying the inevitable slaughter of America’s last wild buffalo.”

~ Dan Brister, Executive Director, Buffalo Field Campaign

* Kill Tally

AMERICAN BISON ELIMINATED from the last wild population in the U.S.
2008-2009 Total: 22

2008-2009 Slaughter: 3
2008-2009 Hunt: 1
2008-2009 Quarantine: 0
2008-2009 Shot by Agents: 2
2008-2009 Highway Mortality: 16

2007-2008 Total: 1,631

Total Since 2000: 3,702*
*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.


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  1. Mike Avatar

    Really sad story all the way around.

    But hey, a few people got to put on cowboy hats and play wild west.

  2. Ken Cole Avatar

    Our friend Frog will be missed. He was a Jack of all trades.

  3. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    I just viewed the film of bison bulls being chased. the film was grainy but they sure looked like satellite herd bulls, not those older bulls guarding the lands for matriarchal herd components return. Notice the 2 different sized animals. Neither is an old mature guard type. The younger one just adores his 5 yr. or so hero buddy. He will follow him anywhere and stay 20 yards back during the rut. Only thing is nether is big enough to be competitive during the main rut except with spin off satellite herds.

    Old bulls can’t keep up with the younger matriarchal components of satellite herds…thus only bulls of this age, the ones you see running well, can keep up with and breed spin off herds.

    I would see this combination all the time in Thorofare. They move fast and go back to the main herds 32 miles away, then try to show and bring spin off herds back with them. kind of like wolves, huh?

    If you want to see this phenomenon in Yellowstone (more so in the Hayden herd. the Lamar herd is pretty screwed up) wait till after the rut and look for groups of maybe 30-40 buffalo well away from the other herds. Try the Fishing Bridge area. You will see two bulls just like these two right in the middle of this herd. They will be the only males besides dependents.

    When I visited Custer I told them these bulls are the ones they HAVE to keep around. I only saw one combination like this in their 1000 animal herd. But it was a start. On the path to functionality…in another 10-15 years … if these bulls are allowed to live and stay with the same identified and maintained female component. By the time these bulls are 10 or so they will be the anchors to home territories. They won’t breed much then but their roles go on to other infrastructure needs.

    It was a shame the Mt. DOL or G&F didn’t recognize how important these two bulls were to gain some stability of the overall herd.

  4. Alan Gregory Avatar

    Totally unrelated, but here’s a good one: Wolverine makes 500-mile journey to Colorado (from the Denver Post):

  5. Laura Avatar

    Forgive my stupidity-what was the purpose of removing the head and dragging it off? Is there some testing related to brucellosis to be done-I thought that was a blood test-at least in domestic cattle I thought it was. If this was part of the preparation for food processing it is an appalling display of insensitivity to the people of BFC. The emotional response I had viewing it on film can only pale in comparison to that of the BFC eyewitnesses.

    Bob, Please add to your comment on the Lamar herd being screwed up-ie what has caused the problem with them that did not occur in Hayden?

  6. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    The Lamar herd has been subject to brucellosis testing and slaughter for a lot longer than those animals of Hayden. Thus their family infrastructure is fractured more. What I see and what long time professional photographers…and rangers from Lamar confirm is the remnants don’t go near as far up the drainages in the summer as compared to pre testing. Thus what you see today is scared large refugee camps in the valley eating out normal winter grazing areas in the summer.

    It becomes a chain reaction directly and adversely related to what Yellowstone doesn’t want….leading to more bison leaving the Park in the winter.

    The Park biologists say the Park vegetation can easily accomodate over 5,000 bison but it takes confident bison families, those herds having the confidence to maintain seperate identities, to fan out as families and utilize this graze.

    If elk were subjected to the same corraling and same type reductions you would have the same cause and effect situation. Bison, being even larger herbivores, have it worse than elk do. If we had mammoths there would be even more dysfunctional behavior. Any animal evolutionary immune to adult herd predation …meaning larger mammals…needs stronger type family to survive. Break that down like humans did with invention of spears and guns …and the worst of all Stephens Creek Corrals and its terrible busting of families and you court ecological disaster.
    ….for these large mammals, ie elephants. (no, you won’t read this in any scientific papers, but this is what happens).

    Thus we have a situation in Lamar where multiple herds of 200-300 animals are seen from the road all summer long. what it reminds me of is the population reports given during the buffalo ranch days at Lamar.

    The Hayden herd is becoming like the Lamar thus to see healthy components, those who have spun off from the masses…means groups like near Fishing Bridge … that move fast trying to make a home in marginal Plains bison country. One can not go amoungst the herds in upper Hayden in early summer (when they have young calves) without them running when they spot you on a horse a mile away. And they run a long distance to get away. All the way to the woods at the sides and ends of this valley.

    The bison office “observers doing the studies on bio bullet feasibility don’t have the foggiest of how they are adversely affecting these very scared herds. Neither does the back country office…I take that back .They are culpable also. I told them many times what day use by outfitters in upper Hayden is doing to these herds since corraling and reductions started in earnest.

    Plains Indians would never go around the cow-calf herds until the rut. They said to do so meant the herds would leave the country. Only in “enlightened science” do we have such heavy skulls as typlified as those in charge of the herds in Yellowstone.

  7. Laura Avatar

    Thank you for taking the time to educate me, Bob. I truly appreciate the extent of the knowledge of the folks posting here and your willingness to share that knowledge.

  8. vickif Avatar

    I actually just got back from a trip to YNP. I go each year, once or twice. I got to talk with some of the BFC folks. I also had all members of our party sign up for various things they had going on.
    It is a sad state there. You can see the segmentation of the populations more evidently each year. Where people were once left waiting for long periods while herds crossed the Hayden Valley, you can see most larger groups from farther away.
    The Lamar, well, another sad state. The grouping seems to be changing. Even the teens on the trip commented on it. I could be off, but I would wonder if this change may be due to the killing of bison, in definition….but also because they are killing off key components to family groupings. Therefore causing the bison to segragate and have to regroup?
    I know when wolves have sudden changes to pack strcuture I can have a devastating effect.
    Why isn’t the management b.s. more taylored to the viability of herds?
    Oops. I forgot…beef before science…what a load of sh*t.

  9. vickif Avatar

    I explained to the kids, that I was not sure. But I think it is kind of like a group of people living on a tiny island. They have to be certain to breed in a viable way to sustain the population.
    Now imagine that group has a social structure where every male and female has an asigned job. One of the main jobs is to guard the island. One is to gather food, one to get water…to care for the kids, etc. Now imagine a hurricaine came and killed the guards and the gatherers…and no one else was raised to do that work. Next thing you know, canibals invade, people fight instead of making babies, and no one eats. Everyone dies in that scenario…or become inbred freaks of nature….
    Same thing here, but with bison instead of humans,…or
    Bob, was that a completely misleading statement.


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