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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Where Buffaloes Once Roamed

Where Buffaloes Once Roamed

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Friday, January 24, 2020/Categories: natural history, wildlife conservation, video, sustainability, environment, adventure

When Lewis & Clark led their 1804 expedition, the Corps of Discovery, through landscapes acquired in the Louisiana Purchase they discovered an estimated 60 million buffaloes (Bison bison) roaming the region. The shaggy beasts were a 'keystone species' of the semi-arid, short-grass prairie ecosystem but by 1889, less than 700 animals remained. Five hundred or so bison were left in Canada and a remaining handful in Yellowstone National Park.

The impacts of removing this essential grazing animal from the grass-covered ecosystem was immediate, by removing the essential supply of food and raw materials for Native Americans, and also the animals contributed to maintaining the ecological health of the prairies. The conversion of the bison grazing lands into cultivated fields contributed to the Dust Bowl catastrophe that would occur only four decades later.

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

In 1905, the American Bison Society was formed by Theodore Roosevelt to help rescue the bison from extinction. In 1913, 14 animals 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 in the millions. The effort to restore herds of wild bison was one of the first attempts at wildlife conservation. Approximately 15,000+ free-ranging bison exist again on the prairies and considerably more on ranches where buffalo 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 bison is a success story and a reminder of what can be accomplished with proper concern, will, and action to save an endangered species. Today, are many other wildlfe species could use similar restoration efforts.



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1 comments on article "Where Buffaloes Once Roamed"


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).


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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