The Winnipeg Tribune
Winnipeg Manitoba Canada Nov 6, 1922
The buffalo, which within the memory of men still active in the business world, roamed the prairies of the Canadian West, literally in millions, and which narrowly escaped total extinction, to coming back. A dozen years ago, only a few hundred of the species existed. Today there are estimated to be possibly12,000 buffalo on the North American continent. And of these, between seven and eight thousand are calculated to be in Canada. The domestic cattle strain apparent in many of the animals, but for the most part; they look like real bison.
Buffalo Bones C.P.R. Freight
About forty years ago the last remnant of the wild buffalo disappeared from the Canadian plains. Only big plies of blenched bones remained to attest the slaughter and to give the infant C.P.R. it’s first freight eastward. The bones were carried to Montreal, for use in sugar refineries. Save for a small herd on Peace River which exists today under the protection of the Mounted Police, and for a few animals on Lord Strathcona’s Manitoba estate, the buffalo, once estimated to number between 20 and 40 millions on this continent had almost vanished. A few small private herds were owned in the United States.
Canada’s Buffalo Park
About 26 years ago the Dominion government purchased Lord Strathcona’s herd and took them to the national park at Banff. Thirteen years ago Canada decided to create a game reserve in the Northwest. Accordingly, 162 square miles of sandy, rolling prairie, dotted with clumps of poplar and little lakes, and unsuitable for agriculture, was set aside and girt with a woven wire fence ten feet high. Into this enclosure were turned antelope, moose elk, deer, and with them some 109 buffalo. The buffalo consisted of the small herd from Banff and of those bought from Michael Pablo, a Montana rancher.
Animals Have Increased
Turned loose under the best natural conditions in this park situated at Wainwright, Alberta, about 100 miles due east of Edmonton, Alberta, the buffalo thrived from the start. Last spring the caretakers counted 6,146 animals, and though the 1922 calf crop cannot be counted until the buffalo are herded into winter quarters, it Is estimated that there will be an addition of from 1,000 to 1,500 woolly little hump-backed calves following their fierce, shaggy mothers. Besides the herd at Wainwright, Canada also has 300 head at Elk Island park, Alberta, 12 head at Banff, and a few buffalo in the zoos at London, Ont., Vancouver, Winnipeg parks and at a few other points, to say nothing of the wild herd at Peace River, whir roaming over a vast area of prairie and bush, makes composition of its numbers hopeless. The Mounted Police at Fort Smith, estimate the Peace River herd at anywhere from 600 to 2,000 head. So it is possible that Canada has between eight and nine thousand buffalo today.
Hunting Bison in a Ford
“Buffalo have been known to attack automobiles. Visitors venturing into the park this way, do so at their own risk,” warned a notice at the gates of Wainwright reserve, as the writer entered it. But his guide, a lad in a Ford laughed at the decrepit injunction, ran his car off the trail over the rough prairie, up hill, and down dale, through sand and long grass, among the poplar bluffs to discover the herd. It is rather a fearsome feeling to find oneself in the midst of big buffalo bulls, one bunt from whose enormous bodies would demolish an auto and which could move far faster in the sand than any car. But though they looked ugly they seemed peaceable, and would not molest one unless the horn were blown when trouble might occur.
Some of the big bulls are death on, horsemen and the government range riders have had to use their spurs on more than one occasion to escape the furious charge of an angry bison. No one dares to venture near them on foot, though a greenhorn once walked right across the park one moonlight night without molestation, though he was right among the herd. Hardy in the extreme, the buffalo mostly rustle their own feed in winter, pawing through the light snow to the cured prairie grasses. About 800 tons of hay is put up to feed the calves
May Kill 1,000 Buffalo
Naturally, there is now an undue preponderance of bulls in the herd and fights are frequent, many being to the death. So a thinning out is in prospect and sometime this fall the caretaker proposes to kill off possibly 1,000 head of the older bulls. The animals will then be in prime condition. .The meat is to be disposed of through local dealers all over Canada, and the robes, then which old timers in the west say there is nothing warmer, will be sold by public auction. Buffalo meat is delicious and when this novelty appears on the market, as it once did in dried form, at times in days long past, there are likely to be many purchasers.
BACK IN THOSE DAYS
The Winnipeg Tribune
Dec. 25 1922
The buffalo wandered over the prairies in their thousands. But the killing of them went on with such rapidity after the middle years of the last century that this species came close to extinction. If it were not for the Flathead herd, the buffalo might now be pretty nearly as extinct as the Great Auk. The beginning of the Flathead herd was in the spring of 1874, when Walking Coyote, a Pend d’Oreille Indian on a Montana reservation, was with a hunting party in the Milk River country close to the international boundary, which killed some of the last of the buffalo. Pathetically, four little buffalo calves, whose mothers had been killed, followed the horses of the hunters. Walking Coyote took and cared for the four little creatures- two bulls and two heifers- and left them at the St. Ignatius mission, the centre of the Flathead reserve in Montana.
They became pets and objects of interest around the mission. By 1884 their progeny numbered 14. And that year Donald McDonald, the last man to represent the Hudson’s Bay company on United States territory, entered into negotiations to purchase that little herd of last plains buffalo remaining alive. But C. A. Allard and Michel Pablo, two Montana ranchers, made a deal with Walking Coyote, at $250 ahead for the animals. Walking Coyote insisted on having actual money; he refused to accept a cheque. Allard and Pablo were busy counting out the greenbacks into piles of $100, each of which was placed under a stone when they saw a mink. Instantly Walking Coyote and both the ranchers went after the mink, and for some minutes forgot the piles of money, to which they hurried back, to find it safe, with the lone Indian looking at it with covetous eyes.
In 1893 Allard and Pablo bought the remnant of “Buffalo’s” Jones herd at Omaha, which had been purchased from Col. Benson, at Stony Mountain, who had got them from Hon. James McKay, at Deer Lodge, who was in one of the early Manitoba governments and had started his little buffalo herd shortly before Walking Coyote came into possession of the four little buffalo calves. The Buffalo now in Winnipeg are descendants of Hon. James McKay’s buffalo; the animals of that herd which Col. Benson did not get were bought by Sir Donald A. Smith, afterward Lord Strathcona, and given by him to the Dominion government, Winnipeg, with a great deal of trouble, managed to get four of that lot. It is thus plain that all the buffalo in existence are closely allied.
In 1906 the Dominion government bought the Flathead herd, which by that time had increased to some 700 animals, from Michael Pablo whose partner C. A. Allard, had died in 1896. About $200,000 was paid for the herd. Seventy-five cowboys made the last round-up, which was a work of tremendous difficulties, and took two months. Only three times in six weeks of daily drives did the cowboys succeed in getting any of the buffalo into the corrals. The buffalo, when they found themselves being driven from their native pastures, turned on the cowboys. Many horses were killed, and many cowboys injured. Finally, fences 26 miles long, converging to the corrals at Ravalli, Montana, were built, and the buffalo were gradually brought together. From Ravalli, they traveled by railway to the reserve provided for them near Wainwright, where they have increased and multiplied, until now numbering some 7,000. It was announced from Ottawa last week that the department of the interior has in contemplation killing of about 1,000 of them, to keep the reserve at Wainwright from being overcrowded.
The accompanying illustration is reproduced from a photograph made during the roundup in Montana in 1906. On the back of the photograph is written: “Their last drink on their native range half-mile from the shipping corrals at Ravalli Montana.”
La Grande Observer
La Grande, Oregon Jan 8 1923
Wild Buffalo Still Exist
The Canadian government has taken a census of a herd of wild bison which pastures in the far Northwest of the Dominion in the Peace River region and it is found that there are 5,000 to 6,000of the animals. These are the only survivors of the great herds which once roamed from the Alleghenies westward, except those which have been placed in parks or on protected ranges. It is surprising to learn that there are any survivors in the free state. For a time it looked like the buffalo might become extinct, but that result is no longer feared. In fact some herds have become so numerous that it has been necessary to slay a portion each year.
The wanton .slaughter of the buffalo has been lamented often, yet their presence as incompatible with the immigrants who sought out their grazing grounds in which to found homes. The animals served as food only in emergency. The remnant which is found in Canada exists, doubtless because it is far removed from the settlements of man. If the day arrives when man wants for his own then, pastures they too will be sacrificed
Altoona, Pennsylvania Jan 16, 1923
CANDAIAN GIFT TO THE LONDON ZOO
A pair of American bison, a gift from the Canadian government, arrived at the Zoological hardens one morning recently. This addition is specially welcome, as although the American bison is represented by several specimens in the society’s collection, these are all derived from a stock bred in this country either in Regent’s park or in the Duke of Bedford’s menagerie at Woburn Abbey and the introduction of new blood should help to maintain the breed. The European bison, a fine specimen of which is exhibited in an enclosure in the cattle house, alongside the new arrivals, may be said to be practically extinct in the wild state, being dependent on its existence for a small herd kept at Woburn. Prior to 1914 the animal was fairly abundant in the Caucasus and the forests of Lithuania, where it received, the protection of the Russian government. In Poland it was completely wiped out during the war, when all the bison were slaughtered for food. There is fortunately, no danger of the American species being exterminated, as a very large herd is being maintained by the Canadian government. London Telegraph.
A BISON HUNT LIKE THE DAYS OF BUFFALO BILL!
San Francisco Chronicle Nov 18, 1923
Canadian Hunters Will Slay Two Thousand Big Bulls at Their Round-Up in December
WORLD OF SPORTSMEN MAKE EAGER PLEA TO BE ALLOWED SHOT AT POWERFUL ANIMALS
Because an Indian had a quarrel with his father-in-law, the dominion of Canada became the owner of the greatest herd of buffalo in the world, and American citizens will have an opportunity of ordering Buffalo steaks in the best restaurants and hotels this winter.
The herd living under conditions almost identical with those which prevailed in the early days on the plains have multiplied so rapidly, especially the bulls, that the dominion has been forced to dispose of some 2000 or 2500 of them. The Wainwright Buffalo Park at Wainwright, Alberta, contains 160 square miles, all fenced in and here resides 1500 Buffalo. These figures well convey an idea of the vast number that made black the territory between the Mississippi and the Rocky mountains less than 100 years ago.
Within the memory of man now living buffalo were slaughtered for hides alone. Many are that picturesque figures of the early days on the plains that have had for backgrounds vast herds of the shaggy-coated creatures. Buffalo Bill won his name because of his skill in shooting them, and members of European ruling houses have been entertained by buffalo hunts. But man and the elements played and havoc with the herds. The white man was not the only offender, for the Indian looked upon the buffalo as a sort of inexhaustible perambulating larder, and killed, with no thought of the day when his chief source of food would be gone. The fates play strange tricks in the destinies of men and nations, and though it may seem paradoxical, the red man, who played as inglorious a role as the white man in the virtual extinction of the buffalo, was unwittingly the original cause of its preservation.
ONLY 1000 LEFT THIRTY YEARS AGO
For more than a half a century red man and white carried on such wanton warfare against the Buffalo that Dr. W. T. Hornaday, the distinguished American zoologist, is authority for the statement that in 1889 the total number of buffalo running wild and I’m protected in the United States and Canada was less than 1000. This contrast vividly with the writings of David Thomson, who, in 1901, said “the prairies are actually covered with buffalo,” and again in 1914, when he tells us, “the ground was covered with buffalo at every point of the compass, so far as the eye could see.”
Their very numbers invited destruction, commencing with the slaughter by the Indians for food and for the display of their powers as hunters- the successful Buffalo Hunter ranked high as the consistent slayer.
The fate of the majestic animals was sealed with the building of the first Canadian Transcontinental Railway in 1865. The construction of this line divided the herd into two bodies. The one spread north into Alberta, the other South into Saskatchewan and Alberta, there to be slaughtered by the plains Crees. Persecuted by the Crees, the southern herd fled further south over the boundary into the United States, where similar fate befell them at the hands of the white man. Settlers, wolves, Indians and winter storms took dreadful toll of the northern herd and by 1889 it to had disappeared. That, very briefly, is the sad story of the buffalo.
But fate, which had dealt so cruelly with these great animals had decided to preserve them to prosperity. Into the settling in 1873, there came Walking Coyote, a Pend d’ Oreille Indian, who was wintering with a squaw and son-in-law among the Piegans Indians on Milk river, where the town of Buffalo, Mont. Now stands.
INDIANS QUARREL OVER HORSE TRADE
Over a horse deal, Walking Coyote and his son-in-law quarreled and parted. The sun fled north to Saskatchewan and they are pined for the company of his tribe. One day, taking part in a buffalo hunt, he separated two calves-a bull and a cow-from their mothers, and with them in tow, as hostage of peace, he returned, a red prodigal son, bringing his “fatted calf” with him to the fold. Old Walking Coyote accepted them and the son-in-law, and the first link in the regeneration of the buffalo herds had been forged. Walking Coyote took the calves to St. Ignatius Mission on the Flathead Reservation, and there they thrived.
The increase was slow, but in 1884 Walking Coyote had a herd of thirteen animals. These becoming too great a tax on his resources and _______, he sold them to A. C. Allard, who, with Michael Pablo, owned a ranch nearby. Pablo was shrewd Mexican halfbreed, and with greater wisdom than most men possess, he had foreseen the day when the buffalo would be worth much money.
OWNED NUCLEUS OF GREAT CANADIAN HERD
It was at his suggestion that Allard completed the bargain and became the owner of the nucleus of the great herd of 3500 buffalo to be found in Wainwright Buffalo Park, Alberta, Canada today.
The animals were let loose on the ranch and they realm the herd as in the primitive days of their existence. In 1903 they were augmented by the purchase of the remnants of the herd owned by Buffalo Jones of Omaha. This purchase totaled forty-four animals of which twenty-six were thoroughbreds and eighteen hybrids. The latter were segregated and not allowed to meet goal with the purebred herds, and both herds showed an encouraging annual increase.
Allard died (1896) and most of the herd past into the possession of Pablo. In 1907, this shrewd man foresaw another change. The invasion of settlers, of sheep ranches, the springing up of villages and towns, warned him that not for much longer could the ranches be maintained unfenced and un-protested.
PABLO DECIDES TO SELL BISON
He decided to sell his buffalo. He looked about for a buyer. He tried that government of the United States, but his price did not meet with approval. He tried Canada, and Canada contracted for 1000 animals at $250 per head. Altogether, Pablo was able to deliver 114.
The rounding up of these animals is a story in itself. Pablo had never given his herd particular attention and they roamed wild in the Hills. It was known, therefore, that the task of rounding them up would be difficult, but how difficult few really understood.
In the early summer of 1907 Pablo collected a posse of the fastest horses and the best riders in Montana. The dangers were many, for a buffalo can out run a swift horse, and when cornered he will turn and fight to the death. Time after time a hand was on the verge of being impounded, on the threshold of the corral, when a wild revolt of the leaders would plunge the whole herd into a panic, permitting their escape to the four corners of the range.
TRAPPING HERD DANGEROUS SPORT
During the first year, 411 were captured and shipped. One shipment of 111 was made in the spring and the remainder in the fall. These animals were, for the most part, driven into the corrals by means of a specially constructed guiding fence, which was twenty-six miles long. The following autumn another attempt was made to secure more Buffalo. After six weeks arduous riding, the herders succeeded in rounding up about 200 of the animals and held them in readiness for driving to the loading corrals. In the night the whole herd escaped by climbing and almost perpendicular cliff and breaking away to the mountains.
The following summer the riders were more successful and another shipment was made. By constructing cages were in animals were transported to the railway, the buffalo were finally dispatched to their home in Canada. Eight of the animals in the shipment destroyed themselves in their frantic efforts to escape.
TOO MANY BULL FOR SIZE OF HERD
The Park at Wainwright becoming annually increasingly popular as a stopover point for tourist contains 140 square miles of fenced-in prairie lands. It is estimated about 125 miles east of Edmonton, the capital city of the Province of Alberta. Here the Buffalo have found an agreeable environment and have propagated rapidly. At approximately half the herd of 3500 are bulls, and it seems to be the rule of the herd to allow one bull to have two mates, there is a surplus of bulls. The rapidity with which the herd has grown has created a problem in forage, and to solve it the Canadian government has decided to kill off 2000 bulls. The slaughter will take place in December, and will be under government supervision.
BIG HOTEL COMPETES FOR SHARE OF DELICACY
In the marketing of the meat, which is said to be even finer than the best beef, the government will have the controlling hand. Already orders have been placed by hotels and restaurants in San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Chicago and other large American cities. Altogether 1,000,000 pounds of fresh Buffalo meat will be placed on the market.
The hides, to, will be sold. Before that advent of the automobile, they were in great demand for robes, and added trial sale at the Montréal for market two years ago these hide sold for $320 each. If the price offered is not satisfactory, they will be disposed of to woolen manufacturers, for the wool of the buffalo can be woven into yarn of extraordinary strength’
SOUVENIR HUNTERS BID FOR HEADS
The demand by souvenir hunters for the heads of the animals is already very large. A substantial source of income will be thus created, for the last year the lowest price offered for Buffalo heads was $300. This was for a small head. A medium-sized had brought $610, and a large head $1035. The money realized will be devoted to the upkeep and expansion of the park and it is confidently expected that within a few years the great buffalo herd of Canada will be steady paying borders.
Notes* The Canadian government established the park in 1922 to protect a remnant herd of wood bison (a sub-species of the American plains bison), setting aside a large area of boreal forest plain that straddles the border between the province of Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Preserving the bison did not necessarily mean “hands-off” management, however, as government officials soon hatched a scheme to transport thousands of plains bison from the fenced and overstocked Buffalo National Park (a former park in southern Alberta) to the supposedly understocked range of Wood Buffalo National Park. Zoologists in Canada, the United States, and Britain vigorously and almost unanimously opposed the plan, fearing the loss of the wood bison sub-species to hybridization and the transmission of tuberculosis from the infected herds in southern Alberta. But government officials stubbornly persisted, transporting 6,673 plains bison to Wood Buffalo National Park between 1925 and 1928. (http://www.environmentandsociety.org/)
Galena Evening Times
Galena Kansas Dec 15 1923
The movies record history in the making. . . . When the Canadian government staged a round-up of 8,000 buffalos in the Alberta National Park, Tom Ince was there to put the whole scene on celluloid. . . . This will be, probably, the largest herd of the almost-extinct bison that the eye of man shall ever see. . . . The stampede round-up was held to slaughter 2,000 excess bulls. . , . The motion pictures will be part of a new feature, “The Last Frontier” . . . which will not be complete until Spring. . . .
The Winnipeg Tribune, Feb 14, 1925
The Return Of The Buffalo
WILL THE BUFFALO HUNTS OF BYGONE DAYS BE RESTORED?
Editors Note: The buffalo is coming back again. Those who feared that the splendid animals were becoming extinct are now reassured by the great increase in their numbers during the past few years. To this fact, responsibility may be placed on the great buffalo parks such as the one at Wainwright, Alberta. It is even believed by many that the buffalo hunts like those of the Indians in bygone days will someday be revived.
“Of all the quadrupeds that have lived upon the earth, probably no other species ever marshalled such in innumerable host as those of the American bison.”
This statement, written some years ago by Professor W. T. Hornaday, a famous American scientist, is brought to mind by the despatches from Ottawa as to the Wainwright National Park, Alberta. Until these reports appeared few people in Canada knew that there were over 3,000 head of buffalo there. Fewer still outside of this country had such knowledge.
It is now suggested that the total of buffalo is far beyond that which could be supported at the Park in a year or more of the drouth and that a thousand or more of the young animals may be shipped to the Wood Buffalo Park Preserve in Northern Alberta. What a possibility that opens! It may result in the buffalo, practically restored to natural conditions, thriving to such an extent as to permit of hunting them, under license and strict regulations, in a fixed season of the year. Some old hunters fear that will never happen. Those who have seen the Wainwright herd grow from a few hundred to the thousands of today think that it will.
The Wainwright herd seems large to a generation that has no firsthand knowledge of the buffalo herds that once roamed the prairies of the North America continent. Their estimated numbers stagger the imagination, thirty million being the minimum and sixty the maximum. As late as 1870 the figures were as high as six million. The buffalo could have been saved then as a game animal and a source of revenue from licenses and robes, by allocating areas in which their protection would have been comparatively easy matter. But with the thoughtlessness and callousness that hardly has a parallel anywhere in the world, the war of extermination was continued until the prophecies of a few who had the hitherto raised their voices in vain, were found to be actualities – the buffalo had disappeared.
It took a few years to convince the buffalo slayers that they had done their work too well. In the buffalo areas of Canada and the republic, there was a firm conviction that it was a case of a new migration and that somewhere in Canada the buffalo had found new grounds whence in a season or two they would return to their haunts of other years.
Meantime some of the Indian tribes almost entirely dependent upon buffalo meat suffered in an acute physical manner for their share of the slaughter of the plains. Buffalo skins which in thousands of cases had not even been cut from the carcasses, and which had been so, and as to be almost despised, began to assume new values.
In the years that followed, the remnants of once mighty herds were encountered on occasion in the outpost of civilization. An officer of the Hudson Bay Company, writing from Fort Edmonton in 1887, said:” in our district of Athabasca, along the Salt River, there are still a few wood buffalo killed each year, but they are fast diminishing in numbers and are also becoming very shy.”
Of an earlier period, Professor John Macoun said in one of his publications: “in the winter of 1870 the last buffalo were killed North of the Peace River, but in 1875 about 1,000 head were still in existence between the Athabasca and Peace Rivers, north of Little Slave Lake. These are called wood buffalo by the hunters, they differ only in size from those of the plains.”
When the Buffalo Disappeared
The early eighties saw the practical disappearance of the wild buffalo from both the United States and Canada. Here and there on private ranches or public reserves, a few survivors of the plains buffalo as distinguished from the somewhat lighter wood buffalo, lingered, mutely pathetic object lessons of what had once been vast herds, knowing no law or restraints except those which nature imposed.
In all the years between the myth of a great herd of buffalo somewhere in Canada, persisted. It had its origin with the hunters bygone days; nothing could kill it. It was revived by the aged and hailed with delight by a new race of hunters a few years ago when it became fairly well-established that wild buffalo had been seen in the Mackenzie River area. F. H. Kitto, a Government official, confirmed the news and came back from the district with some pictures of Wildwood buffalo taken under trying conditions, for the animals were shy, and it was a matter of difficulty to get within camera shot distance of them. A pitifully few hundreds of these would buffalo seem to have defied the onslaught of the civilization that wiped out their kindred of the plains. They are now under government enemies. But they and the buffalo, of course, guard them against every danger – hunters for whom the law has no meaning, wolves, and other enemies. But they had the buffalo from Wainwright Park it is proposed to turn loose in their territory, may do well in the next few years.
If there is a happy result of the attempt to bring back the buffalo, it will not be without its material benefits to the country. The last real hunt for buffalo in the United States took place on Buffalo Island, Great Salt Lake, where a privately owned herd of 250 animals were thinned out by the slaying of some of the older and wilder animals. Hundreds of big-game hunters from all over the country flocked to the scene and gladly paid $200 ahead for each bison they killed.
Not as a game animal alone would the propagation of the buffalo be of benefit to the country. For its fur and it’s meat the buffalo is also of value beyond that of which most people have any idea. The pioneer settlers of the West could tell many a tale of what buffalo meant to them for food and clothing too. It has truly been said that the buffalo can weather storms and outlive cold that would kill any domestic animal. That makes it more difficult to understand why the ruthless slaughtering was kept up as if the buffalo was a species of deadly Berman that must be wiped off the earth in the shortest possible time.
The records show that there are some qualifications to the fact that buffalo can defy the weather. In 1871 some explorers found buffalo in considerable numbers in a restricted territory in the southern shore of Great Slave Lake. But in a journey along one of the rivers in the district, they went for miles along old buffalo trails on which were many skulls and bones. In answer to inquiries, trappers and hunters told them that 40 or 50 years before there had been a terrific storm, during which snow fell to a depth of 14 feet on the level, and of course, piled to great heights in open ground. Thousands of buffaloes perished in that storm.
Tarre was a day when buffalo roamed around what is now the city of Winnipeg, but as far back as 1840, it is said that the species was practically unknown from the Red River to the Cheyenne.
Professor Hornaday and others say that in 1857 the Plains Crees, in the country around the headquarters of the Qu’Appelle River, 250 miles West from Winnipeg, seem to have some premonition of what was happening. They assembled in Council and determined that in consequence of the promises “often made and broken by the white men and half-breeds, and the rapid destruction by them of buffalo they fed on,” they would not allow them to hunt and their country, or to travel through it except for the purpose of trading there for dried buffalo meat, pemmican, skins and robes. Nothing was said at the Council, or if so it was not recorded, as to the part that Crees themselves were plain in depleting the herds.
Pemmican, the special preparation of buffalo meat, once sold as low as two pence (four cents) a pound in Winnipeg. But in 1883 the very small quantity which reached the city brought 16 cents a pound. It is claimed by some that this was the last pemmican made from wild plains buffalo, this is from animals not confined to private ranges. It has been made from beast slaughtered at the Wainwright reserve to keep the numbers there within reasonable bounds. It was once a greatly prized food or hunters, explorers and pioneers. To these not accustomed to it pemmican is as palatable as a piece of hardwood, but it filled no mean role in sustaining life for those who opened up the western and northern areas of Canada. The buffalo steaks served in recent years and a number of restaurants throughout the country also came from the annual depletion process at Wainwright, are good eating.
The head at Wainwright is the outcome of the purchase by the Dominion government about 1908, of a few hundred buffalo from Michael Pablo, a half-breed rancher in the valley of the Pend O’Reille River, on the Flathead Reservation across the line. They, in turn, were the descendants of a score or two of the original plains herds deliberately saved because it was thought they might be the only survivors of once mighty host. Pablo tried to sell them to the United States government and to private American interest, but without success. On his ranch, they roamed at large with his cattle, and the job of rounding them up after purchase by the Canadian government was as full of incident as any buffalo hunt of the past. A few escaped and some were accidentally killed, but most of the herd became Canadians. Their thousands are the best testimony to their present environment.
The Winnipeg Tribune
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada July 14, 1925
Is Wood buffalo In Danger?
WHEN experts disagree, said a French cynic, is the time for the common man to learn something.
Until the Dominion government decided to move a large number of the surplus buffalo from Wainwright to the wood bison reserve between the Peace River and Great Slave Lake, the average Canadian probably did not know that there are two quite distinct species of buffalo in this country, the plains buffalo, and the wood bison.
The government! decision has been attacked by a number of zoologists on the ground that such a policy will lead to the extermination of the wood bison, The dissimilarities of the two animals, authorities say, are very pronounced and for many reasons they should be kept apart.
The great herds of buffalo referred to by early travelers were confined to the prairies and treeless plains. This is the buffalo now in the Wainwright preserve, the species with which the public is more or less familiar. The forest-clad northern areas supported a different species the wood bison, in very small numbers. The difference between the two animals is described by a Canadian Zoologist” in the current issue of the Canadian Forum. The wood bison, says this writer. Is very much larger and heavier than his relative of the plains. The robe is of such silky texture that it can be readily distinguished from that of the plains buffalo. It is also darker in color. In temperament and habits, due to their different environment, they are in strong contrast
Owing to the surplus of plains buffalo at Wainwright it has become necessary, for the Dominion government to dispose of 2,000 every year. Plans have already been made to ship this number to the northern reserve to mix with the few wood bison who are already In possession. This policy has been sharply criticized by Mr. Francis Harper, a distinguished American zoologist. In the February issue of the Canadian Field-Naturalist. Mr. Harper wrote:
“If the surplus stock of the Wainwright herd cannot be turned out in some of the thinly settled districts of central Alberta, to be hunted under suitable restrictions, would it not be wiser to send them to the slaughter-house at once, rather than to undertake the enormously expensive and difficult job of transporting them to northern Alberta and leaving them there to work slow but sure havoc through Interbreeding with the superb wood buffalo? If a single importation of plains buffalo is made, could the effect ever be undone? Could it mean anything less than an unnatural change in the characteristics of practically the only representatives of the genus bison that are left in a perfectly wild and free state?”
Another zoologist writes even more strongly. By what principles of conservation,” he asks, “is the government prepared to defend the swamping of a magnificent nucleus of large, healthy animals by an overwhelming majority of inferior beasts of diseased ancestry? Never before in the annals of conservation have the last survivors of a unique race of animals been knowingly obliterated by a department of conservation.”
The Dominion government’s experts defend their policy by asserting that the northern reserve is very large and that the new arrivals would be shipped in at a point some distance from the present occupants. But their critics quote Ernest Thompson Seton’s estimate that the northern Alberta country is only capable of supporting five buffalo to the square mile. With an influx of 2.000 plains buffalo every year added to the natural increase of both species, it would not be long before they would be brought together in their search for food.
Up to the present, only a small part of the government’s program has been carried out, and critics of the scheme are urging that the balance should be deferred until the zoologists on either side have come to some agreement as to the right course to pursue.
Saskatoon Daily Star
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada 5 Feb 1926
MUCH PICTURED BUFFALO IS DEAD
“Granny,” Only Tame Bison of Wainwright Herd Would Allow Cameras to Click
Special to the Star WAINWRIGHT. Alta.. Feb.5 “Granny,” the only tame Buffalo of the herd of 8,000 that are enclosed in the Wainwright Park has passed away at an age reckoned to be in the neighborhood of 18 years.
She will be much missed by the tourists that knew her, in that realty personal pictures could be procured, by having her called from the main herd by the well-known voice of a warden, when with a little feed of oats in front of her she paid little attention to the sightseers.
She had a peculiarity in that she had naturally bobbed tail, while her offspring all bore this semblance also distinguishing them readily from the remainder of the herd.
Her progeny is well represented within the herd and in other parts of the world. One of her youngsters graces a Belgium zoo, while another roams a park in the province of Quebec.
THE EVENING STAR.
WASHINGTON. D. C„ SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 1930.
The Move for More Musk Oxen.
That the recent official action of the Dominion of Canada to conserve her last existing herd of musk oxen will not be too late is the ardent hope of zoologists, naturalists and conservationists generally. It is yet debatable as to whether the American bison, usually styled “buffalo,” can be really “brought back,” notwithstanding the fact that of recent years the number of animals, both tame and wild, has notably increased. With the buffalo it is largely a question of available range, but with the musk ox this factor does not seem so important, as the animal Inhabits regions generally in hospitable to man. It is, as is so often the case, the hunters who are to blame.
East of the Great Slave Lake, Canada has established the Thelon game sanctuary, within whose confines this remnant of a once rather common animal now can exist and persist. No person, either Indian or white, will be permitted even to enter this 15,000-square-mile preserve unless by special arrangement. The musk ox, a ruminant intermediate in structure between the ox and the sheep, as its scientific name of “ovibos” indicates, was in comparatively recent times circumpolar in distribution. In the Pleistocene period it inhabited very considerable portions of Europe and America. For centuries it has been constantly hunted by the Eskimos for its skins and for food; although redolent of musk, its flesh is good. However, as in the case of the Indian versus the buffalo, it is not the copper-colored peoples w ho have done the damage, but those Caucasian fur traders, whalemen and explorers who have never known when to stop hunting. Twenty years ago its number was reported by observers as “much j diminished.” The habits of this shaggy creature, wary though it be, appear conducive to slaughter, for Instead of gathering in large herds, many of which; might escape, it groups itself into smaller units of twenty or thirty, which, once surrounded, can be slaughtered at will. Its present range is rarely south
of the “barren grounds,” although extending laterally from Great Slave Lake to Hudson Bay and over various arctic islands into Greenland.
All over the globe exist pitiful remnants of animal species once fairly or very numerous. Skilled breeding and watchful and scientific care may preserve a few individuals almost in definitely. Witness the aurochs, the European bison, once widely distributed and offering a favored form of big game since the time of Nero. Today, here and there one roams the Caucasian
Mountains while a single herd of a few hundred is preserved in a former imperial forest in Lithuania. Perhaps ovis poli, today even glimpsed by but few white men, may one day meet the same fate. It appears an almost necessary, though regrettable, concomitant of civilization that these various remarkable and often splendid animals, once a necessity to man, shall become in effect mere museum pieces.
The Ithaca Journal
Ithaca, New York 28 Mar 1930
Dominion Receives Clay Bison Group, Historical Replica
(by Science Service)
Ottawa. March -8 Canada, the Land of the Bison, has received a replica of the celebrated bison group which was modeled in clay by a first-rate artist of France some 30,000 years ago.
Dr. Henry M. Ami. who arranged for the clay bison to cross the Atlantic, points out that Canada’s real bison came from the Old World in prehistoric times. It is generally considered that the real bison reached America from the opposite direction, journeying eastward across Asia and entering Alaska.
Dr. Ami spent almost half of last year In France, excavating at important sites where, prehistoric men once lived. From this expedition, he has obtained collections of flint tools and weapons, and the bones of animals that supplied food to the primitive Europeans. Some of these collections have been placed in French museums. Other collections are now being distributed to museums of Canadian universities and to the Canadian National Museum, here.
Dr. Ami holds the view hat the Eskimos of northern Canada belong to the same family tree as some of these prehistoric Europeans whose art and industries are shown in the exhibits. According to this theory, one of the European races was driven eastward during the retreat of the northern ice sheet, when the animals wandered north. These people followed the reindeer, the great stag, the bison, musk-ox, lemming, marmot, and other animals until the chase led into northeastern Asia, and thence across into the New World.
On Ogden Standard Examiner, Dec 7 1930
Canadians Raise Cattalo,
Half Cow, Half Buffalo
TORONTO- Cattalo, a hybrid animal resulting from the cross-breeding of buffalo and domestic cattle, promises to become a reliable source of meat in northern Canada where domestic cattle, because of severe climate conditions, have found it hard to exist.
Possessing some of the characteristics of both cow and buffalo, the new type of animal has the meat qualities of beef cattle, and, like its buffalo forbearers, is hardy enough to find its own food even in the coldest weather.
The latter quality is highly desirable and cattle for the far north. By hunting their own food, the cattalo save settlers the labor of feeding them hey all winter. They can be left out to graze without fear of their becoming lost in the heavy snows.
The cattalo is the work of years of experimenting by the Canadian government. Owing to increased population in northern parts of the country, cattle for meat became necessary. And, because ordinary beef animals couldn’t withstand the rigors of northern winter, cross-breeding was started with buffalo and cows.
DIFFICULTY TO BREED
at first, the direct breeding between buffalo sire and domestic cow involved a number of difficulties. The buffalos showed a dislike for mixing with cows, and often times when breeding was successful, the calves were born dead, or males born were found to be sterile.
This difficulty necessitated bringing into the picture an animal closely akin to both buffalo and domestic cattle. This is the yak, from the steppes of Siberia and Tibet. The yak acts as the intermediate stage in the process of developing cattalo.
The hide of the cattalo is somewhat similar to that of the buffalo. It is heavily-haired and durable, making a warm cover. It is believed that the hide of this new animal will be used to take the place of buffalo robes which have almost become extinct during passing years. A great percentage of meat is carried in the hump of the cattalo, like that of the buffalo, although the hump of the former is not so pronounced as that on the latter.
YET ONLY EXPERIMENT
While the raising of cattalo is not yet an industry on the same scale as that of cattle raising, experiments are going ahead by the government, notably at Wainwright, Alberta, on the large buffalo park there. It takes a number of years for results.
Victoria British Columbia Canada Aug 22 1931
ZOO DIRECTOR SAILS TO GET RARE ANIMALS
1 Preservation of Nearly Extinct European Bison, Is Planned
Giant Forest Hog and Jungle- bred Lions May Cross the Ocean
New York, Aug 22. -Dr. W. Reid Blair, director of the New York Zoological Park, sailed on the steamer Minnetonka for a seven-weeks’ visit in Europe. While the immediate object of Dr, Blair’s trip abroad is to study at close hand present conditions affecting the European bison, or wisent, he will inspect some East Indian cattle at Alfeld, in Prussia, with the object of establishing a wild cattle division at the Bronx Park.
“This new division for wild cattle will probably be placed near the bison range at the southern end of the park,” Dr. Blair said. “At present we have only one wild Cape buffalo from Africa, a pair of gayals from East India and an anoa, a pigmy buffalo, from the Philippines.
“I plan to inspect a collection of gaur and banting from East India at Alfeld, and if specimens of these animals are acquired, I hope to have them here late this fall. They will be included in our wild cattle division.”
WISEST NEARLY EXTINCT
Regarding his special conservation mission in connection with the European bison, or wisent, Dr. Blair said at one time these animals roamed the Caucasus, Poland and Russia in large numbers, but according to the last census the total number of pure-blooded specimens is now reduced to fifty-nine, Including twenty-two breeding cows.
Before the war a large herd in northern Russia was protected by the Russian government, but during the war, he said, 700 of these animals were slaughtered, practically wiping out the European bison, with the exception of the few remaining animals now In Germany, Poland and at the estate of the Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey, near London, who Is deeply interested in their preservation.
Last spring the board of trustees of the New York Zoological Society decided to have Dr. Blair go to Europe this summer to inspect the various wisent collections and to confer with the officers of the European Bison Society regarding a plan to promote the preservation of the species on a permanent basis.
FUNDS TO BE MADE AVAILABLE
If a practical arrangement can be worked out to bring about the assured and more rapid rehabilitation of the wisent, the society is prepared. It was announced, on the strength of Dr. Blair’s report, to subscribe $3,000 annually for a period of five years to aid the promotion of the plan.
One proposal which Dr. Blair will submit to the Bison Society and the owners of the bison herds is that suitable areas shall be acquired where breeding animals may be sent to propagate according to the most approved methods of scientific breeding.
The efforts of the European Bison Society toward the rehabilitation of the small remnants of the wisent, although successful to some extent, have been rather discouraging, it was said, because of the economic depression in Europe following the war.
Dr. Blair will first visit the Duke of Bedford in England, then will consult with F. E. Blauuw, honorary president of the European Bison Society at Amsterdam. At Berlin he will be joined by Dr. Jurt Priemel, president of the society, and together they will visit the wisent collection owned by Coui Arnim-Boitzenburg, near Prenslau, and later visit Warsaw, Poxnan, Cracot Breslau, Dresden and Frankfort-on- the-Main.
The San Francisco Examiner
San Francisco California Oct 28 1931
Senator Capper also reminds you of Nature’s marvelous fertility, as follows. Twenty-four years ago, the Canadian government bought a few bisons from a Montana Indian. Canada’s bison herd now numbers 6,000, more than the allotted pasture land will take care of. Fifteen hundred young bisons must be slaughtered and eaten this year. No better meat than the hump of a young bison.
The Winnipeg Tribune
Winnipeg Manitoba Canada Nov 9 1931
CANADA’S FUR PRODUCTION
Though the bison is gone forever and the beaver and the marten are slowly following, the fur trade of Canada is showing no signs of decline,” says the New York Times.
From a Times Square eyrie no doubt it does appear that the bison is gone forever, but in Canada the bison is very much alive, and is increasing so rapidly that his old enemy, man, is having trouble finding room for the increasing herds.
The pelt of the bison, as every Winnipegger knows, was divinely ordained to protect policemen from January blasts, and these garments are not heirlooms. If the bison were gone forever, our guardians will have different bunny-wraps, but the fact is that Canada, unlike her neighbor to the south, started in to conserve some of her wild-life resources before it was too late.
Bison are not the only animals to benefit by the enlightenment which substitutes adaptation for extermination, and it Is possible that before long a way will be found to save the beaver.
Out of Canada’s twelve-million-dollar raw fur output last year, pelts from fur farms accounted for 19 percent as against 12 1 him/2 percent in the previous fur season. A few years ago all the species of animals now being bred on our fur farms were “wild,” and they were on the road to extinction. Today the silver fox, which used to eat its young if kept in captivity, is almost a domestic animal.
Slowly, but, unmistakably, by selective breeding and physical adjustment, the “wild” strain is disappearing. Man is becoming a protector and friend, and the fox, while still a long way from the calm assurance of the household kitten, is losing his nervousness.
Canada pioneered in the art of fur tanning, and is leading the way, step by step. No man can predict to what proportions this new industry will grow, but it has plenty of room to grow in Canada.
Albuquerque, New Mexico Mar 19, 1932
Q & A THE AMERICAN BISON
1) To what family does the bison belong?
The bison belongs to the species of European wild ox. The American bison, though belonging to the same family is, however, called the buffalo.
2) How does the American bison differ from the European?
The American bison is different in several respects. Hit hindquarters are weaker, and the withers proportionately higher; the horns are shorter, thicker and blunter, and the shape of the skull is different, the forehead being more convex. It is also distinguished by its great shaggy mass of brown or black hair covering the head, neck and fore part of the body.
3) For what purpose is the fur valuable?
The fur of the buffalo is valuable because of its unsurpassed warmth and utility in robes.
4) How much of North American territory was once inhabited by these animals?
The Buffalo once roamed in countless millions over one-third of North America. When the white men came to America, they found sections in the West where they were massed in herds covering thickly a twenty-five mile frontage and fifty miles deep.
5) What caused their almost complete extinction at one time?
The Indians killed off great numbers of them and the white men, too, in their expansion, of territory, killed them off in millions. The building of railroads through the West was also a large factor in destroying the animals. At one time from 1870 to 1875, in fact it was estimated that they were slaughtered to the number of 2,500,000 annually.
6) Where is there a great colony of these beasts at the present time?
In Wainwright National Park, Alberta, Canada.
7) How was the colony started?
In 1907 the Canadian government bought a herd of 716 animals from Michael Pablo, a half-breed Indian of Montana. They were put in Elk Island Park and as their number increased, the park’s facilities became inadequate. A national park was created especially for them near Wainwright, Alberta, and they were transferred. Today they number nearly 6.000, and in the intervening years, some have been transferred to other parks, so that their breed is increasing again and the fear of extinction has passed.
8) Is the flesh of the bison edible?
Yes, it is considered by connoisseurs to be a fine game meat.
9) On what does the buffalo feed?
They feed on coarse, armatic grass, on leaves, shoots, bark, and twigs of trees.
10) Have any been killed recently?
It was recently necessary to kill 1,500 of them. The Canadian government, under whose care all the great herds now exist, forbids the hunting of buffalo on national preserve but when the common interests of the herd demand, they kill off what is necessary.
Buffalo at National Park Wainwright Winnipeg Tribune Aug 21 1937
Bison Conservation: The Canadian Story
by Peter Lorenz Neufeld
Manitoba History, Number 24, Autumn 1992
This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.
Please direct all inquiries to email@example.com.
……From time to time writers extoll North American’s unusually successful conservation project of saving the prairie bison from annihilation. Invariably the impression is left that virtually alone a tiny handful of Americans conducted this worthy undertaking, with Canadians playing a negligible secondary role—a 90% versus 10% at best. In fact, the percentages are in reverse. At least ten Canadians, mostly Manitobans, played pivotal parts in saving the plains bison from extinction. Even of the half dozen Americans usually so credited, writers of this era referred to one as “French Canadian,” and a second was an American Indian living in Canada.
……In 1870-71 two young brothers, Bill Alloway and Charlie Alloway, came to Winnipeg as privates in the Wolseley expedition from Hamilton, Ontario where their father was a Queen’s Own Rifles captain. Charlie became a keen hunter and horseman. Often he roamed the Prairies trading and hunting with Métis and Indians. A description of one of his adventures appears in Wild West magazine of January 1972. On a trip to the Qu’Appelle Valley in Saskatchewan, his party was warned by Indians to move camp, which moments later was plowed to pulp by a “brown river of buffalo” while “for 24 hours men watched the steadily loping herd go by at the rate of about 10 a second” Alloway estimated that over a million bison passed by. Charlie, who took over the amateur veterinary practice Bill began and added a trading post, saw the handwriting in 1873 after buying 21,000 buffalo hides at $3-$4 each from a single brigade. He turned his attention, instead, to trying to stop the senseless slaughter of these fine animals.
Caricature of Charles Alloway, 1909.
Source: Manitobans As We See ‘Em, 1908 and 1909
Nan Shipley calls James McKay “Manitoba’s most outstanding citizen.” Val Werier depicts him as “a man of great girth and reputation, a buffalo hunter who weighed 350 pounds and was first speaker of the House” Edith Paterson refers to “a noted trader and hunter.”
In spring 1873 Alloway and McKay travelled west to capture buffalo calves. Taking along a domestic cow as foster mother they joined a Métis brigade and spent the whole summer capturing three young calves near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and bringing them safely to Winnipeg. Next spring they captured three more, but one died enroute home. Four years before his death in 1929, Charlie described these expeditions to a Winnipeg Tribune reporter.
James McKay, circa 1870s.
Source: Archives of Manitoba
The bison calves were placed in an enclosure near McKay’s home, just north of today’s Assiniboine Park. By 1878 the herd had grown to 13. James died next year and Charlie sold the animals to Col. S. L. Bedson (see below) for $1,000 because he was joining his brother Bill in banking with the private bank of Alloway and Champion (W. F. Alloway founded The Winnipeg Foundation). Long after Charlie’s death his widow, Maude, told the Manitoba Historical Society of her husband leading
a third bison-capturing excursion. In late winter of 1883 the party set out. Aside from the “capture of a number of fine specimen made with the assistance of several Indian buffalo hunters” in the Battle River region about 100 miles from Edmonton, Alberta, their greatest problem occurred crossing the spring-flooding Little Saskatchewan River between Minnedosa and Rapid City, Manitoba.
Samuel Lawrence Bedson, circa 1890.
Source: Archives of Manitoba
These calves too were corralled in the recently-vacated 30-acre pasture and “as with the other herds, these few multiplied to quite large proportions. A number of the buffalo in Assiniboine Park today are the progeny of this herd” At least three calves from that trip were acquired by Howard Eaton. Mrs. Alloway concluded: “It has been said that to Charlie Alloway should go the credit for the preservation of the buffalo in Manitoba for if it had not been for his foresight years ago, the American bison would be but a mist vision.” Samuel Lawrence Bedson also came West with Wolseley. A Montreal army officer’s son, he was placed in charge of Lower Fort Garry just down river from Winnipeg. When Ottawa established a penitentiary-mental hospital there in 1871 he became its first warden. Later he selected the Stony Mountain site a few miles westward for a new prison and upon its completion in 1877 continued in
charge there. A popular sportsman always surrounded by friends, Sam proved a kindly but just warden. A wildlife lover, he kept a menagerie of bears, badgers, wolves, deer, moose, geese and other game birds on his nearby farm.
The same morning the Alloway-McKay bison were moved to Stony Mountain, one cow had a calf. That night the herd escaped and tramped back to Winnipeg through deep snow. In the morning they were herded back to the prison, a total of 62 miles for the newborn calf. Under Bedson’s tender care the bison multiplied rapidly to over 100 by 1888. In 1928 the colonel’s son, K. C. Bedson, told a reported of how, as a youngster 40 years earlier, he had herded bison on the prairie near the prison. His popular mother, Jemima, was of great help to her husband in his various unusual endeavors.
By 1888 the settler influx and failing health forced Bedson to conclude it was no longer practical to keep his beloved bison. About six were donated to New York and London Zoos. At least 27 were given to Donald Smith (Lord Strathcona) to repay a loan. Most of the remaining herd, listed as high as 98 by some researchers and low as 56 by others, eventually went to C. J. “Buffalo” Jones, manager of Garden City (Kansas) Buffalo Company. No conservationist, he had hunted with Teddy Roosevelt in Africa and dreamed of creating a huge game preserve for hunters to hunt bison for a fat fee.
In November ‘89 when Jones was negotiating in Winnipeg, he had a standing offer of $60 per hide he could produce, $.50 per pound for meat to U.S. restaurants and $100-$500 a trophy head. Also he was besieged with telegrams from persons in Minnesota and the Dakotas anxious to buy bison at $500-$1,000 each. The sale was delayed briefly when some Winnipeggers tried to form a company to buy the bison to raise commercially. Bedson died in Ottawa at 49 in 1891.
Smith donated all but five of his bison to the Canadian government which installed them in Banff National Park where they flourished under Superintendent Douglas’ able care. Winnipeg’s street railway company bought the other five plus three from Eaton to donate to Assiniboine Park Zoo, where descendants are still popular with countless visitors each year.
During the mid-1870s one of the original nine Mountie commanding officers, Quebec-native Ephrem Brisebois, had fought a valiant but losing battle in what became southern Alberta to slow down the bison slaughter by developing strict hunting regulations. Unfortunately, this colourful, somewhat controversial sub-inspector who founded Fort Calgary (originally Fort Brisebois) was ignored by his own superiors, consequently made impotent to enforce the judicious restrictions, and resigned.
Much has been written of the role played in saving the plains bison by the Montana Pend d’Oreille, Sam Walking Coyote. Some hail him as a devoted conservationist, others laud his actions as a “ray of light in all the ruthless killing” of these noble beasts. Most have him capturing bison calves in Montana. However, we can thank the Montana Historical Society for separating fact from fiction. George Coder of Ohio State University has conducted detailed buffalo history research. As to who caught Sam’s bison, where and why, Coder points to the story in the November 1923 Rocky Mountain Husbandman as most accurate.
It began in 1873 at a Piegan camp on Montana’s Milk River where lived Sam “who had a sharp tongue, a swift temper and (a) son-in-law” who “cheated his wife’s irascible father in a horse swap,” arousing his ire. Life quickly became too hot around camp that winter for the young horse-trader because “every time the old man thought about him, he reached for something to throw; and his aim was good” Dixon Craig of the Edmonton Journal, who also did good bison research, called Sam a renegade. The young man left his parents-in-law and bride, and headed north into Saskatchewan where he became an honest hunter of what remained of the southern half of the once-great bison herd. One day he was lucky enough to capture some calves. A Canadian Press story datelined Wainwright, Alberta gave the number as two bulls and two heifers. Because he missed his young wife considerably, he decided perhaps her cantankerous dad might forgive him if he brought the calves as gift. He herded his peace offering into the U.S. where his father-in-law eagerly accepted it. Sam trailed his calves to this little farm on the Flathead Reserve where by 1884 the four had increased to 13. Old age and difficulty financing his wards caused him to sell.
Charles Allard, his father Caucasian and his mother Oregon Indian, is often called a “French Canadian.” Allard and his Mexican-Blackfoot ranching partner Michel Pablo, decided to buy most of Sam’s herd. Gene Telpner described the transaction. Sam refused “a white man’s cheque” so the ranchers had to dig up $2,500 cash. As the trio counted out the money, into 25 piles, a mink ran by. “With the instinct of the hunter strong in their spirits, they immediately gave chase, forgetting temporarily all about the buffalo herd and the large sum of money left lying on the ground” A 1948 Canadian Cattleman issue indicates that after the sale Sam “immediately hit for town and after a few weeks of city life was found dead under Missoula Bridge.”
By 1893 the Allard-Pablo herd on Pend d’Oreille reserve near St. Ignatius Mission had grown to 100. Meanwhile, Jones’ grandiose scheme faded when intense Texas heat and ticks killed most of his bison. He sold the remnant of 35 (one source says 26) to Allard and Pablo. After the former died in 1896, his half of the 300-head herd was divided among his heirs and many sold by them to U.S. zoos and game farms. Despite this, the herd, now owned by Charles Allard Jr. and brother Joseph, Pablo, and Andrew Stringer, totalled 250 in 1899. By 1906 it numbered almost 800 and was the main plains bison herd in North America, the only other of note being the herd in Banff National Park.
Four Canadians, two being Manitobans, played key roles in returning the Montana bison to Canada. Norman Luxton, son of noted journalist W. F. Luxton, (Toronto Globe, Winnipeg Free Press, Nor’Wester) was the progressive publisher of Banff’s Crag and Canyon Weekly. Alex Ayotte, a huge man weighing 240 pounds, had served with Canada’s immigration department in Montana for years and later moved to St. Jean, Manitoba. Hon. Frank Oliver, ex-journalist of Toronto Globe and Mail, Winnipeg Free Press and founder of Alberta’s first newspaper, Edmonton Bulletin, was federal interior minister. Howard Douglas was still superintendent of Banff National Park.
To Luxton, a close friend of Oliver’s, goes credit for convincing his politician friend the Allard-Pablo herd should be bought by Canada and re-established here. To Oliver goes credit for quick action in 1906 persuading Ottawa the idea had merit and then setting necessary wheels turning to advance what’s often been heralded as “the greatest animal comeback in the history of the world.”
Ayotte, with a bit of help from Eaton, negotiated the purchase of about 716 animals at $245 each, and then led three hazardous roundups and drives to Canada which took several years. He continued to supervise five annual roundups in Alberta.
To Douglas fell the massive task of making the whole project work. Also, he helped disperse bison to Canadian zoos and other parks, like Manitoba’s Riding Mountain National Park where one of the largest plains bison herds in existence still attracts thousands of visitors annually.
An interesting sequel to the bison conservation project was research conducted from 1894 to 1914 by Mossom Boyd of Bobcaygeon, Ontario in crossing plains bison with domestic cattle. In 1915 his bison and cattalo were bought by Ottawa and taken to Wainwright, Alberta. The cattalo project was later transferred south to Manyberries where it continued until 1964.
Today, buffalo ranching is becoming increasingly common across North America, a popular Manitoba one being Marvin McGregor’s just across the Little Saskatchewan River from the Ski Valley resort north of Minnedosa. Cattle-bison crossing programs are carried on by individual ranchers, the Beefalo breed being one result. In recent years buffalo have multiplied to the extent that even limited hunting seasons have become necessary to contain the rapidly-expanding herds. In fact, a most serious current problem facing Canadian officials is how to combat rampant disease and forage shortage plaguing the herd in Wood Buffalo National Park consisting of 3,500 plains and wood bison, without having to destroy the animals.
Charlie Alloway, James McKay, Sam Bedson, Ephrem Brisebois, Howard Eaton, Donald Smith, Norman Luxton, Frank Oliver, Howard Douglas and Alex Ayotte left Canadians a most enviable conservation legacy. Let’s treasure it deeply and enhance it.
(Who Saved the Bison)