What did the buffalo say to his son when he left for college? BYE-SON! BISON…Get it…?
Lame jokes aside, Bison bison, or The American “Buffalo” is not really a buffalo. Water Buffalo are known for their milk (and cheese) – please don’t EVER try to milk a bison, you’ll end up as a National Parks Service cover story or winning a Darwin award.
Bison are my FAVORITE animal – which is saying something, as I’ve spent my life studying animals of all sorts. They have an incredible conservation story, and are the perfect story-teller of the U.S.A through its settlement, Westward expansion, the atrocities of the treatment of Native Americans, and the desire of modern Americans to preserve our natural history and repair the damage of past generations. Their story is a perfect combination of natural history, political history, current science, and future conservation.
My passion for bison started when I did some research on conservation practices during my Master’s work. The more I learned about them, the more fascinated I became – these seemingly peaceful, gentle, motherly animals turn fierce when threatened, using their massive size and unbelievable quickness to avoid predation. Their immense population in North America – estimated at upwards of 60 million at one point – fell to less than 1,000 individuals after the settlers and US Government were done with them. They were brought back from the brink of extinction by the passionate work of a few incredible people who respected the animal not only as a valuable natural resource, but as a symbol of their Nation. Amazing people took the project in hand to save this incredible species for future generations, and for the future of our land.
“So for several minutes I watched the great beasts as they grazed…mixed with the eager excitement of the hunter was a certain half-melancholy feeling as I gazed on these bison, themselves part of the last remnant of a doomed and nearly vanished race. Few indeed are the men who now have or evermore shall have, the chance of seeing the mightiest of American beasts, in all his wild vigor, surrounded by the tremendous desolation of his far-off mountain home…” – Teddy Roosevelt, on the occasion of his second bison hunt in 1889
I hope you enjoy this exploration of Bison bison.