Preface: Since I wrote this, back in May 2015, it has lain here dormant, unread. Since I wrote this, Buffalo Field Campaign and their affiliates and supporters have achieved amazing victories on behalf of Pte Oyate. The buffalo now grazed peacefully this past summer on Horse Butte, where the hazing operation described below took place just the year before. That was their work, their tears, their blood, and their connection and symbiosis with the magnificent American bison. Together with journalist Chris Ketcham, Stephany Seay, media director for BFC, won media access to the Stephens Creek buffalo trap, to witness and document the round-up of Yellowstone buffalo for slaughter and medical testing (followed by slaughter). They have also seen their share of heart-rending tragedy, and I have been there to witness some of that. The gutpiles littered the area around Gardiner, MT, when I visited for twelve days last February. We counted the buffalo and watched as they migrated down from the Park and toward mechanized annihilation, and were joined in our vigil by the ravens and the coyotes.
If you long to do something – anything – to stop the madness of our destructive culture, if you want to strive to protect one being in the world that is irreplaceable, if you yearn to live and experience the stark brutality of the nexus between our murderous culture and raw nature, help BFC. Go out there. They will put you up, they will feed you, and they will give you a family. They can use your donations, as well.
You can reach Buffalo Field Campaign @buffalowild on Facebook and Messenger, or writing to them at
A Buffalo Haze.
The wind began to whip up out of the South, blowing sand into my eyes from the towering sand bluffs atop which we stood. We were just outside of the western edge of Yellowstone Park. There were 130 buffalo, plus calves, along the East Bluffs, the very edge of the Park. It wasn’t idyllic in any way; the buffalo weren’t just hanging out. They were exhausted. Mothers stood, so their red dogs could drink, if they could stand. Many couldn’t. The haze had been paused, after an intense cat-n-mouse, nine-hour rush that had started from the north side of Horse Butte, a large peninsula jutting into Hebgen Lake. I stood with my wife and three BFC folks, volunteers and coordinators, just behind a deputy from the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office and two agents of the Gallatin National Forest, the older of those two training his replacement. We were being cordoned off, and had been told by the deputy that we could go no farther than we were. This followed our vehicle being boxed in by the head D.O.L. (Montana Dept. of Livestock) agent, Tierney. His name is pronounced “Tyranny.” Our team had been bouncing all around Tyranny all day, cutting off to the side, and getting in front of the haze. Our friend Stephany knew her business on that, and her and Tyranny have history.
I watched in rapt wonder, helpless to record the moment with the Leica camera BFC had provided me, as I had gone through my initial charged battery, and the other four batteries I’d begged and borrowed throughout the afternoon were similarly discharged. The sim card on my personal camera was full, as well.
Horsed riders surrounded the buffalo. BFC co-founder Mike Meese, along with Natalie (who Mike had “hi-jacked” from our crew) appeared on the north boundary, out of the trees. Pat and Annie were 150 yards east of us, just inside the Park boundary, where the rules change regarding state agents. We had people, in other words, scattered all among the buffalo and the cowboys. It had been that way all day.
A bull broke out of the herd, transiting out of the firs and over the lip of the sand bluffs, heading toward the South Fork of the Madison, heading for water. Another buffalo followed, then two more. Bridger — called “Bridge” by his buds — spurred his horse to the edge, dismounted, and led his horse pell-mell down to the river, to cut the buffalo off. It didn’t work, entirely. He and his horse did succeed in turning the followers, but the instigator beat Bridger to the water, and he was gone. He didn’t pause to drink. Freedom!
At least for awhile. This haze is not a one-off deal. It happens pretty much every day in West Yellowstone (“West”).