Showing posts with label bison. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bison. Show all posts

September 17, 2018

Quick Review: "Alpha," Where Boy Meets Wolf (Dog).

Kodi Smit-McPhee as Keda with a Czechoslovakian wolfdog that plays Alpha
(who has a surprise for the humans)
Just to save you the trouble, I will list some things that anyone familiar with hunting large animals will object to in the movie Alpha.

And then I will tell you that this story of a boy and his wolf is worthwhile anyway.

First of all, if the village hunters were going after Pleistocene bison, they would not walk miles and miles, leaving their families behind. Everyone would go. Non-hunters could still help drive the buffalo over the cliff by flapping skins and making a commotion. Throwing spears to create a "fence" is not going to stop charging bison.

When it is time to process the meat, you need everyone. And a lot will still be wasted, as archaeologists can tell you. Or visit the most famous and weirdly named such site in North America! (The movie too was filmed in Alberta, except for the CGI parts.)

Second, according to my archaeologist friend, 20,000 years BP is too early for bows and arrows, according to current information. I would give the movie-makers a pass on that one.

Third, when winter comes, why do people keep living in a windswept snowfield in what looks like northern Labrador instead of moving to a more sheltered place that might offer some fuel?

Fourth — and this is more of a continuity lapse — during his time along, Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee) starts to grow some teenage whiskers, yet in the final scene, they are gone. But going by his father's beard,  this is not a culture where men shave.

And a goof, which someone at Internet Movie Database also noted, "In the first cave scene, Kedi [sic] is kneeling to approach the wolf, and the bottom of his boot clearly shows a rubber lugged sole." Yeah, it did.


Now for the positives

First,  Alpha is a beautiful movie to watch. Some of that is Alberta and a lot of it is CGI, I will grant. But wow, Shining Times. If you were an old man by forty, you still would have lived a life filled with wonder.

Second, it's a "dog story" with a happy ending, a bit like the lines from Kipling's Jungle Book:

When the Man waked up he said,
'What is Wild Dog doing here?'
And the Woman said,
'His name is not Wild Dog any more,
but the First Friend,
because he will be our friend
for always and always and always.'


Its images and story will stay with you.

August 31, 2018

I Was Here, Where Were You?


Encountered in the Wet Mountains

I feel like I have been somewhere, that is for sure. I was on-deadline the second half of August, and while the grass grew and the dog's walks were a little shorter than they should have been, I bashed out the 8,000 words required. But I missed blogging.

Now I am at a Secret Location in far-northern New Mexico, clearing out my emails. It's nice when Secret Locations have decent wifi.

Meanwhile: here are a few things of interest.

How they used to burn the prairies. Not just the prairies. As I ride Amtrak through the Midwest, I often mentally conjure a dry, breezy day and a line of people with drip torches. (Link goes to video.) I mean, there used to be buffalo in Kentucky.

• I remember my dad walking through our garden in the Black Hills, pulling the husks off ears of corn, and tossing them away with a curse if they were infected with smut. Sadly, he did not know that the Ancestral Puebloans (and the Aztecs) considered Ustilago maydis to be a delicacy and derived nutritional benefits from eating it!

• From Women's Outdoor News, some tips and hacks for better family car-camping. With S'mores, so you know it is family-friendly.

January 18, 2018

Navajo Nation in Real Estate Rampage

This has not been getting much coverage outside of southern Colorado, but the Navajo Nation has purchased two large ranches in Huerfano and Custer counties, along the eastern edge of the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Range.

First was part of hair products-magnate's Tom Redmond's Wolf Springs Ranch (16,000 acres, 6,574 ha), mostly in Huerfano County. Next was the adjoining Boyer Ranch in Custer County (12,500 acres, 5,057 ha).

The photo on the banner of this blog was taken at the Wolf Springs Ranch in northwest Huerfano County.

From the Wet Mountain Tribune:
The acquisition extends the Nation’s presence in the county by another 12,505 acres for an approximate total of 28,855 acres straddling both Huerfano and Custer counties. The land is significant for the Navajo, as it is near the sacred mountain Tsisnaasjini’, also known as Blanca Peak. 
In announcing the purchase, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said , “It is a blessing for the Navajo Nation to once again have land in the state of Colorado. When land was being designated by the federal government they refused to include Colorado as part of Navajo. We now own more of our ancestral land with the purchase of Boyer Ranch. It is a beautiful place surrounded by mountain ranges in the shadows of Tsisnaasjini’.

He went on to speak about the economic opportunities the new addition brings to the Nation: “This is a place where we can develop the Navajo Beef program and eventually provide more opportunities for our ranchers. There is a good market for quality beef in restaurants and grocery stores and Navajo can meet that demand.”

The Nation’s portion of the Wolf Springs Ranch includes about 400 head of cattle, and over 900 head of bison.

The importance of the Boyer Ranch to the Nation goes beyond ranching however, as the ranch has early priority water rights, and the gravel pit there could be used to develop Nation infrastructure. Vice President Jonathan Nez also sees the potential to one day develop an athletic program that takes advantage of the high-altitude of the land.

“We have some remarkable athletes on the Navajo Nation,” he notes, “and this would be a great opportunity to train our youth and celebrate health and wellness. The land there is beautiful and it is not just for us but also for future generations.”
In other news, restaurant workers in Westcliffe, Silver Cliff, and Walsenburg are learning how to say "Yah-ta-hey" with the correct intonation.

(In other other news, insiders report that the Navajo Nation will petition the U. S. Board on  Geographic Names to rename the Sangre de Cristo Range the Monster-Slayer Mountains.)

Wolf Springs Ranch had been involved in Colorado Parks and Wildlife's "Ranching for Wildlife" program, which is a money-maker for the landowner as well as opening up private land to a limited amount of big-game hunting.  I wonder what will happen with that.

April 14, 2017

MOAB (Mother of All Bison) and Other Links

Steppe bison were the ones painted at
Altamira Cave in Spain (Wikipedia).
Research suggests that all North American bison (buffalo) are descended from one steppe bison, or Bison priscus, an ungulate that roamed Europe and Asia for millions of years.

And they were a lot bigger in the good ol' days:
"The scientists compared the mitochondrial DNA from the fossil found at Ch’ijee’s Bluff [Yukon] to that taken from 45 other bison remains, including one of the oldest and most interesting specimens, the fossil of a giant, long-horned bison — belonging to the species Bison latifrons — found in Snowmass, Colorado.

Bison latifrons is an interesting beast,” said Dr. Duane Froese, a geologist with the University of Alberta, in a separate statement.

“Its horns measured more than two meters across at the tips, and it was perhaps 25 percent larger than modern bison.”
All the kool kidz will be using these on their desert campouts soon. The Burners will have to have them. 

• Another illusion shattered. Human flesh may not be as nutritious as you thought.

April 05, 2016

Bear or Buffalo: You Decide


"Look at the bear rock," says M. from across the canyon. But is it? The commenter offering the best rationale for his or her position wins a giant invisible prize.

Photo taken at Colorado National Monument.

October 05, 2013

Bison, Bears, and Wolves . . . in Europe

That buffalo (bison) in the photo banner up top is part of a private herd at the Wolf Springs Ranch in Huerfano County, Colorado. Where he is grazing is historic habitat, but the herd was re-introduced and built up by a wealthy rancher, Tom Redmond.

His distant relatives in eastern Europe, once almost extinct, are making a managed comeback in Poland and Belarus. So are some other species that seemed likely to be preserved only in museums and heraldry, says The Telegraph:
The European bison, which was extinct in the wild in Europe at the start of the 20th century, has increased by more than 3,000 per cent after a large-scale breeding and reintroduction programme. It now has particular strongholds in Belarus and Poland.
Brown bear numbers have doubled and the grey wolf population of Europe quadrupled between 1970 and 2005.
There were also sharp rises in numbers of several species of bird, including the Svalbard breeding population of the barnacle goose, the white-tailed eagle and the Spanish imperial eagle.
But tell me, did someone at The Telegraph use a stock photo of North American bison? Compare to these.For a moment I wondered if someone was cross-breeding our bison, but I don't think so. The website of the European Bison Conservation Center says, "The [captive breeding] program should ensure separation of the pure Lowland and the Lowland-Caucasian lines and avoid hybridization with any other related species."


June 16, 2013

Blog Stew, a Little Burnt

Items that might deserve longer individual posts but will not get them. . .

Speculation about the closure of the Royal Gorge Bridge and park (now reduced to the bridge and a tollbooth, as in 1929) and its effect on southern Colorado tourism, with a telling photograph.

Unlike Bloomberg, I would not all the American Prairie Preserve project a "land grab." Its rich backers are buying the land. But true, once the number of cattle and/or sheep ranchers falls below some critical point, there might be domino effect on the rest.

• A piece from the Nature Conservancy magazine on "water wars" in the San Luis Valley. Speaking of rich guys buying up big chunks of the West, I don't care how many monks his wife brought in, I never trusted Maurice Strong at all. This was the issue that dominated the 1990s there and led, ultimately to a new map of the valley's west side.

September 06, 2012

Blog Stew with Only Purebred American Buffalo

• From Glenn Reynolds, a brilliant idea to encourage kids to play outside—make unstructured outdoor activities a class marker that helps your child get into prestigious schools.

Breeding "pure" buffalo at Colorado State University. (I had learned only in the past few years that many American buffalo have some domestic bovine genes.) So when do we get shows and and judges and ribbons and people talking about "the fancy"? Or does that already exist, and I don't know about it, not being friends with Ted Turner?

• At Vuurwapen (firearm) Blog, basically a hardcore shooting blog, a good post on "Why I Avoid Shooting Animals and Reptiles."

March 08, 2011

Blog Stew at These Prices

• Snarky people like to call Boulder, Colorado, "twenty-five square miles surrounded by reality." So what do you call Aspen? "Disneyland for adults" has been suggested.

• In my corner of Colorado, my rural DNS service got a grade of D, "slower than 72% of US." (Why we do not watch streaming movies—not at download speeds of 1.29 megabytes/second. Hurray for Qwest "Heavy Duty Internet/Broadband Service.")

• You can compare your broadband-connection speed to the rest of the country too.

• On the other hand, our friend the Sun could easily make the whole question irrelevant, destroying online connectivity overnight.

• Corson County, South Dakota, sheriff has more buffalo than people in his county.

• And what's this "singing sheriff" stuff? Custer County's Fred Jobe is "the singing sheriff." Do we need a Singing Sheriff Showdown?

November 08, 2010

A Grizzly Bear in Hot Pursuit

Alex Wypyszinski, a retired professor and amateur photographer, shot this amazing series of photos of a grizzly bear chasing down an injured bison when he stopped to take photos of geysers in Yellowstone National Park in May.
I have two days to get ready for a short elk hunt*, so I leave you with a series of photos (if you have not already seen them elsewhere) of a grizzly bear's pursuit of an injured bison right down a highway in Yellowstone National Park, courtesy of Field & Stream.
Something that makes these photos even more remarkable is that [Alex] Wypyszinski didn’t use a high-end camera and lens to shoot the series.

“It was just a (digital) point-and-shoot, but it had a 15x zoom lens on it. The professionals are always out there with their 800mm lenses and run around in a group when they hear about something like this…”
As the man (possibly Weegee) said, "f/8 and be there." Today, it's more like "fresh batteries and be there."

* The elk are regular-size. The hunting period is only five days.

October 07, 2008

Built for Comfort, not for Speed

Buffalo in the road. Yellowstone Park. Oct. 2, 2008. Photo by Chas S. Clifton
In his novel Ægypt, John Crowley's protagonist sees someone driving a "Bison" station wagon. Evidently it looked like this.

February 03, 2006

Buffalo thoughts

When I was little, my father was a Forest Service district ranger in the Black Hills. One year his name came up in the drawing for the chance to shoot a buffalo (the term customarily used) in the annual herd cull at Custer State Park. He went, he shot, we ate. It was not a hunt, he emphasized, but more "like shooting a cow in a pasture."

His great-uncle, William Fredrich Schmalsle, one of the commercial hunters who pretty well eliminated the great southern herd in the 1870s, might have concurred.

Custer State Park used to be one of very few places to see bison. They were in all the Western movies that required rampaging buffalo.

Now bison are are an industry. (The various local industry groups seem to be split on whether they are "bison" or "buffalo".)

Every industry has a trade group and a spokesman, and this one says, "As we continue to rebuild the herds out there and to bring the species back from a point where it was on the brink of extinction 120 years ago, it really requires that it end up on the dinner plate, for the ranchers to have the incentive to bring the animals back."

Some Indian tribes have started their own herds, while buffalo-hunting now joins salmon-fishing in the treaty rights arena.

One bison (that word still seems artificial to me) rancher in this county cited their advantages over cattle: low-cholesteral meat, hardiness and ease of care, and, not inconsequential, the additional dollar value of the hide and the skull, as long as people want to hang the last on their walls for that Old West look.

So are we moving towards the "Buffalo Commons," in a piecemeal fashion?

Someone snapped Dad's photo: hunter, rifle, deceased Bison bison. Forty years later, he was still complaining about the fact that he was wearing a necktie in the picture, because he had come straight from a visit to the forest supervisor's office in Custer, S.D.--the only times that he wore his full uniform.

And if you want your own hunt, guides are ready to oblige. Or birding likewise.

April 07, 2005

Buffalo dreams

The "Buffalo Commons" idea put forth in the 1980s lives on: a lightly populated area of the High Plains whose economy, at least partly, would revolve around bison.

The Buffalo Commons will be a restored and reconnected area from Mexico to Canada, where we humans learn to work together across borders that were artificial in the first place. The Buffalo Commons means the day when the fences come down. The buffalo will migrate freely across a restored sea of grass, like wild salmon flow from the rivers to the oceans and back. Settled areas can --like they do in Kenya-- fence the animals out, not fence them in.

That's the dream.

November 27, 2004

Another bison history

The idea that prehistoric hunters, wielding the big spear points associated with Folsom Man, etc., killed all much of the North American megafauna (mammoths, giant ground sloths, etc.) has become almost "gospel." Likewise, these hunters are accused of killing off the former giant bison and/or forcing them into dwarfism--yes, the bison or American buffalo we know now would be the "dwarf."

New research, however, suggests that the hunting peoples maybe were not to blame.

On that larger topic of "missing" animals, Connie Barlow's Ghosts of Evolution is an excellent read. After reading it last year, I can never look at an avocado or the common roadside "coyote gourd" the same away again.