Update 5/6/10: Two Bulls Shot, Hazing Begins in Earnest

2 bulls shot after being agitated by drugs used in “study”

Below is today’s Buffalo Field Campaign weekly update. Of note is the shooting deaths of two bull bison that were involved in the recent APHIS tests which involved using a vibrating anal probe so that they can test their ejaculate for brucellosis. The bulls had been drugged to immobilize them then once the samples had been taken they were given a drug to wake them up again. The drug caused them to be very agitated and they started moving north of the Park towards Yankee Jim Canyon along the Yellowstone River. Because the Park Service was unable to haze them back towards the Park agents from the Montana Department of Livestock shot them.

I’ll say it again, this study is useless and has put people at risk. They are just trying to rationalize hazing and killing bull buffalo which will not transmit brucellosis to cattle.


Buffalo Field Campaign
Yellowstone Bison
Update from the Field
May 6, 2010

* Perseverance Despite Overwhelming Odds ~ Roman Sanchez
* Update from the Field: Two Bulls Shot, Hazing Begins
NEW VIDEO & TAKE ACTION:  APHIS Torture Testing Bull Bison
* BFC Looking for Summer Education Volunteers
* Last Words
* Kill Tally
* Useful Links
* Perseverance Despite Overwhelming Odds

Buffalo mother and calf.  BFC file photo by Pete Leusch.  Click here for larger image.

It is hard to believe that a decade has now passed since my family and I first planted our feet along the north bluffs of the Madison River-that migratory corridor that has seen generations of buffalo walk to find the first green life-giving shoots, and to birth the next generation of wild!  And I always find myself marveling as if I were a child again seeing this beauty for the first time. I am always amazed at how my inner self responds to the intense beauty of these riverbanks that continue to host the great choir of bird song, and that big sky so infinite above the incredible abundance below it.  It is in our natural world where I feel most alive, yet here along these banks it goes far beyond that.  It is these moments before any “management plan” has the opportunity to contaminate that we can feel all the possibility of how a landscape and ourselves are supposed to be.  I feel privileged as I walk within this wildness.  I also feel certain in saying that more of us than we suspect are screaming for this awareness that infuses our beings when we are immersed in such beauty.  And so we find ourselves here-not only standing with the buffalo, but standing with the landscape that has so captured our imaginations and souls with its infinite beauty and we say ENOUGH! This is a battle that has been waged for more than a century now!!!

In 1881 General Phil Sheridan said “If I could learn that every Buffalo in the Northern herd were killed I would be glad.  The destruction of this herd would do more to keep the Indians quiet than anything else that could happen.”  This week we saw the arrival of ATV’s, “management” men and women on horses,  SUVs and the ever disruptive helicopter as the “management plan” continues to spend tax-dollars in an attempt to stop the buffalo.  In an attempt to essentially “quiet” the Wild!  Almost 120 years later the buffalo continue to show us the true meaning of perseverance despite overwhelming odds.  It is this spirit that continues to inspire me-and this is why my family will continue to stand with this beauty; this is why BFC will continue to be the eyes and the voice for these sacred animals; this is why we need all of those who have tasted and felt this power to stand up and say “YA BASTA”-ENOUGH!

For the wild,
~ Roman

* Update from the Field – Two Bulls Shot, Hazing Begins

It has been a very difficult week for the buffalo.  APHIS’s study has resulted in the deaths of two bulls, and hazing has begun in earnest.

Bull buffalo grazes among many family groups on Horse Butte.  BFC file photo.  Click here for larger image.

This Monday, the USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS’s) Dr. Ryan Clarke and Becky Frey returned to the West Yellowstone area, seeking more bulls to target in their invasive study.  It seems, however, that luck of the wind and weather was on the buffalo’s side, and APHIS also didn’t enjoy being under the watchful eye of BFC volunteers.  APHIS finally left the area on Tuesday without harming any bulls here this week.  However, APHIS went back to the Gardiner area, north of Yellowstone, where they molested two bulls.  After the bulls are drugged, and their semen is stolen by APHIS, they use a reversal agent – Naltrexone – to wake them up.  This drug causes anger, anxiety and excitement as we have reported.  These two bulls woke up extremely upset, headed north to Yankee Jim Canyon – a “drop dead zone” for buffalo under the Interagency Bison Management Plan.  Yellowstone National Park attempted to haze the bulls back towards the Park, but were unsuccessful because the drugs had made them so agitated.  The Montana Department of Livestock showed up later to haze the bulls, but they also gave up and the decision was made to shoot them.  APHIS is ultimately responsible for their deaths and they are lost to the world forever.  APHIS has totally wasted these buffalo; due to the drugs they use, their flesh cannot even be consumed by humans or animals.  Please see below for a new BFC video on the APHIS study, more info, and contact information to get them to stop!

Hazing activities resumed around West Yellowstone on Tuesday.  The Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) and an agent from Yellowstone National Park hazed a mixed family group of buffalo – including two newborn calves – down highway 287.  During the haze, a bull that was understandably upset took his frustration out on a calf, flipping the tiny thing over his six foot tall bulk.   Immediately following that haze, four DOL agents hazed a group of eight bull buffalo off of land near the Duck Creek trap, into Yellowstone.  Later that day, we watched as the bulls returned to that land and surrounded the Koelzer house that the agents use for their Western Boundary Operations.  Persistence! Resistance! Endurance!

Agents haze buffalo off their chosen ground on Wednesday.  BFC file photo.  Click here for larger image.

On Wednesday, there was a much larger-scale hazing operation along the south side of the Madison River, as Roman reported above.  About 100 buffalo had been on or near an unoccupied cattle ranch – which is surrounded by Gallatin National Forest and within the buffalo’s migration corridor, but forbidden for them to access even though no cattle are present.  The DOL, Yellowstone National Park, Gallatin National Forest, Gallatin County Sheriff – and for the first time APHIS (Becky Frey, lead participant in the bull study) – all participated.  Donning their cowboy attire they used horses and helicopter to push buffalo through barbed wire fence, marshy willow areas, and thick forest.  Close to a third of the buffalo caught in the haze were newborn calves.  Agents were out again today to push more buffalo off of their chosen ground.

Interestingly, save for the bulls near Duck Creek, none of these hazing operations forced buffalo all the way into Yellowstone.  We have been told by Yellowstone National Park officials that the Park has not had significant green-up yet, so they have asked that the DOL wait.  But they won’t wait long.  We anticipate that the so-called big push will commence next week and all the buffalo that are in Montana will be aggressively chased deep into Yellowstone.  Calves and pregnant mothers, and all other buffalo, will be run for many long miles off of the lands that are their birthright.  These efforts – paid for with U.S. tax dollars – are undertaken to protect the selfish interests of a couple private cattle ranchers even though no cattle are presently in the area.

While these unjustified actions are taken against native wild buffalo year after year, we are seeing changes in attitudes  – in some government agencies as well as local citizenry – that will ultimately bring about the end of such mistreatment.  It is your support that allows us to be here with the buffalo, and gives us the ability to stand witness and show the world what is happening.  Endless pressure, endlessly applied!


* NEW VIDEO & TAKE ACTION:  APHIS Torture Testing Bull Bison

Please watch Buffalo Field Campaign’s new videoUSDA-APHIS Torture Testing Bull Bison for Brucellosis.

Thirty nine bull buffalo have been targeted in APHIS’s study.  Two of these buffalo were shot dead on Tuesday, hours after APHIS “studied” them (see above).   Buffalo Field Campaign’s Mike and Tony have created a new video to show you what APHIS has been putting these bulls through.  It is a stark display of abuse, totally unnecessary and the study’s results will not benefit wild bison in any way.  Because of the tragic incident that caused the two bulls in Gardiner to be shot, and other serious concerns about how the drugs are affecting bull buffalo behavior which BFC has documented, it is possible that IBMP agencies will press for the study to be over.  There are obvious concerns about how the drugs APHIS is using is unnecessarily causing aggression in the bulls.  Further, BFC has witnessed that bulls who were in family or bull groups have not returned to those groups after being victimized by APHIS.  The bulls also seem clearly humiliated and atypically fearful, as the photo of this young bull hiding from us indicates.

Please contact the lead participants in this APHIS bull bison study and tell them to stop molesting bull bison!
1.  Dr. Ryan Clarke:  patrick.r.clarke@aphis.usda.gov / 406-388-5162
2.  Becky Frey, Dr. Clarke’s Assistant:  rebecca.k.frey@aphis.usda.gov / 406-522-7770
3.  Continue contacting APHIS Veterinary Services urging them to cease this study!

Please share this video and other BFC footage posted on YouTube with everyone you know to help raise awareness and defend the last wild buffalo!  Thank you!

* BFC Looking for Summer Education Volunteers

Buffalo Field Campaign still has a few openings for summer education and outreach volunteers.  If you can commit to spending three weeks with us, most of which will be spent inside Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, to help educate Park visitors about what’s happening to America’s last wild buffalo, please get in touch! Drop a line to volunteer@buffalofieldcampaign.org or call 406-646-0070 with questions or to apply.  Thank you!

* Last Words

“In wildness is the preservation of the world.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

Do you have submissions for Last Words? Send them to bfc-media@wildrockies.org. Thank you all for the poems, songs and stories you have been sending; you’ll see them here!

* Kill Tally

AMERICAN BUFFALO ELIMINATED from the last wild population in the U.S.
2009-2010 Total: 6

2009-2010 Slaughter: 0
2009-2010 Hunt: 4
2009-2010 Quarantine: 0
2009-2010 Shot by Agents: 2*
2009-2010 Highway Mortality: 0
*Two bulls were shot by DOL 5/4/10 and had been drugged by APHIS earlier the same day.

2008-2009 Total: 22
2007-2008 Total: 1,631
Total Since 2000: 3,706*
*includes lethal government action, quarantine, hunts, highway mortality

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. Petticoat Rebellion Avatar
    Petticoat Rebellion

    The drug used to immobilize bison is carfentinil. It is usually used in combination with xylazine. Carfentinil is so toxic to humans that a single tiny drop absorbed through the skin is lethal. It has an affinity for fat tissue and can re-circulate several days post-immobilization as fat tissue is broken down for energy and cause the animal to go down again, leaving it vulnerable to predation, physiological stress, or drowning.

    This event is reprehensible and a poor example of scientific investigation. The research permit should be immediately revoked. Other researchers have been kicked out of YNP for lesser transgressions.

  2. Virginia Avatar

    Ken – can you update us as to what has happened with this tragedy since you first posted the story? Thank you for keeping this story on the blog.

  3. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I am not Ken,

    But from my understanding there is now an internal review going on as to the method and the manner in which they doped the bulls and why they felt so threatened to kill them, if there is anything good to come from this, there is some pretty strong scrutiny going on right now as to why to animals that can’t transfer brucellosis were kill and why this operation was carried out in the manner it was..

    I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with DOL about this and they were pretty evasive when asked questions, I then call the Governors office and talked with them and they “said” they were not aware of this, and were going to make some calls to find out what the “Hell” happened(their words, not mine) I am going to be calling again in the morning and will continue to call until I get to talk to the Governor..I have known Brian for several years now, so I do expect to be able to talk with him.

  4. Indamani Avatar

    Save bears,

    I do hope you’ll be able to talk with the governor soon as I’m sure we are all interested to find out what he will have to say about this absurd study by Aphis and the killing of the two bulls. Please keep us posted. Thanks.


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