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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Give Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam

There is a reason that cowboys sing about a home on the range “where the buffalo roam.”  Bison are happiest when they have room to roam.  In the wild, they often travel one or two miles per day, foraging for food and water.  As settlers moved west across North America, they encountered the paths made by bison and deer as they traveled between feeding grounds and during their seasonal migration.  Because bison naturally chose the most convenient paths, avoiding muddy flats and other natural impediments, many of the east-west trails were also used by pioneers to travel across country.

Bison drive in snow at Upper Nez Perce Creek; Mary Meagher; 1966Bison migration in snow at Upper Nez Perce Creek; Mary Meagher; 1966

In the winter, the wild bison herd at Yellowstone National Park migrates to lower elevations outside the park in search of winter forage.  These wild bison are seen as a threat to many cattle ranchers in Montana , who fear that the bison may carry brucellosis, a  bacterial disease that affects livestock and wildlife, sometimes causing cattle to abort their first calf post-infection. However, there has never been a documented case of brucellosis being transmitted to cattle from wild bison.  Even so, the practice of “hazing” the bison back into the park occurs every year.
17735 Bison hazing near Undine Falls - 223 bison; Jim Peaco; February 27, 2003 

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

The American Bison is one of the most difficult livestock to keep contained, and can be one of the most elusive to capture.  A loose bison that has been spooked into leaping a fence or crashing through one can wreak havoc on neighboring property.Bison_Jumping_Fence
Fencing is a greater challenge for bison than for any other livestock because bison are so very powerful.  A runaway herd of bison is a formidable force when directed against a containment fence; an individual bison can leap five to six feet from a standing position and will leap a tall fence when motivated.

Strong, reliable fencing is critical for a bison ranch.  Page and I do not want to be in the position of having to round up a herd of scared bison, so we plan to install very tall, super strong fencing.  Bison can be trained to recognize and respect electric fencing; many ranchers start training the bison as calves.  Page plans to use solar energy as much as possible on the ranch, so it is likely that we will power our fence with a solar electric fence charger.

Wherever the location of our new ranch, Page and I hope to be good neighbors in more than just how we keep our bison safe, but also by welcoming our neighbors to the ranch.  We plan to introduce our bison to our neighbors through public events such as a yearly barbecue, ranch tours, and educational activities for kids.  We are thinking about ways we can reward our loyal blog readers, perhaps with discounts on our products.  We recognize the value of a good neighbor and cultivating those relationships will be a top priority for our new venture.

“A bad neighbor is a misfortune, as much as a good one is a great blessing.”  --  Hesiod

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