Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Encouraging Bison To Go Wild

The Wildlife Conservation Society held a 3 day conference on the Ecological Future of the North American Bison in Denver in Oct 2006. The meeting explored the idea of extensively reintroducing wild bison into the North American plains ecosystem within the next 100 years. The idea is to improve the biodiversity of the plains ecosystem, restoring it to health and viability. Currently about 1/20th of North America's approximately 400,000 bison are considered wild.

Rewilding is controversial. Some advocates want to reintroduce other species, long extinct to the prairies, such as lions and elephants. Somehow I doubt that we’ll be seeing such exotic big game on the US plains anytime soon.

But there is a long-distance wild bison reintroduction that is underway right now! As the first step in turning the tundra back into a more steppe like grassland ecosystem, Canadian bison have been transported to Siberia where they have been extinct for 5,000 years. 30 Canadian wood buffalo calves have been moved from their home at Elk Island National Park east of Edmonton to the 194,000-acre Lenskiye-Stolby Nature Park, aka Pleistocene Park, in the Republic of Sakha in north east Russia.

The calves were prepped for the 12-14 hour flight with a regimen of good nutrition and electrolytes (hay, alfalfa cubes, molasses loaded with vitamins, and a sort of bison "Gatorade"). A supply of their familiar pelleted alfalfa diet was sent along with them to allow a gradual, low stress transition to local food. The plan is for them to stay at the Park for a year under study and observation, then 24 of them will be released into the Verkhoyansk Range north of Yakutsk. The other 6 will remain at the park.

I’ll keep an eye out for word of the progress of this experiment as it develops.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

What's A Wild Bison Worth

Seems that there's not much consensus regarding the dollar value of a wild bison.

Hunting Licenses vary by state from US$125 up to US$4,000 for a single animal.

At the Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the annual bison auction sold bison from a low of US$409 for heifer calfs to US$1,300 for 2yr old breeding bulls.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Farmer Profile: Wisconsin

Rebecca and Patrick Ries have been operating Bluestem Bison in Mount Calvary, WI since 1995.

Their problems are similar to most other smaller producers (they currently manage a herd of 140 buffalo). At an average cost to the consumer of US$4 per pound, the price is too low for any significant profit, and they have an ongoing struggle to convince restaurants to serve bison meat. Farmgate and farmers markets continue to be the primary outlets where customers can buy locally produced buffalo for home consumption.
Photo courtesy Fond du Lac Reporter

Friday, August 18, 2006

Seeking Buffalo-Control Officers

Fort Providence in Canada's Northwest Territories is looking for buffalo-control officers after several members of the local Mackenzie wild herd of about 2,400 wood bison took up residence in the town last May.
Two "trouble" buffalo were shot in mid-July for refusing to vacate. The animals have been accused of rubbing siding off houses, head-butting trucks, and scaring kids off the playground.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Anthrax Killing Canadian Bison and Cattle

A hot dry summer in the Canadian midwest has facilitated a new outbreak of anthrax in both bison and cattle.
Bison in the North West Territories, just north of the Saskatchewan border, have been affected, with 14 dead found over the last week. The area has been closed and travel into the region curtailed since anthrax can be transmitted to humans from infected animals or carcasses.
21 farms near Melfort, Saskatchewan have also been quarantined after as many as 65 suspicious cattle deaths in the last week and confirmed anthrax cases on 2 farms.
Anthrax occurs naturally and the spores can survive for hundreds of years. They often become airborn after a very wet spring followed by a hot, dry summer, allowing animals to breath them in, especially after a 'dust bath'. Birds such as ravens that are immune to anthrax, will often spread the disease after scavenging infected carcasses.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Baby Bison Born Wild In Saskatchewan

Two years ago the NCC (Nature Conservancy Of Canada) re-introduced about 50 young bison at Old Man On His Back Prairie Preserve in southern Saskatchewan. Since the prairie grasslands evolved in response to grazing by bison, their re-introduction is expected to maintain the integrity of the landscape.
The success of the project is starting to been seen with fifteen bison calves being born in recent weeks and more to come!
Photo courtesy NCC

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Free Roaming In Saskatchewan

Well, free roaming within the 71km of fencing at least!
With about 1km of fence per bison, a herd has been released into Grasslands National Park.
The hope is that the natural grazing of the bison will help to ensure the health and integrity of the prairie into the future.
Photo courtesy Parks Canada

Friday, June 09, 2006

Farmer Profiles: Ohio

Bison booster Jim Buckmaster is a busy guy!

Besides his 225 acre Buck Farm Bison near Austinburg, county Ashtabula, Ohio, he runs Buck's Grill & Tavern, a mile from his farm, where bison burgers and bison pot roast rule.
And in his spare time he operates a gift store for bison products, featuring one of my favourites, bison wool.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Winnipeg Blizzard

Blizzard is a white bison (buffalo) calf, newly arrived at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg. But Blizzard is not an albino!

The white bison is considered significant among aboriginal cultures on the Great Plains.
Let's hope this young guy prospers and avoids getting sunburned.

Deadwood Thinking

Nothing like a good spectacle, but forcing bison to run within a 15-foot-wide barrier on a half-mile course through the town of Deadwood, South Dakota, and actually expecting people to safely run with them, shows a serious lack of common sense.

Sure, bulls have been run on the streets of Pamplona, Spain, during an annual festival, since the late 16th century. But hey, Spain is also home to bull fighting where the bull is killed! I'm not sure this should be a role model.

Bison are not beef! They haven't been bred in captivity for centuries, and they're really fast, and really big. They're not naturally aggressive but forcing them to run through city streets will stress them into unpredictable behaviour.

Luckily sane minds have prevailed, if for no other reason than the insurance costs.

Farmer Profiles: Australia

In 1989 Ashley Brown 41, brought five heifer calves and a bull calf to Australia. He now runs 150 head of bison on his 365 hectare property near Corryong in northeast Victoria.

Besides supplying the expected demand for bison meat to exclusive restaurants and gourmet butchers, he actively promotes the use of the very fine haired, downy bison coat for manufacture into coats, rugs, etc.

I'd sure like to see my local Ontario, Canada bison farmers explore this market!