Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Bison Rut

Peeping Toms, we weren't but we could have been accused of this crime. We spent a couple of
hours last evening watching a large herd of Plains Bison following their primordial urges of species propagation. 
Plains Bison Cow With Bull
These bison are the direct ancestors of the less than 200 remaining bison left over from herds, estimated at up to 60 million during the mid to end of 1800s. The massive bison herds were slaughtered by white hunters for their valuable hides leaving skinned carcasses to rot. This slaughter was also sanctioned by the American government as a method of removing the main food source for native people, depriving proud tribes of a culture and way of life that had gone on for more than 10,000 years. About 50 years is all it took to destroy massive herds of bison and with them went the passenger pigeon, kit fox, prairie chicken, black footed ferret and more. Some of these critters have been brought back from the verge of extinction by visionary, dedicated people who continue to study and work today for all of our benefits.
200 bison were rescued and sent to Alberta's Elk Island National Park, located just east of Edmonton. North of the Yellowhead highway 16 is home to pure bred Plains Bison while south of the highway Woodland Bison flourish. This fully enclosed park has now sent both breeds of bison to many different regions around the world. Bison are prolific breeders so it doesn't take long to over populate the park and over graze the parkland. Excess bison have been transferred to many states and parks in USA, Saskatchewan and eastern Siberia where they are very successfully re-introducing extirpated populations of bison.
Bison Wallowing
We both watched and felt and heard and smelled the bison rut last night. I tried to come up with some way of describing it with words but there is too much happening at once. Bison are very large animals, larger than any cows or bulls of domestic breeds. They are noisy, powerful, massive and vocal. Odours wafted across the dusty meadow; dusty because of all the wallowing and wrestlling, chasing and retreating. An almost constant grunting, bellowing, coughing, grunting, rattling of short curved horns and black hooves and head smashing of dominate bulls challenging for a sweetheart kept our heads swivelling round and forward. Masculinity and testosterone fuelled competitive bulls vied for tempting feminine wiles. This is a powerful time of year for bison lustily rejuvenating the herd. This evening is raw, real, erotic and wild. It is a demonstration of aggressive, carefree, natural power that will carry on long after dark and into the next day, lasting for about a month or so. 
Crashing Bulls
Afterwards, peace and quiet will settle over the park until Wapiti bugling and moose grunts and then softly bleating deer will take over. Antler crashing will take over from horny head butting. Procreation in the park is rampant from early August through November. 
I hope to get out as voyeuristic witness to all of these Mother Nature local great events.

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