Buffalo Field Campaign: Buffalo have returned to Horse Butte Peninsula
Here is an excerpt of today’s Buffalo Field Campaign Update from the Field. You can read the entire update here
Dear Buffalo Friends,
Wild buffalo have returned with the Spring!
The song of mountain bluebirds is in the air, and tracks of the mighty bison are upon the land once again. After a long winter without the buffalo in Montana, the unspoken question hung in the air: would the buffalo return this year? Wild forces prevail, and on the Vernal Equinox the steady, determined footsteps of approximately fifty buffalo made their way down the Madison River corridor, out to their calving grounds on Horse Butte, heralding the season of rebirth. The buffalo’s return has raised the spirits of everyone at camp. The energy is palpable, and we are once again running full patrols and basking in the presence of these prehistoric wonders.
Of course, the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) also knows the buffalo are here and local DOL agent Shane Grube is keeping a watchful eye on every move they make. Change is afoot, however, and right now the buffalo on Horse Butte are being left alone. In December, as a direct result of your persistence, the Interagency Bison Management Plan agencies signed a new Adaptive Management Plan which states that an unlimited number of buffalo are allowed to occupy Horse Butte until May 15th, with other agency-defined numbers of buffalo “tolerated” on lands north and south of the Madison River. The new rules don’t respond to the natural movements or behavior of wild buffalo, so the agents, by drawing more lines in the sand have set them up to fail. Simply crossing a creek or river, or having one too many buffalo in a group could trigger severe management actions against them. Further, everything is up to the discretion of Montana’s State Vet, who could decide at any time to scrap the minimal tolerance. So we are, as always, monitoring the buffalo’s migration and watching every move the agents make to ensure that they uphold this new “tolerance” they’ve agreed to, while we continue to push for the buffalo’s right to make their own decisions. But, at the moment, according to the agency’s new plan, the buffalo on Horse Butte are immune to agency action.
Family groups with multiple generations are enjoying the fresh spring shoots of grass they’ve waited for all winter. Buffalo of all ages, including expectant mothers, are taking in the warmth of the waxing sun and the goodness of nutritional spring grasses, and whether or not they know it, they have put a bright gleam in our eyes and quickened the beating of our hearts.
P.S. Here’s a glimpse of the return of the buffalo to Horse Butte: