Woodland Buffalo

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On entering the plain," he writes, " we were permitted to view a very interesting and romantic sight. A number of buffaloes, of all sizes, supposed to be between two and three hundred, made off from the lick in every direction: some running, some walking, others loping slowly and carelessly, with young calves playing, skipping, and bounding through the plain. Such a sight some of us never saw before, nor perhaps ever may again. From Source:Thwaites, 1902:118, quoting Felix Walker, on reaching Boonesboro.
Woods Bison
Woods Bison


From: Wikipedia

Plains Bison
Plains Bison
The Wood Buffalo (or Wood Bison) Bison bison athabascae, is a distinct northern subspecies of the North American Bison. Heavier (large males up to 2000 lbs) than the Plains Bison (Bison bison bison) it is the largest terrestrial animal in North America. A distinguishing feature is the fact that its highest point (its "hump") lies well in front of its front legs, while in the Plains Bison's the hump is directly above the front legs.

By 1900 the total population of Woods Buffalo had been reduced from an estimated peak of 168,000 to less than 250 individuals. Conservation efforts by the Canadian government has resulted in population recovery to about 3500 speciment in 2007. Today most wood bison are part of public free-ranging herds in Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories, with perhaps 10% in six smaller public and private captive breeding herds. IN addition, small herds of wood bison are located in the Alaska Wildlife conservation Center (n=15),and in "Pleistocene Park", in Siberia (n=30), as well as in several zoos and private game ranches.

All captive and free-ranging specimen of the Woods buffalo are believed to be the result of interbreeding with Plains bison, or with cattle (the later offspring being referred to as "Cattaloe".


From Source:Prokosch Kurath, 2000:66 under "fair-use rules".

In contrast with the Plains impersonation of milling herds...the Woodland buffalo dancers line up in a line, facing center and clomping sidewards slowly and heavily. This arrangement may...refer to the fact that the western buffalo appeared in herds without orderly array, but eastern herds tramped to and from their watering places---river or creek---in single file on a well-beaten path."

From: Source:Stone and Cram, 1902:67

For uncounted ages the bison held all the most fertile grazing land in this country as their own. When the Europeans began to form settlements in North America they occasionally found bisons in small bands near the Atlantic Coast. They were decidedly rare however, everywhere east of the Appalachian Mountains. From Kentucky, all across the continent to Nevada, and from the Great Slave Lake to Mexico and Georgia, they wandered in mighty herds, migrating from one section to another as snowstorms and drought cut down their pasturages.

The first Western pioneers witnessed such sights as probably no other white men have ever seen or will ever see again. Wide rolling plains blackened as far as even their hawk-like eyes could see, with huge hump-backed shaggy beasts, the old bulls bellowing and fighting and pawing up the earth which trembled everywhere as at the approach of an earthquake.

From: Source:Mair and McFarlane, 1908:177

WOODLAND BUFFALO—Bison bison athabascce Rhoad. This variety of the American bison was fairly numerous when I first went north to Mackenzie River, in 1853, but it has since gradually diminished in numbers in the Athabasca district, and its utter extermination is now only a question of time, unless restrictive hunting rules are adopted without delay. When Thomas Simpson, the celebrated Arctic explorer, travelled down the valley of the Clearwater River, in January, 1837, traces of buffalo were quite abundant, but for the last forty years they have practically forsaken that quarter and have dwindled so greatly in number that only a few individuals are now to be met with in open spaces and patches of prairie in sections on the west side of the Athabasca River, between Fort McMurray and the Birch Mountain, as well as in similar tracts of country from Pointe a la Paix, on the Lower Peace, to the plains of Salt River, in latitude 60° north, which had from time immemorial been regularly frequented and occupied by hordes of bison. At the end of the eighteenth and in the earlier part of the nineteenth century, buffalo were abundant on the Upper Peace River, and many also roamed to the northwest as far as the Liard River. Even as late as 1864 a straggler was killed within 40 miles of the Company's post of that name, and another in 1866 about 25 miles from the same. Sir J. Richardson states that there were some bison in the Horn Mountain, south-east of Fort Simpson, in the beginning of the last century (1800), while some were also met with on the east side of the Athabasca, below and above Fort McMurray. During a residence of fifteen years (1870 to 1885) at Fort Chipewyan, Lake Athabasca, our native fort hunters never failed in winter to kill one or more bison for the use of the establishment, the meat of which was hauled thereto by the Company's dogs and servants. Nearly all of them were shot on the north side of the Lower Peace River. At that time the Indians of Forts McMurray and Smith always secured a number in autumn and winter. Having seen the skins of numerous prairie buffalo many years ago, and those of several of the woodland variety, I think the only marked difference I noticed was that the outer hair of the latter is darker in color, and the inner is of a finer, thicker, and probably warmer texture than that of the former, while it is doubtful if the average " dressed beef " of either animal of the same age would materially differ in weight. In the winter of 1871-72 an Indian shot an albino example of the bison some 35 miles north-west of Fort McMurray. The skin was throughout of a faint yellowish white color. I have been repeatedly assured by Indians that the female very rarely has more than one calf at a birth. They have also said that, in winters of deep snow, wolves succeed in destroying some animals. They themselves have too often been guilty of unnecessary slaughter of bison under similar conditions, especially in former years. In the month of March, 1879, a small band of Chipewyan Indians discovered traces of a herd, consisting of twenty animals of various ages, near the Birch Mountain, and the snow being deep they did not suffer even one to escape. None of the flesh, however, was wasted; all of it was consumed by the party. The Company never exported any woodland bison skins for sale in London or Canada. Mr. P. Dcschambeault remembers seeing, in the early fifties of the last century, two fine albino examples of the prairie buffalo in possession of Chief Factors John Rowand and James G. Stewart, both of which had been secured on the plains of the upper Saskatchewan River.

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