January 4, 2005
I wasn't too lucky with the big mammals, but we didn't stay long enough I guess. However, I had the chance to see an animal I had wanted to see in the wild for a long time!
Don't get me wrong - I love bears and I would have been thrilled to see one, but having seen one in Alaska, it was not on the top my list. Since moving to Montana, I wanted to see a buffalo and I got one! A lonely, massive bull on a big meadow, he was watching me as I was watching him. It was quite moving.
The American Bison or Buffalo, as it commonly named, is one of the symbols of the American West. Indians relied on it for food and clothing, and they were almost exterminated by white settlers on their way to conquer the West, but this shaggy cousin of the cow is now protected. And boy, are they big!
However, in Montana, it is now permitted to hunt buffaloes that are straying outside pf the park for their winter foraging. The hunting season will be limited for a month this year (and only 10 licenses allowed). Next year will see a 3-month hunt starting in November, with no limit of licenses decided yet. It is a highly controversial decision. Those animals are so used to people that they are not really afraid and not fair game.
One of the reasons of the pro-hunting groups is that ranchers are afraid that, during the winter migration, buffalos could transmit brucellosis to their cattle. It is a disease that causes cows to abort, although there is no proof that a buffalo can contaminate a cow in the wild.
My take is that it makes hunters happy as it is ballyhooed as the return of a "great Montana tradition."
Pay no heed to the homely appearance; you really don't want to stay too close, as these animals can run very fast!!! You really don't want to disturb one of them.
From journal The Beartooth Byway and northern Yellowstone