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Outstanding article - Was the bison hunted to near extinction?

BigDanSBigDanS Senior MemberPosts: 6,992 Senior Member
From Petersons Hunting, posted by Craig Boddington on Facebook.

The numbers do not lie. A long but worthwhile read in my opinion.


http://www.petersenshunting.com/2012/09/04/was-the-buffalo-nearly-hunted-to-near-extinction/#.UFqWQn6oJwY.facebook

A selection from the article....


Friend James called. “I just read something that should ruffle your feathers,” he said. “In one short afternoon six hunters at a New York gun club killed 30,000 passenger pigeons.” What a lousy thing to do, I said. Then a light bulb went on. Wait a minute. Thirty thousand in a “short afternoon”? Four hours? That would be 7,500 birds per hour divided by six for 1,250 birds per hour per hunter. The initial shock at the figure momentarily replaced my friend’s usual razor-edge acumen. Market hunting sliced great inroads into passenger pigeon populations. But years later forensics would prove those beautiful birds fell victim to avian disease as well as rampant overshooting.

How about 60 million breeding bison “shot off” in the late 1800s? That makes 30,000 passenger pigeons felled to pellets in a single afternoon plausible by comparison. And yet even we hunters have bought into the lie. We even apologize to anti-hunters for our ancestors. It never happened. Buffalo ranged over a vast domain with not a single legitimate road and few trails. The herds covered Nebraska, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Oregon, Washington—don’t forget Texas-—and the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. How about Montana? Montana alone comprises 147,138 square miles. Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon combine for 425,590 square miles.

Picture the professional hunter, or “buffalo runner,” as he preferred, on foot or horseback, wagon in tow with two to three skinners. The pros preferred Sharps and Remington Rolling Blocks, some scoped, more iron sighted. Singleshots, not machine guns. And no helicopter gunships. Blackpowder caked the bore, sometimes cleared by a urine flood. How many bison could a skinner skin in one day? A modest-sized cow ran 1,500 pounds on the hoof, her sire going a ton and more. Does the folly begin to take form? Tell a lie often enough, especially in print, and fabrication outruns truth and logic.

This is no whitewash job. The American buffalo (bison) was not shot off, because it could not be rendered extinct by bullets due to incredible numbers, vast and often unreachable habitat, primitive travel methods, and inferior firepower. Capt. William Twining, the surveyor who established the border between Canada and Montana, stood on a hill and watched a migrating herd so large that he could not determine beginning or end. Total bison numbers were beyond comprehension. Respected naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton did his best to calculate the possible number of roaming bison at 60 million, which is agreed upon today by most experts as a reliable figure.



Read more: http://www.petersenshunting.com/2012/09/04/was-the-buffalo-nearly-hunted-to-near-extinction/#ixzz27ajuu7xx

D
"A patriot is mocked, scorned and hated; yet when his cause succeeds, all men will join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot." Mark Twain
Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.... now who's bringing the hot wings? :jester:

Replies

  • tennmiketennmike Senior Member Posts: 27,457 Senior Member
    Cattle brought tick fever, anthrax, and blackleg disease to the plains. Anthrax and blackleg spread rapidly through cattle, and would spread just as fast through the buffalo. And blackleg kills the young cattle very rapidly. A pandemic of blackleg and/or anthrax in the buffalo herds would wipe out great numbers, and the anthrax spores can survive for years in the soil and be taken up by all grazing animals.

    Brucellosis is another possible disease vector that could have been responsible for buffalo deaths. Lots of cattle were being imported from Europe back then, and could have introduced the disease. It spreads very rapidly in cattle, and elk herds in the Rockies have been diagnosed with the disease. The Yellowstone herd, and in parts of Wyoming and Idaho are infected and spread it to cattle.
      I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer”
    ― Douglas Adams
  • KSU FirefighterKSU Firefighter Senior Member Posts: 3,249 Senior Member
    Very interesting read, thanks for posting it.
    The fire service needs a "culture of extinguishment not safety" Ray McCormack FDNY
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 18,118 Senior Member
    Dan, I work at a bison refuge and as part of my job there I do a living history presentation about the buffalo hunters...I live where the Smoky Hill herd once roamed. Its not all that hard to document the numbers of bison killed...The railroads kept decent records of the hides shipped between 1870 and 1889 in addition to the tons of cured and smoked bison meat that was shipped East (note: not all of it was left to rot on the plains)....so it's fairly easy to see how many bison were killed for the commercial market. Note: I do not have the numbers at hand as I'm away from home right now, but if you're interested I can provide them when I get home. Indeed, Buffalo was THE industry in Kansas for a long time...It wasn't just a few folks shooting buffalo,,,pretty much everyone was taking a crack at them. With the average income of .65 cents a day being the norm - IF you had a job, the fact that in 1872 a summer hide was bringing $2.50 - $3.50 down in Dodge City it doesn't take much imagination to figure out that pretty much everyone with a firearm was banging away at the poor critters. It is a fact that once the big shooting crews like Rath and Moar arrived on the scene, the total take was somewhere between 1200 and 2000 critters a day.

    Skinning bison, was not the labor you might think....A proficient skinner would make his opening cuts, stake the animals nose to the ground, take a bight around the mane with a rope and use a mule or horse to drag the hide off. Skinners got somewhere between 25 and 50 cents per hide...the meat belonged to them...tongues, hams, loins and hump meat, cured and smoked brought 2 to 3 cents a pound. The shooters were careful not to shoot more animals than their skinners could handle in a day. However.. Tom Nixon killed 120 buffalo in 45 minutes, ruining his Sharps in the process....and ended up helping his skinners into the night.

    In truth, subsistence hunting of bison on the part of the Indians and the animals that were shot to feed the railroad crews and the military had virtually no impact on either the Northern or Southern herds...the annual reproductive cycle of 60 to 75 million animals rendered those number virtually moot. Hunting - even market hunting - was not the only thing that lead to the demise of the herds....as pointed out, Texas cattle coming North brought diseases that killed bison in the thousands, Flash floods, Tornadoes and the like killed more thousands.

    Although it will raise some hackles..as the truth often does...the Indian tribes were also selling hides..An Indian tanned winter robe would bring $50.00 and records show that 4 tribes along the upper Missouri in one year {1850) brought in $650K worth of hides....

    Another thing to consider, is that all of the herds had a predominance of bulls....cows were the chosen target of the Indians and the hide hunters...the meat is better and the smaller hides are easier to handle unknowingly, they were breaking the back of the reproductive cycle...
    Bottom line...we know that by 1889, there were about 25 buffalo left alive in SW Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle...however, the demise of the great herds was inevitable as the west was settled....
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Senior Member Posts: 8,227 Senior Member
    I'm kind of curious about this, Scoot.

    I thought that the southern herd migrated all the way down to the Texas/Mexico border, and maybe even into northern Mexico. Is this correct?

    If so, I would think they would have the same immunity to the diseases brought north by Texas cattle that the cattle had.

    BTW, I really like your post. Lots of good info in it.
    Jerry

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
  • BigDanSBigDanS Senior Member Posts: 6,992 Senior Member
    Great info Jayhawker. I liked the article for the simple fact that math does not support the decimation of the herd. 60 million animals producing 600,000 offspring per year is an impressive number to say the least. While everyone in Kansas might have been in the buffalo business, why did the herd vitually disappear between 1881 and 1883 / 84? I agree with the author that a virus ran rampant among the herd, and I believe just like smallpox devastated the Native Americans when the Europeans arrived, cattle born disease decimated the bison herds.

    I enjoy detailed data, and I find it a facinating subject.

    D
    "A patriot is mocked, scorned and hated; yet when his cause succeeds, all men will join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot." Mark Twain
    Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.... now who's bringing the hot wings? :jester:
  • NNNN Senior Member Posts: 25,126 Senior Member
    Interesting info in the article, which I had already read, and from Jayhawker as to how it
    supports history and conflicts with history as taught to the kids in school.
  • woodsrunnerwoodsrunner Senior Member Posts: 2,725 Senior Member
    One interesting thing about Buffalo that most of us don't know.......

    In the late 1600's when the Southeastern areas of the present day USA were first explored, there were herds of bison. Not dense herds like on ther Great Plains, but small groups. This is well documented in the Kentucky-Tennessee area even in Daniel Boone's earliest years, but it is also well documented in coastal South Georgia around where Buffy now lives, and even on the Georgia Coastal Barrier Islands like St. Simons and Cumberland.
  • breamfisherbreamfisher Senior Member Posts: 13,877 Senior Member
    Don't forget that Bison occurred in FL, too.
    I'm just here for snark.
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 18,118 Senior Member
    JerryBobCo wrote: »
    I'm kind of curious about this, Scoot.

    I thought that the southern herd migrated all the way down to the Texas/Mexico border, and maybe even into northern Mexico. Is this correct?

    If so, I would think they would have the same immunity to the diseases brought north by Texas cattle that the cattle had.

    BTW, I really like your post. Lots of good info in it.

    The Northern herd was divided into two herds...the Republican River herd and the Yellowstone herd. The Southern herd into the Arkansas River herd and the Texas herd.
    And yes, the animals from both herds migrated as far as Northern Mexico { Just a note- Mexican buff hunters took them from horseback with lances} and wintered on the Llano Estacado Biologists/historians surmise that the Texas herd did indeed have some natural immunity to those diseases and that the Arkansas River herd migrated into Texas after and departed prior to the tick season
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 18,118 Senior Member
    One interesting thing about Buffalo that most of us don't know.......

    In the late 1600's when the Southeastern areas of the present day USA were first explored, there were herds of bison. Not dense herds like on ther Great Plains, but small groups. This is well documented in the Kentucky-Tennessee area even in Daniel Boone's earliest years, but it is also well documented in coastal South Georgia around where Buffy now lives, and even on the Georgia Coastal Barrier Islands like St. Simons and Cumberland.

    Woods - Absolutely correct, from my studies it appears that there were about a million bison living East of the Mississippi (I have no idea how historians came up with that number...I doubt anyone counted them - but they all seem to be in agreement) and that they were pretty much gone by 1800.
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 18,118 Senior Member
    BigDanS wrote: »
    Great info Jayhawker. I liked the article for the simple fact that math does not support the decimation of the herd. 60 million animals producing 600,000 offspring per year is an impressive number to say the least. While everyone in Kansas might have been in the buffalo business, why did the herd vitually disappear between 1881 and 1883 / 84? I agree with the author that a virus ran rampant among the herd, and I believe just like smallpox devastated the Native Americans when the Europeans arrived, cattle born disease decimated the bison herds.

    I enjoy detailed data, and I find it a facinating subject.

    D


    It's worth keeping in mind that there was no real "shooting season" buffalo were being hit year round as the hides were not being taken for the quality of their hair, summer or winter - it didn't matter. The hide companies were busy filling leather contracts for industrial leather (drive belts, etc) Additionally the British Military was using bison leather for footgear, military accoutrements, saddles and harness. Now I won't get home until next week, but as soon as I can get to my reference materials, I'll be able to put some hard numbers to all this. We know that by the late 1800s, the bottom had fallen out of the market, flint {summer) hides were barely worth hunting...there was still a market for winter robes though which lead hunters from Texas and points south to converge on the Yellowstone herd which was the last. I will not say that market hunting wiped out the bison in it's entirety, it did, as market hunting tends to do with the target species, push them to the point of no return . It's also worth noting that in spite of what our kids have been taught and perpetuated by those who have read "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" too many times there was no grand conspiracy by the Government to wipe out the bison in order to subjugate the Plains Tribes...There is a difference between a reason and a result...the REASON for buffalo hunting was purely economic, The RESULT was the subjugation of the tribes...a result might I add, that the US Government and Military had no problems with.

    Sorry for rambling on...I love this stuff, have been researching this for years and could talk about it all night....
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • BigDanSBigDanS Senior Member Posts: 6,992 Senior Member
    talk on! My knowledge on this subject is tiny. I enjoy the info.

    D
    "A patriot is mocked, scorned and hated; yet when his cause succeeds, all men will join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot." Mark Twain
    Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.... now who's bringing the hot wings? :jester:
  • rapier5316rapier5316 Member Posts: 312 Member
    Making me hungry. Aside from politics, Teds' Montana Grill does do good food. Perhaps her only cogent comment Ex-wife Jane (yes the traitorous one) once mentioned that in ordere to thrive the Bison needed to be economcally viable in an agricultural setting.
    "The power of the United States has peaked, oppression follows." Robert Prector, Socionomics.net
  • woodsrunnerwoodsrunner Senior Member Posts: 2,725 Senior Member
    Jay.... are you familiar with the book "The Long Hunt, Death of the Buffalo East of the Mississippi" by my old friend Ted Franklin Belue? It's well worth reading.
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 18,118 Senior Member
    Jay.... are you familiar with the book "The Long Hunt, Death of the Buffalo East of the Mississippi" by my old friend Ted Franklin Belue? It's well worth reading.

    I've got a lot of books about buffalo hunting, I don't have that one....I'll see if I can find it....thanks
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
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