Tuesday, September 8, 2015

THE GRAND OLD MAN OF THE AMERICAN WEST on "Travel Tuesday"...

West of Denver, and fittingly, just down the hill from the grave site of Buffalo Bill on Lookout Mountain, you can find one of the state's most beloved attractions - Denver's American Bison (commonly referred to as Buffalo, also) herd.  They have an area on both sides of the highway, with passage underneath, so it's always a game of "I-Spy" on any given day, whether they will be within sight.  This day, we got extremely lucky - not only in sight, but close enough to photograph (after a small hike back), from behind the protection of a heavy fence.
In 1914, Denver acquired both Bison and Elk from the herds in Yellowstone, hoping to propagate the Bison and improve their odds against extinction.  The herd was split in 1939, and moved to another spot in the state of CO (Daniel's Park, by Castle Rock) - both herds are said to be maintained now at about 24 adult animals.  Small numbers, but a mighty and moving sight.
The American Bison once freely roamed the Great Plains and much of North America, numbering in the tens of millions.  Imagine a hillside like the one above, completely covered, as far as you could see.  These animals were critically important to the Plains Indian societies, being considered a sacred animal and religious symbol.  Not only did they provide food for these peoples, but the entire animal was revered and used, when taken - and they were only taken as needed.
During the 19th century, some 50 million of these great beasts were killed, mainly for sport, by the white man...MOST left simply to rot on the open prairies, the thrill of the slaughter being the main motivation.
These enormous herds were reduced to a few hundred animals in record time.  Pre-1800 estimations on numbers of bison is in the 60,000,000 (that's 60 MILLION) range.  By 1900, there were 300 left in the US.  Their numbers today are said to be somewhere around 200,000, with protected herds mainly on preserves and private ranches.
Standing about 60 to 70" high at the shoulders, the males can top the scales at over a ton.  Both sexes have horns.  For the first two months of life, the calves are a light, reddish-brown color, before turning dark, like the adults.  They do have a thicker coat in winter, which is what you see them shedding in these photos. Life expectancy for these mighty animals, under today's conditions, can be around 25 years.
Enjoying a lazy day - this was obviously "THE Man" - that's a female behind him.  They look docile, but are definitely not a force to be reckoned with - each year there are reports of gorings of ignorant tourists (mainly in Yellowstone National Park, where they roam free). Fences are in place for a reason (it also takes a LOT to contain Bison - ordinary fences don't usually deter them if they want out) - respect the fence that was put there for your protection.
These magnificent beasts are another reminder of the great stupidity and greed of man - almost doomed to never be seen by any of us, or our children and future generations.  Brought back from the brink, most thankfully.
Want to see this group?  Start looking at Exit 254 on I-70, around the Genesee Park area west of Denver.  Stop and marvel at this remarkable remainder of what once was the American Wild West.

9 comments:

Mary Ann Potter said...

Oh, they are magnificent! My husband has seen them in Yellowstone. Absolutely wonderful photos!

Createology said...

These truly are an American icon in the animal world. A few years ago we had a very special trip to a Bison ranch here in Northern California. It was amazing to see them up close and personal. However for our luncheon we were served Bison burgers and I did not like the flavor or the idea that we were eating these amazing animals. What a wonderful trip you had dear...

Tammy@T's Daily Treasures said...

Darn! I wish I had known about this while we were there. I would definitely have made my way there. I actually wanted to get to the animal sanctuary but never made it. Maybe next year, depending on where we wind up with son number two who will be starting college. We have much to lose because of the greed and stupidity of man.

Jackie said...

Wow, gorgeous creatures. Glad you got to see them before they are gone for good...stupid humans! If they are so endangered how come we can order buffalo burgers?? seems odd?

Maywyn Studio said...

Thank you, Tanya, for a beautiful post and photos
You've captures some gorgeous pictures of adults and calves.
I read a story many years ago about an account of an buffalo herd back in the early (?)1800s that mowed down everything in its path, including cabins. Love the fence!

Dorthe said...

Amazing photoes of this wonderful creatures, what a force they hold, and looking so stoic !! In a way it is kind of sad they are now only living in a park area sanctuary, but in the name of civilysation so many nature things and lives has changed all over the globe,. we surely have to firmly keep theese and many more other animals allive , protect them from hunters, and for the smaller arts, --from persons wanting them as pets ....
Your photoes are beautiful, dear Tanya, thank you so much for posting them !!
Love from Dorthe

Quinn said...

You got some great snaps, Tanya!
They are such mighty animals, and it is mind-boggling that tourists get ridiculously close to them in Yellowstone. Groups of people clustered around them, even - nothing like making yourself look like even more of a potential threat! People are eejits about bears, too, but I suppose they think the bears look like big ol' dogs or something. You'd think the sheer mass of the bison would be a clue, wouldn't you? Every time one of the national parks posts a news bulletin on twitter about someone being thumped or tossed or swatted by an animal in a nat'l forest or park - where the distance rules are posted EVERYWHERE - I immediately write back asking if these people will be charged with wildlife harassment. I have yet to receive a reply from even one of them.
Whew. I'll step down from my little soapbox now! Thanks for sharing your excellent images :)

Colleen Mcgraw said...

Wow! how close were you to these guys? Fantastic photos. I sent you a link via email make sure you watch the whole thing.

Vicki Boster said...

Tanya- the bison is a magnificent animal. We saw them when we visited Yellowstone park. Your photos are amazing. I had no idea there was a herd near Denver... We have a farm in KY that raises bison.

Love
Vicki