How lucky we are that wise people decided to set aside areas to remain as safe, mostly undeveloped places for future generations. We drove up a hill in Custer State Park in South Dakota on to a wide open plain and found a herd of wild burros. We’d been told the burros had been tamed and most definitely they had. People were out petting them and feeding them. The herd patiently allowed pictures, pushed their noses into hands, pockets, car windows seeking more goodies.
One baby lay on the ground and didn’t move as people swarmed it. My hope is that it was okay.
And thanks to overhearing someone talking about the Buffaloes “being out,” we leaped into our car and sped away—without a map (never a very smart idea) on the search for the herd.
Little could we know when we found three mothers and their adorable babies (no, we weren’t stupid enough to get out and pet them) that as they worked their way up the road and over the hill, on the other side of that same hill…was the herd.
Millions of bison—same thing as buffaloes—used to roam the prairie. These giant beasts were nearly hunted to extinction by fools with too fancy a technology—the latest rifles and a desire for their bones to be ground up into china. Yep…bone china.
I was told by people wise enough that I absolutely believe them, that the bison got down to two small herds of less than 20 animals a piece. Millions to less than 40. Thankfully, some wise people, just like those who created State and National parks/preserves, through careful breeding there are now wild herds like those in Yellowstone and Custer who are travelling the prairie once more. And that all the bison in America today could have their DNA traced back to those very two remaining herds.
Watching them move—the massive oldest male, standing back ready to protect the mamas and their babies—the young males who hung back until the last minute (those errant teenagers testing their boundaries)—and the pairs of females and babies moving their way across the grassy valley toward the trees, was magical.
So thank you wise people for sharing the past with us—and those future, future generations. May wise people always exist to fight for such places.