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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Where the Buffaloes Roamed

Where the Buffaloes Roamed

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Wednesday, December 20, 2017/Categories: wildlife conservation, video, sustainability, environment, adventure

When Lewis & Clark led their 1804 expedition, the Corps of Discovery, thru lands acquired in the Louisiana Purchase they discoverd an estimated 60 million buffaloes (Bison bison) roaming the Great Plains. The shaggy beasts were the primary herbivore of an arid ecosystem dominated by short grasses. By 1889, less than 700 buffaloes remained, 500 or so in Canada and the remainders in Yellowstone National Park.

Removing this elemental grazing component of a grass-covered ecosystem was both immediate---Native Americans relied on the animals for food and materials---and  long-term for the ecological health of the plains environment. The conversion of the short-grass prairies into cultivated fields contributed to creating the Dust Bowl catastrophe a few decades hence.

  
                 Plains Buffalo Bones Piled for Fertilizer (credit: Saskatoon archive, Canada)

In 1905, the American Bison Society was formed by Theodore Roosevelt and others to help rescue the bison from extinction. In 1913, 14 aninmals from the New York's Zoological Park, now the Bronx Zoo, were loaded on a train heading west to the Black Hills of South Dakota where they had once roamed free. The effort to repopulate herds of wild bison was one of the first attempts at wildlife restoration. Now, approximately 15,000 free-range bison exist again on the prairie and considerably more on buffalo ranches where the meat is prized for both its high quality, low fat, and flavor.

   
Buffalo Train, 1913 (credit: NY archive) & Photo Animation, 1887 (credit: Edward Muybridge)

Restoring the buffalo is a real success story and also a reminder of what can be accomplished for endangered species with the proper concern, will, and action. There certainly are no limits to the number of new endangered wildlife that need help today.

WHB

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1 comments on article "Where the Buffaloes Roamed"

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Reilly Capps

12/2/2013 2:10 AM

Here is a fact, related to buffalo, pointed out by my friend Jack Pat Healy of the New York Times:

The longest sentence in the English language that can be made out of a single word is not Shine shine or Polish polish but ...

Buffalo (Buffalo buffalo) buffalo buffalo (Buffalo buffalo).

Translated:

Buffalos (the kind of buffalo that come from the city of Buffalo) run over buffalo (the kind of Buffalo that come from the city of Buffalo).

I like that sentence a lot.

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