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The Fall and Rise of the American Buffalo

Posted By G Living Staff Monkies On May 15, 2008 @ 6:09 am In G Living,Nature / Non Human Stories | No Comments

Having seen more than my share of black & white westerns (which, by the way, is my least favorite film genre), my impression of the pre-white man Old West is a land filled with Indians (aka Native Americans) and buffaloes. I’ll spare you the history lesson of the American Revolution and why the landscape is no longer filled with either and skip right to the recompensation. We know how our government has attempted to compensate the Native American, but what have we done for the buffalo? A lot, it turns out.

In some ways, the plight of the buffalo was among the first casualties of man’s carelessness with the planet — a near extinction of this enormous creature after several generations of North American land takeovers and expansion. But researchers at the Wildlife Conservation Society say we may one day soon be seeing wild herds back on the plains.

The organization, which was founded in 1905 at the Bronx Zoo, has been evaluating areas of the continent for years — examining (via Fox News) “the availability of existing habitat, the potential for interaction with other native species… [and] the socio-economic climate of the regions” — and has recently revealed that there are still pockets of land able to sustain large herds of buffalo, including include prairies and grasslands in the southwestern U.S., as well as parts of Alaska, Canada and the Mexican desert.

What’s news to me is that there remains a substantial population of buffaloes at all. Green Daily reports that while there are only about 20,000 remaining in the wild (which is a far greater number than I would have guessed), there are about 480,00 living on private ranches. Not a huge number when you consider the tens of millions that originally roamed the continent, but huge compared to the estimated 1,000 that remained around 1889.

Behind the scenes, the WCS has been working tirelessly to repopulate the species. And they now say the buffalo could make a big comeback. “One hundred years ago, through our efforts and the efforts of others, the bison was saved from extinction,” WCS President and CEO Steven E. Sanderson was quoted by Fox News as saying. “We are now looking 100 years from now, because we believe there is an ecological future for the bison in the North American landscape.”

While the buffalo will most likely not be given the opportunity to form their own governments or open casinos, it’s good to know that they may one day soon be free to roam again.

(via Fox News and Green Daily)

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