Volunteers Digging Snow Tunnels to Help Save Montana Bison
This has been a brutal Montana winter, not only for people but numerous wildlife species.
A sobering example is the reported fatalities this season of Yellowstone National Park's bison. Their overall population is expected to be reduced by 25-30%. That figure includes 19 bison struck and killed by vehicles. Imagine what the scene must have been like where 13 bison died in one semi-truck crash.
NO CHOICE BUT THE HIGHWAY
Part of the problem, according to KBZK in Bozeman, is that West Yellowstone has received more than five feet of snow this winter. So much plowing has needed to be done, and it has left huge berms along the sides of Highway 191. Bison, looking for passage back to Yellowstone, have resorted to much more roadway use.
So, some good Samaritans, in tandem with state authorities have "dug in" to try make for safer passageways for the bison.
The organization, Buffalo Field Campaign, is providing dug-out corridors, giving the bison opportunities to travel quickly across Highway 191 instead of long intervals of trudging down the road. A spokesperson for Buffalo Field Campaign, Mike Mease, said, "I couldn’t stand the idea of any more pregnant mama bison being killed on the road this year as they attempt to reach their calving grounds to replenish their depleted herd."
IF YOU DIG IT, THEY WILL COME
There have been growing concerns, with 300-500 bison from Yellowstone’s central herd expected to begin migrating to their calving grounds. Working with the Montana Department of Transportation, Buffalo Field Campaign has created corridors along the Madison River that allow bison to cross the highway quickly, rather than being forced to saunter great lengths down the walled-in highway. The tunnels have been strategically placed to follow the herd's preferred route back into the park.
The Montana DOT punched the holes through the berms, then a mostly volunteer shovel brigade finished creating the corridors. Mike Mease said, “Everyone was quite sore afterward, but satisfied.”
Those are some big hearts definitely in the right place!