Yep! Field trips are the way to go!
Of course bison have always been little more than a tiny blip of historical data on the periphery of my radar, at least until one foggy morning a month ago when the "Patriarch of the Plains" emerged from the past to fill my void of indifference. Let me just add, tiny and buffalo don't have a single thing in common.
Yellowstone National Park; early morning fog; a herd of free-range bison attracting all manner of attention. Get me off this bus! I want pictures!
It wasn’t like I didn’t know we (as in our forefathers) hadn’t decimated tens of thousands of bison (try almost 40 million roaming the continent in 1830). Lewis & Clark noted in their journals that it took 2 days on horseback to ride past one massive herd of American bison. According to the U.S. Army’s campaign at the time, annihilate the bison and you annihilate the American Indian.
Sadly, it was quite the successful campaign. By 1889, there were only 541 bison left. OMG! Sometimes I question the wisdom of man being at the top of the food chain. The American Indian population fell from an estimated 12 million in 1500 to barely 237,000 in 1900. Although not always pleasant reading, history is always enlightening when we’re willing to look beyond our own interests/noses. We are all connected, all life on this planet. Forget that, and we are all doomed.
There was no missing the bison just beyond our noses that morning.
The slow, lethargic movements of the largest land mammal in North America certainly belied the danger they posed to visitors to the park. According to park records, between 1980 and 1999, more than three times as many people (79 during the aforementioned period) in Yellowstone were injured by bison than by bears. When provoked, bison can run at upwards of 40 mph. Bears can only manage 30 mph, humans 28 mph if you’re the world’s fastest human, Usain Bolt. How apropos his name is Bolt!
No provocations the morning of our visit (the park ranger kept the one-in-every-crowd visitor from doing something stupid), just us onlookers doing what we do best – looking on from a safe distance and taking pictures of the sole survivor of the ice age on the North American continent.
WOW! Sole survivor!
In Africa and Asia, the elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus and giraffe also adapted to make it beyond the ice age.
One day I hope to make it to Africa and Asia, hope to learn first-hand the story of each of these icons of survival; and then share those stories with you.