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From 18 May 2003 Issue

Yellowstone Bison Update
bfc-media@wildrockies.org 

It's been another crazy week for Yellowstone's wild bison. Yesterday the Department of Livestock (along with the Forest Service, Park Service, Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, and local law enforcement) mounted multiple hazing operations in the area, pushing pregnant bison and newborn calves from national forests with no cattle present. The DOL helicopter returned, filling the skies with noise and disturbing all sorts of wildlife, especially waterfowl like blue herons, pelicans, and eagles. The chopper dropped down to treetop level while hazing bison inside the Park, even breaking branches on trees. The helicopter pushed bison near Fir Ridge miles back into the Park before assisting the crew of agents on ATV's and horseback to flush out other wild bison near the Madison River. Many bison were lost in the woods by sloppy hazing efforts that succeeded mostly in stressing calves and pregnant buffalo. At one point the DOL decided to use their helicopter to haze an injured or birthing cow buffalo already inside the Park that had collapsed from exhaustion from the haze. The chaos of the day was perhaps best illustrated when one DOL agent nearly shot another with a cracker round, and then another DOL agent nearly shot their helicopter with a cracker round.

Our patrols, however, were everywhere at once, documenting the chaos. Not only were we able to track multiple hazes, but we brought a German television camera crew into the field and a group of students from Seattle. The German television crew is producing a documentary that will include the Yellowstone bison issue. The students were visiting after studying the issue in their class. The mixing of the two elements kept the DOL guessing. Picture the scene -- a yellow school bus and other cars gathered on Horse Butte, students and teachers asking tough questions to the agents in the field, an obvious outside media presence capturing the action on film, while the DOL forced a herd of over 50 bison and at least 15 calves past the onlookers with just a few yards separation.

Today, the DOL and crew are at it again. The helicopter is once again terrorizing the skies around Yellowstone and more calves and their mothers are being disturbed on public lands with no cattle present. Early reports indicate that more bison have been lost in the woods during hazing efforts, but at least three buffalo and a moose have been pushed across the highway so far. They are currently rounding up about a dozen buffalo and a calf on Horse Butte. Hopefully, the circus will leave soon and give the wildlife a rest.

Today is May 15, the "zero tolerance" date for wild bison outside of Yellowstone National Park, according to the Interagency Bison Management Plan. Although the plan is an "adaptive management" plan which allows for discretion to be applied in hazing bison back into the Park before May 15, after today the plan calls for bison to be "captured or shot to ensure none remain outside the Park in the western boundary area during the applicable temporal separation period." Who knows if the fact that the grazing allotments on national forest on Horse Butte have been canceled will make a difference? So far the DOL and Forest Service have been hiding behind the private property excuse, and nobody knows if the Munns family plans to bring cattle to their private ranch on Horse Butte this June. As always, we will keep you informed of any moves made against the last herd of wild bison in America.

Thank you once again for your continuing support for the Yellowstone bison. Hopefully we will make it through these last tense weeks before the bison naturally return to the Park with no more bloodshed.

For the buffalo,

Ted Fellman
BFC Media
www.wildrockies.org/buffalo 

Go on to Goodbye Scooter by Dr. Steve Best
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