Sunday, September 30, 2012

The American Bison

Soon we saw a cloud of dust rising in the east, and the rumbling grew louder and I think it was about a half hour when the front of the herd came fairly into view. From an observation with our field glasses, we judged the herd to be 5 or 6 (some said 8 or 10) miles wide, and the herd was more than an hour passing us at a gallop, about 12 miles an hour...the whole space, say 5 miles by 12 miles, as far as we could see, was a seemingly solid mass of buffaloes.  - Nathaniel Langford, 1870

The great herds of the American Bison were nearly pushed to extinction in the 19th century by a brutal slaughter campaign sanctioned by the U.S. Army. It took only three decades to reduce the massive herds to almost nothing. Then, the prairies fell silent.

Today, the American Bison lives on in scattered small pockets mostly in national parks and reserves.

In Yellowstone National Park, the bison wander outside the park but the cattle industry fears the bison will infect their cattle with the disease brucellosis. So federal and local officials slaughter them despite there being not one confirmed case of the disease. The slaughter continues every winter for the unfortunate ones who follow their instinct to roam the prairie.

Inside the park, you will find bison on restaurant menus mostly offered up as burgers. Yet, our national parks are deemed animal sanctuaries.

It all seems a travesty and another shameful footnote to add to our nation's history.

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