The Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon, It has been a locale for human use and occupation for millennia, with ruins and artifacts from inhabitants dating back nearly 12,000 years, In the early 1800s, trappers and expeditions sent by the U.S. government began to explore and map the canyon. It was first afforded Federal protection in 1893 as a Forest Reserve and later a National Monument, achieving National Park in 1919.
The Grand Canyon has been home to Native Americans for thousands of years. About 10,000 years ago, paleo-hunters were known to have hunted big game throughout the area. More recently, hunter-gathers lived in the area until about 1000 BC. Archaeological findings, such as pottery found in the canyon, have been carbon dated to 4000 years ago.
Ancestral Puebloan people moved in around 500 AD. They cultivated corn, hunted bighorn sheep, rabbits, and deer, and made intricate baskets. Their basket making skills lead archaeologists to call these people “basket makers.”
The park contains nearly 2,000 ancestral Puebloan sites including the impressive Tusayan Pueblo which was built in 1185 AD. By the late 1200s, the early Grand Canyon Native Americans abandoned their homes. Some speculate that an extended drought prompted this mass exodus.
In the 1300s, the Cerbat (ancestors of today’s Havasupai and Hualapai Tribes) people moved in along with the Southern Paiutes. A century later would see the Navajo and the Dine (relatives of the Apache) people settling in and around the canyon. Today, the Navajo’s reservation is located along the eastern section of the Grand Canyon.
This next article is a great read, kept my complete attention, even on the second & third read. Where has this been?…the author Dick Brown graciously has let me share it with you. Thank you Mr. Brown. (GrandCanyonHistory.org) This fills in some holes, creates and answers some questions I had about the bison in the Canyon and Jones’s part in bison history. I learned about Uncle Jim Owens, quite the man in our history, a quiet, but yet very important figure in the making of the west and our Grand Canyon Park. He led a very exciting frontier life.
Uncle Jim Owens – Grand Old Man of the North Rim
by Dick Brown President of Grand Canyon History.org
James T. Owens was born near San Antonio, Texas, probably in the late 1840s. Jimmy’s father died when he was a young boy. His mother remarried but his stepfather did not treat him well so at age 11 Jimmy ran away from home. He went to work on various Texas ranches and cattle drives, thus beginning a 45-year career on the trail as cowboy and frontiersman. It was a shameful time in our nation’s history when hide hunters were decimating the American bison. Within earshot of their blazing guns, Jim knew the great herds would soon be gone. He once remarked to the daughter of a fellow cattleman, “I believe I have seen as many as a million buffalo on the plains at one time.” But soon the million would be reduced to thousands, then only hundreds.
Cowboy Years in Texas
In June 1866, at the young age of 17, Jim joined a pioneering cattle drive led by Colonel Charles Goodnight, legendary cattle baron and trailblazer of the Old West, when Goodnight and his mentor Oliver Loving set out from Fort Belknap, Texas on the Brazos River with 2,000 longhorns. Jim was one of 16 cowhands driving cattle across the scrubby prairie. To avoid Comanche Country, the outfit followed an old southern route, used by the stagecoaches of the Butterfield-Overland Mail, with one 90-mile barren waterless stretch known as Llano Estacado (staked plains) from the headwaters of the Concho River in West Texas to the Pecos River in New Mexico Territory, then followed the Pecos upstream to Fort Sumner. With John Chisum, the trail was extended well into Colorado. It became known as the famous Goodnight-Loving Trail and was used many times before Charlie Goodnight consolidated operations at his Palo Duro Canyon ranch, at the headwaters of the Red River, in the Texas Panhandle in 1876. Jim actually managed the Goodnight Ranch for a time in the 1880s, then went on to manage Leigh Dyer’s Mulberry Creek ranch three miles west of Goodnight, Texas.
Over the years, Jim worked for many ranches and open-range cattle drives in Texas and in the Indian Territory that became Oklahoma, but his life changed when he and Charles Jesse “Buffalo” Jones crossed paths. As Jim tells the story, “I was at the Goodnight Ranch when Buffalo Jones came down from Garden City, Kansas in 1897 or 1898 and announced that he wanted to buy a couple of buffalo to drive a sled for exhibition purposes. I helped Jones break those buffalo. We got them gentle enough to drive, if you want to call it that. They were yoked to a sled that had a windlass for controlling the team. Jones would stop the team by which would jerk the buffaloes to their knees. To start them again, he would slack the rope. It was as simple as that. Jones’ show drew enormous crowds at all Panhandle towns. But the show ended when it got to Fort Worth, where the Buffaloes went mad from the heat and died.”
During his cowboy days, Jim met other Old West legends, including Sheriff Pat Garrett, mountain man Kit Carson, the flamboyant showman “Buffalo” Bill Cody, the Arizona territorial historian Sharlot Hall, and the celebrated outlaw Henry McCarty, aka Billy the Kid, plus some members of the notorious Jesse James gang. He described the Kid as being “one of the finest fellows to be with I have ever seen. The Kid was forced into lots of killings. It must be remembered that there was some pretty hard hombres in them days and Billy was a marked man. Pat Garrett, the man who killed him, wasn’t no angel his self.” Jim may also have been forced into some deadly gunplay. It has been reported that in a saloon fight in Indian Territory, Jim had to kill a man in self-defense. He was later acquitted.
It has been said that Jim Owens was a spiritual descendent of Daniel Boone and the men of the long rifle – one of the last of the free-spirited wilderness hunters. This sturdy five foot-six pioneer had survived life on the rugged frontier and although so many like him were boisterous, cocky and rough, Jim was soft-spoken, gentle and reserved. He was a quiet, kind-hearted, unassuming man, a lifelong bachelor who loved kids –consequently, the “Uncle” title. If he could not speak well of one, he would not speak of him at all. His patience for men and animals was endless; only cruelty or cowardice roused his wrath.
Land of Steaming Geysers
Buffalo Bill, who had visited the Grand Canyon in November 1892 with a British party interested in establishing hunting lodges on the North Rim, once commented to Buffalo Jones that the grasslands of the Kaibab Plateau might be suitable for raising buffalo. Jones had been appointed Yellowstone game warden by President Theodore Roosevelt in July 1902. His primary missions were to solve the problem of bears harassing tourists and to manage the buffalo herd. Owens accompanied Jones to Yellowstone and served as the buffalo keeper. For three days in 1904, the two buffalo wranglers hunted on a Wyoming ranch with the hard-riding Teddy Roosevelt who had recently visited the Grand Canyon and suggested they try hunting cougars on the North Rim. Having successfully rebuilt the Yellowstone buffalo herd, Jones and Owens were ready for new challenges. In 1905, Jones resigned as game warden, recommended Jim Owens as his temporary replacement, and headed for Grand Canyon country. Owens followed in 1906. That was the year when he and Jones proposed a Grand Canyon buffalo refuge on the Kaibab Plateau to President Roosevelt. In keeping with his desire to boost his image as a wildlife conservationist, the president issued a proclamation on November 28, 1906, setting aside part of the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve north of the Colorado River as the Grand Canyon Game Preserve. Jones and Owens imported buffalo from Yellowstone National Park and the Goodnight Ranch. The buffalo were trail-herded, with great difficulty, 150 miles from the railhead at Lund, Utah, to House Rock Valley just below the Kaibab Plateau. While Jones experimented with cross-breeding cattle and buffalo, Owens hired out to stockmen on the Kaibab to hunt mountain lions which were decimating their cattle. There were times when he claimed to have earned $500 in a single day of hunting, very good pay compared to the $75 per month that he had been earning as the Yellowstone buffalo keeper.
Living on the Edge
To North Rim settlers and visitors, Uncle Jimmy was a canyon character, with colorful stories and a kind engaging smile. Western novelist Zane Grey was in and out of his camps for several years. While they hunted mountain lion together, Uncle Jim gave the tenderfoot the
facts for his books Riders of the Purple Sage, Tales of Lonely Trails and Roping Lions in the Grand Canyon. Grey immortalized Jim’s partner, Buffalo Jones, in The Last of the Plainsmen. Uncle Jim became a living character in other western odysseys as well as on the silver screen. Marguerite Henry’s beloved children’s classic Brighty of the Grand Canyon featured a fictionalized account of Brighty the burro and his lifelong friendship with Uncle Jimmy Owens. One could speculate that the young Jim Owens may have been portrayed as Jim Lloyd in James Michener’s Centennial or as Newt Dobbs in Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove.
The older Uncle Jim Owens was a lean, wiry, canyon celebrity, about 170 pounds, with firm square face and droopy white mustache, twinkling blue eyes – full of spirit – and a week’s growth of white stubble on his jaw. He was a familiar sight on the North Rim, often seen galloping along on his mule, preceded by a pack of hound dogs which he alternately scolded and encouraged.
Of all his hounds, Ol’ Pot was Uncle Jim’s favorite. Usually, each dog had his own blanket. If Pot, as leader of the pack, got left out he would go to Jim and whine, then go to the door of their tent or cabin and act as if he saw someone coming and start barking. The entire pack of canines would run outside barking and Pot would claim one of the warm blankets.19 Jim gave his hounds first consideration, his horses and mules second, and himself third. Pot’s collar was inscribed with an epitaph: “I Have Been at the Death of More Than 600 Cougars.”
In 1907, Uncle Jim became the first game warden for the forest reserve where his mission was predator control – to hunt and trap cougars and wolves in order to protect the mule deer on the North Rim. He competed for the job by taking a written examination with three others who whispered among themselves that they felt sorry for Jim, “He won’t git nowhar in this examination.” Jim later recalled, “Well, when it come to book knowledge I wasn’t in it at all, but when it come to real experience – well, that was a leetle bit different, and when the examination was over I felt awful sorry for them. The highest grade any of ‘em got was 70, while I got 96.” The following year, President Roosevelt, always infatuated with the West, reserved all public lands within the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve as Grand Canyon National Monument –a kind of purgatory between a forest reserve and a national park. He also designated all forest land north of the river as Kaibab National Forest. Brandishing a Colt six-shooter on his belt, a Winchester rifle across his saddle and a pack of faithful hound dogs, the hunter served as game warden until the establishment of Grand Canyon National Park on February 26, 1919. By then Uncle Jim had turned 70 years old.
Changing Times and Treasured Memories
When Uncle Jim retired from his government job, he continued as an independent lion hunter, trapper and guide. With the Grand Canyon now being administered by the National Park Service, Uncle Jim was no longer allowed to feed his dogs mule deer meat. So while blood-thirsty cougars could eat all the deer meat they wanted, the dogs, which protected the deer, had to settle for beef. Using his personal records, Jim calculated that he had killed 532 cougars, but legend credits him with more, including one in August 1909 that he captured live, packed on horseback down Bright Angel Canyon, across the river on David Rust’s cableway, and up to the El Tovar Hotel on the South Rim. That particular cougar, destined to rendezvous with a circus, was shipped by rail to his former partner, Buffalo Jones, in Las Vegas, New Mexico where it escaped during unloading. By that time Jones had withdrawn from their House Rock Valley enterprise and started a new ranch in New Mexico.
There is some irony in the government allowing Jim Owens to nearly exterminate the mountain lion on the North Rim. The mule deer outgrew their forage resources and in the winter of 1924-1925, more than half of the deer population died of starvation. The tragedy was a classic example of wildlife mismanagement, but it fostered new thinking about the importance of Nature’s delicate balance between predator and prey. Except during the winter months, Uncle Jim lived in two cabins on the North Rim, one situated at the head of Bright Angel Canyon, the other near a spring in Harvey Meadow, a secluded grassy clearing in the forest, where he posted a sign: “Jim Owens Camp, Guiding and Hunting Parties. Specialty – Cougars Caught to Order. Rates Reasonable.” With North Rim snow depths of six feet or more and brutal sub-zero temperatures, Uncle Jim usually wintered in Fredonia. Jim was somewhat of a recluse but cherished memories of the few distinguished visitors who happened by. In the Summer of 1911, Sharlot Hall, daughter of an ornery, tobacco chewing buffalo hunter, visited House Rock Valley, the Kaibab Plateau and the Arizona Strip. Uncle Jim spent three days showing her the lay of the land. With Utah’s designs on lands north of the Colorado and Arizona closing in on statehood, her historic tour across the Kaibab served to raise public awareness of the region’s great potential.
One of Uncle Jim’s favorite memories dated back to July 1913 when he guided former president Teddy Roosevelt and his 15-year old son Quentin and 19-year old son Archie, plus cousin Nicholas, on a two-week mountain lion hunt on the North Rim. Jesse Cummings of Mesa, Arizona went along as cook, packer and horse-wrangler. Uncle Jim announced to the hunting party: “We’ll eat off the land – mountain lion meat and wild horse flesh!” As it turns out, Teddy found cougar meat to be just as tasty as venison.
One of Teddy’s hunting objectives was to get a shot at the fabled white cougar that made news in many papers of the day. In fact, the former president carried the tattered news clipping in his pocket and on his way to the Canyon, a fellow reiterated the white cougar story. Uncle Jim, in his ever-present Texas drawl, responded, “I had heard that yarn before too, and of course took no stock in it.” Jim hesitated a moment as Teddy guessed his thoughts. “There isn’t any such thing, eh?” said the Colonel in his rather terse manner. “That fellow lied to me, did he?” Jim cautioned, “Well, Colonel, let’s not say that he lied. But I’ve been in this forest a good many years and killed a good many cougars here and seen a lot more I didn’t get – and I’ve never seen a white one.” With that Uncle Jim set the record straight by unraveling how the wild tale came about. Earlier that summer, a hunting party’s pack burro had entered their tent in search of food. As the hunters lingered on the rim, watching the sun slip below the horizon, one of them returned to the tent for his pipe. Just then a white monster emerged, scaring the pipe smoker half to death. Jim explained that to keep their flour out of reach of critters, the sack had been hung from the ridge pole. The burro had nibbled a hole in the sack and then busied himself with other eatables, all the while being sprinkled white with sifted flour. Finally realizing that there really was no such animal as a white cougar, Teddy roared with laughter.
Five and a half years later, Uncle Jim was saddened to learn that his old friend Teddy Roosevelt had passed away without seeing his dream come true. The former president died on January 6, 1919, New Mexico Statehood Day, just 50 days before Grand Canyon became a national park.
Those who knew Jim well and knew him to never stray from the truth, swear that the following incident actually took place. While rounding up his horses, Jim jumped off a low-cut bank and landed squarely astride a cougar which was feeding on a deer carcass. Before Jim could recover from his surprise, the
cougar took off with Jim on his back. The ride lasted only 50 or 60 feet with Jim trying to get a firm hand-hold on the critter’s sleek tawny hide. Finally, the cougar shot out from between his legs. Jim insisted no one could ride a cougar as long as he did – even with spurs.
With permission from the government, Uncle Jim was free to move his buffalo from pastures in the forest and House Rock Valley, along the eastern edge of the Kaibab Plateau, to various places in the Park, including the Walhalla Plateau and Nankoweap Canyon. In April 1921, he attempted to secure a permit to guide parties on horseback over trails on the North Rim and down Bright Angel Creek to the river. He presented plans for a tourist camp on Walhalla’s Cape Royal to lodge 20 visitors, with 40 to 50 buffalo nearby as a tourist attraction. In both cases, permission was denied since the Fred Harvey Company had already been contracted to provide such services in the park, although the company had no plans at the time for hotel, camp or trail development on the North Rim.
When Uncle Jim was allowed only temporary use of Cape Royal for the 1921 season, he realized that times were changing. In the days of the Forest Service, he was allowed to operate with discretion; but under the administration of the new National Park Service, decisions had to come from distant men in Washington swivel-chairs.
The veteran bounty hunter and guide retired in House Rock Valley in the 1920s to tend his buffalo herd. Where so many frontiersmen had grown hard and brash in their declining years, pipe-smoking Uncle Jim grew mellow and content as he reflected about his life journey.
Conjuring up treasured memories, he spent his days gazing at the snorting buffalo, symbols of the frontier days when great herds roamed free.
Uncle Jimmy managed to draw several of his Texas “nephews”, some having just returned from service in World War I, to his North Rim realm, especially during the summer months. These young Texans looked up to Jimmy as an “Uncle” while growing up in the tiny ranch community of Claude in the Texas Panhandle. Ed “Breezy” Cox actually came to live full-time with Jim and worked as a stockman, assisting with hunting parties and buffalo wrangling. Bob Vaughan settled on the North Rim after serving in the Army. Bob’s older brother Bill arrived in May 1919 and was like an adopted son to Jim. Ernie Appling also arrived in May 1919. Ernie first met Jim in 1900 in Claude when Jim was working at Leigh Dyer’s ranch. Leigh’s daughter Annie never left the Panhandle but she wrote many newspaper and magazine articles about Uncle Jimmy. All four “nephews” – Ed, Bill, Bob and Ernie – protégés of Uncle Jim, assisted the legendary hunter at various times during his House Rock Valley days, and Leigh Dyer’s brother, Walter, by then in his 60s, spent one summer at the Canyon to lend Jim a hand. Ed’s older brother, John Cox, would play a major role in Uncle Jim’s final years in New Mexico.
NPS Director Stephen Mather, in consideration of the government’s nominal charge for grazing permits over the years, urged the aging Uncle Jim to will his buffalo to the Park Service as a memorial to himself. He would keep the buffalo during his remaining years, then ownership would revert to the Park Service and the herd would be known as the James T. Owens Memorial Buffalo Herd. Instead, in 1926, he sold the herd to the State of Arizona for $10,000.
In 1927, Uncle Jim returned to the Texas Panhandle for a visit. After an absence of 25 years, he was reunited with his former trail boss, the aging “Uncle” Charlie Goodnight. The two old-timers had their portraits taken in a Clarendon studio and reminisced about their famous cattle drives and the time when they first entered Palo Duro Canyon by way of an old Comanche trail. It was there that the 27-year old Jim Owens had helped establish the Goodnight Ranch. Jim recalled that the canyon floor was full of ranging buffalo which had to be stampeded out to make room for the cattle, “Them buffaloes went tearing and plunging down the breaks, making kindling wood of every tree and shrub that stood in their way.”
Land of Enchantment
Two years after their historic reunion, the venerable Charles Goodnight passed away in Tucson, Arizona at age 93. That was late in December 1929, the year John Cox relocated his “uncle” to his place in Afton, New Mexico, a lonely whistle stop on the Union Pacific railroad, halfway between El Paso and Deming. Today Afton is not even a ghost town as nothing remains except some weathered boards from an old corral and some rock foundations, with scrubland as far as one can see. But it once had a post office and a railway station where Cox lived and worked.
It was the year of the Texas Republic Centennial when James T. Owens passed away in Afton. His heart gave out on May 11, 1936 at age 87. Perhaps John Cox was influenced by the old cowboy folksong Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie. He made sure that the transplanted Texan’s final resting place would not be on the lone prairie. In fact, Uncle Jim was buried 20 miles northeast of Afton, in the Masonic Cemetery in Las Cruces, about 100 feet from Sheriff Pat Garrett but 600 miles from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Uncle Jim was a remnant of the Old West, perhaps more famous than Garrett, but relatively unknown in New Mexico where he died in obscurity, his contributions unacknowledged and his life unheralded – that is, until Al LeCount of Albany, Ohio, retired wildlife manager, and Harley Shaw of Hillsboro, New Mexico, 27-year veteran of Arizona Game and Fish and former Kaibab Plateau resident, added a proper gravestone to Uncle Jim’s previously unmarked grave and conducted a simple dedication ceremony on November 16, 2013 to honor the famous North Rim pioneer.
A question mark on the stone denotes the continuing uncertainty in the date of Uncle Jim’s birth. For Uncle Jim, the North Rim was not just a destination but a way of life – a life as hard as the craggy canyon walls. While he captured wild animals, the North Rim captured him. He endured the bitter hardships of living on the ragged edge of civilization. He had the drive and stamina of a buffalo to survive in the deep haunting silence of the wilderness. He maintained an overriding respect and reverence for nature and relished the simplicity of life on the frontier. He never failed to do the kindest things that man and circumstances would permit. This North Rim pioneer was bestowed an enduring honor by the Washington-based National Geographic Board in 1932 when Natchi Point, above Roaring Springs, was renamed Uncle Jim Point.
His breed has vanished, but his legend lives on as a reminder of the importance of balance in Nature. In a back-handed way, Jim Owens deserves some credit in being such an expert hunter, helped precipitate a tragedy at the Grand Canyon that pointed the nation toward more realistic wildlife management policies.
In the continuum of ages that has dropped the canyon floor ever lower, James T. Owens’ life on the edge occupied a very thin slice of time. But he signed his name to Grand Canyon’s human history and will forever be remembered as the Grand Old Man of the North Rim
Acknowledgement: The author wishes to thank Leon Cox, Al LeCount and Harley Shaw for their assistance in telling Jim Owens’ story. All three men lived and worked on the Kaibab and had the good fortune of knowing folks who knew Uncle Jimmy. The author also thanks Kim and Kelli Cox for their genealogical research on Uncle Jim’s “nephews.”
By the late 19th century, the conservation movement was increasing national interest in preserving natural wonders like the Grand Canyon. National Parks in Yellowstone and around Yosemite Valley were established by the early 1890s. U.S. Senator Benjamin Harrison introduced a bill in 1887 to establish a national park at the Grand Canyon. The bill died in committee, but on February 20, 1893, Harrison (then President of the United States) declared the Grand Canyon to be a National Forest Preserve. Mining and logging were allowed, but the designation did offer some protection.
President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Grand Canyon in 1903. An avid outdoorsman and staunch conservationist, he established the Grand Canyon Game Preserve on November 28, 1906. Livestock grazing was reduced, but predators such as mountain lions, eagles, and wolves were eradicated. Roosevelt added adjacent national forest lands and re-designated the preserve a U.S. National Monument on January 11, 1908. Opponents, such as holders of land and mining claims, blocked efforts to reclassify the monument as a National Park for 11 years. Grand Canyon National Park was finally established as the 17th U.S. National Park by an Act of Congress signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on February 26, 1919.
Bisbee Daily Review
Bisbee, Arizona Oct 18, 1905
Twenty-nine American bison, the last remnant of their race, were in Los Angeles recently for transportation to the Grand Canyon Reserve, where it is hoped they will multiply, and the almost extinct buffalo again be made numerous.
It is probable that these buffalo will not be placed where they will be easily accessible to sightseers at the Grand Canyon, for the reason that good results cannot be obtained if they are constantly under the eye of the curious.
These animals are the property of “Buffalo” Jones, who has made a study of the habits of the bison four a quarter of a century, and who has done much to prevent the species from becoming extinct.
Fully twenty years ago, out in western Kansas “Buffalo” Jones began the work of gathering into one common herd the remaining specimens of the buffalo to be found on the Western plains. There Dodge city, he established a buffalo domain and there first began his experiments in the crossbreeding of the bison with domestic cattle.
It was there that the animals known as the cattelo the cross-breed, was proven to be a hardy animal, well fitted for the semi-arid and stock grazing countries of the western states.
It is the idea of Jones that these cattelo may become of much use and that they may fill a need not exactly met by the ordinary breed of western cattle.
The buffalo in Los Angeles were shipped from Monterrey Mexico. They had been roaming a large preserve many miles back from that point, and were on the way to their new grounds, where it is hoped they will increase.
In the herd are three handsome bulls. They had become much bewildered by all the noise and confusion of car travel and to the engines, clanging bells and grinding wheels, and they have lost much of their restlessness which shows itself out of captivity. But even now, it is said they are easily stampeded.
1906 Jan 8th Jones partnership with Washington: he would furnished the care, “know-how” and the bulk of the livestock, the government furnished the land and, on loan, some of the animals. Both would share in the increase.
A special concession has been granted Col. Chas. J. Jones in the Grand Canyon Forest Reservation in Arizona for the purpose of experimenting in the hybridizing of buffalo and cattle, the Government to retain a certain percentage of the produce. I am informed by Col. Jones that there are two buffalo bulls in the Yellowstone Park which the park authorities would be glad to have removed and which he could use to the advantage of the Government, and, himself, in the breeding of hybrids. If there is no objection to turning these two animals over to the jurisdiction of this Department, to be removed to the Grand Canyon Reserve, and loaned to Col. Jones, I recommend that it be done.
I have the honor to be Sir,
Very respectfully Your obedient servant
(signed) James Wilson Secretary of Agriculture
Lord of the Beast, Buffalo Jones Saga (extracts)
Jones, did not have the money to pull all this off, so he sold stock certificates. Wooley agreed to take a large number of shares for his heifers, black Galloway cows in Kansas, the exchange was to be 3 heifers to one cow. Jones was able to get 100 Galloways. Jones sold more stock to be able to buy the buffalo needed. Jones has been a ‘buffalo trader’ for years, he caught (mainly Kansas & Texas) , bought and sold all over the US and Canada. Frank Anscott sold his home and moved to manage the Kaibab bison herd which he had also invested. Jones, Owens, Anscott and ranger T. C. Hoyt were set to drive the herd from Lund to Kaibab.
“Lon Garrison, superintendent at Yellowstone Park, and himself a student of Jones and Jimmy Owens and Western lore, says that two carloads of buffalo arrived at Lund, Utah, on the Union Pacific in June of 1906. One load of fifty-seven was in fairly good condition and made the trip over to the Kaibab, one hundred seventy-five miles by trail. But the other group of thirty was in poor condition and Jones and Owens “tolled” them along — induced them to proceed — by buying wheat for them from the Mormon farmers. Garrison’s account is now so well authenticated not only by his own records but by the testimony of men like Pratt and Wooley that it must be accepted as the correct version.”
The carload of thirty head came from California. They were part of Jones herd after after the Sherriff’s sale. One bull (old monarch) refused to finished the long hot journey, they ended up shooting him and the meat was distributed to the citizens of Lund.
The other carload came from Montana. These buffalo (all or in part) were once also in Jones’s ownership. They were collected from various places and sold to Allard and shipped to back to Jones. This herd was also railed, then trailed to Kaibab and later House Rock Valley.
This venture of Jones did not pan out in a timely manner of promises made. Anscott took and sold the Galloways, Wooley took the sheep. Owens, Wooley and B.F. Saunders got the bison, later Uncle Jimmy bought out the other two. Which he ended selling to the state of Arizona.
Jones stayed in the park and ventured in the killing of lions which Kaibab had plenty. Then comes Zane Grey. (photo by Zane Grey “The Last of the Plainesmen”)
THE GRAND CANON NATIONAL GAME PRESERVE Zoological Society Jan 1907
Even to most persons who are interested in conservation work it will be fresh news that in northern Arizona the Government has established a game and forest preserve equal in scenic wonders as well as in area to the Yellowstone National Park. It is called the Grand Canyon National Game Preserve, and it consists of the Kaibab Plateau and Buckskin Mountain on the north, the first portion of the canyon of the Colorado, and also a great area southward there of. It contains, in round numbers, 2,019,000 acres, or 3311 square miles. It includes all of the area formerly comprising the “Grand Canyon National Monument,” and fully twice as much more.
The country south of the Colorado Canyon is comparatively well known, but to most Americans the Kaibab Plateau is a veritable terra incognita. It is in that wild and rugged region of broken country, rocks, hills, valleys, brush and a splendid pine-clad mountain plateau looming up over all, that “Buffalo” Jones has located his herd of American bison and “cattaloes,” for his latest experiment in breeding a valuable strain of bison blood into range cattle. Fortunately for those interested, there has recently been published about that region a book of thrilling interest. It is Zane Gray’s “Last of the Plainsmen,” published by the Outing Publishing Company. It is valuable as a general view of a wild and almost unknown region, and also as a record of the almost incredible exploits of Mr. Jones in catching alive nine pumas, by strength of nerve, arm and lasso !
Already the Grand Canon Preserve contains a few mountain sheep, many mule deer, and far too many “mountain lions.” Buckskin Mountain and its environs would make a fine sanctuary for elk, but it would be necessary to introduce them. The lower slopes would graze ten thousand bison, but very few persons would ever see them. With the lapse of time and ‘cattaloes’ it will be in order for the National Government to purchase outright the pure-blood bison of Mr. Jones and his partners, and let them alone where they are, to found another national herd.
Here is a special treat and I am thrilled the family allowed me to share it with you all.
This story was written by Lois Virginia Clarke about her Uncle Elwin Dee Woolley. Lois is my late grandmother. I am the family librarian and am in possession of the family records. My Uncle, the acting family historian, has granted me permission to publish. We agree and hope all will enjoy this priceless moment in our history.
Tim Porritt, family librarian
1784 West 400 North #90
Salt Lake City, Utah
UNCLE DEE AT THE NORTH RIM
by Virginia Clarke
Colonel C. J. Jones held in his hand a picture of a Buffalo. “Can you imagine this animal with the curly black fur of a Galloway cow?” He asked.
Uncle Dee took the picture and studied it.
“Cross a Buffalo with a Galloway?” He mused.
“Offers possibilities, doesn’t it?” Just think of the elegant robes we could produce.”
Clarke: Uncle Dee
“Where would you herd them?”
“I believe we could get permission from President Roosevelt (Theodore) to use the Kaibab Forest for our experiment. The president is very interested in this area, you know. That’s why came out here in the first place; to see about setting aside this land as a national monument.
“And Pres. Roosevelt is interested in conservation and wild life. I’m sure he’ll endorse our project.”
Uncle Dee walked over to the window and looked out at the desert landscape. He studied the red cliffs that rose above the little settlement of Kanab. Then his eyes swept across the desert to the south, where thirty miles away the blue-green Kaibab Plateau cut a line across the cloudless sky.
“There’s some nice pastureland out there on the mountain,” he agreed.
Colonel Jones was so sure this would work that it was hard for him to restrain his enthusiasm as Dee Woolley pondered the matter. But Jones knew he had to give the man time to make up his mind. If he could convince Woolley, this would be a big step forward.
“Who else have you talked to?” Asked Uncle Dee.
“Mentioned it to Ernest Pratt. He quite likes the idea.”
“I see,” said Uncle Dee, still doubtful. “Well, tell me this. Where entire nation are you going to get a herd of buffalo?”
“He’s asking some good questions,” thought Jones.
“I’ve got a lead on about 60 had owned by the Pueblo Indians up in Yellowstone Park,” he answered, “and 30 more from a Spaniard in Monterey.”
The water tower and railroad track were a welcome sight to Jones as he climbed down from the wagon. The engine throbbed and steam hissed as he climbed the steps to the Pullman car. He sat down and leaned his head back as the whistle blew and the belt claimed and the wheels ground slowly into motion.
Clickety clack, clickety clack the rails saying as he sped on his way towards civilization. Half-asleep, he daydreamed of the Buffalo he would buy in Yellowstone. But first he would have to sell stock in the new company. He planned in his mind what he would say.
“Gentlemen, I have set up this motion picture machine so I can show you our operation. Now, here you see Elwin D. (Uncle Dee) Woolley, a leading citizen in Kanab, Utah. He and his friend here, Ernest Pratt, are my partners. They know the cattle business and the country out there…”
When Jones arrived at Yellowstone to barter with the Pueblos, Jim Owens was with him. Jim had not only bought into the company; he was so impressed with the idea that he decided to come West and help with the project.
While the buffalo were being driven across the desert, Uncle Dee was busy making arrangements to trade for some Galloway cows. The cows had to be shipped all the way from Kansas City. Uncle Dee traded 300 top three-year-old cows for 100 Galloway’s. In the year 1906 the cows and the buffalo were herded out onto the Kaibab and pastured at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Uncle Dee and Jim Owens sat on their horses watching the animals graze placidly. Then their eyes turned to the unbelievable chasm that opened up below them.
“Remarkable, isn’t it?” commented Jim.
“I doubt the animals really appreciate it,” nodded Uncle Dee. Jim laughed
“Too bad this place is so remote,” he agreed. “It’s a shame more people can’t see it.”
“That’s what I’ve been thinking,” said Uncle Dee. “We’ve got to figure out some way to make this place accessible.”
The following October Uncle Dee made a trip to Salt Lake.
“Uncle,” said his nephew Gordon, “Come on and see what I’ve bought. In fact, come and have a ride in it,” and Uncle Dee was treated to a ride in the family’s new touring car.
“Gordon, thank you for a delightful ride,” said Uncle Dee as he stepped down off the running board. ”In fact, your automobile has given me an idea. How would you and your family like to view some really remarkable country?”
“The Grand Canyon!”
Gordon laughed heartily, and then his laughter subsided as he realized his uncle was not laughing with him.
“Why, Uncle, I believe your half serious,” he said, still chuckling.
“Gordon, I am very serious. It would be an experience for you to remember the rest of your life. Just think what an opportunity you have, to be the first to take an automobile there.”
“Uncle….Uncle….Oh, seriously, now. In the first place, there is no road from Kanab. And the road from Salt Lake to Kanab could not be traveled by car. besides, even if the road were passable, where would we get fuel?”
Elwin D. Woolley was not easily dissuaded. He was a man about whom the statement was made: “If Dee Woolley ever drowns, don’t look for his body downstream. He is so contrary his body would probably be upstream even if he drowned.”
Gordon dismissed the matter as foolishness, but as soon as Uncle Dee arrived in Kanab he wrote a letter to his nephew, letters passed between them for months, and little by little Gordon began to ‘come around’.
“You just get in your car and start driving,” said Uncle Dee. “Leave the rest to me.”
With a sense of adventure, but still with some misgivings, Gordon climbed into his automobile one day late in June 1909. In fact, there were two cars. In a roadster he had placed shovels, axes and other ‘road building’ tools. In the open touring car set his wife, his four children, and two other adults, Dave Affleck and Lilly Burt.
The trip to the Grand Canyon was a tribute to Uncle Dee’s skill and ingenuity. To substitute for gas stations he shipped gasoline, in five-gallon cans, to the end of the railroad line. From there a man with the wagon and team delivered the fuel to strategic points along the route.
A mile and a half stretch of sand was crossed by spreading tarps for the cars to run on.
Near the end of the road to Kanab a deep sandy wash blocked the way. A load of hay was provided for this. The hay had to be kept in the wagon until the cars were ready to cross. Otherwise it might have been eaten by cattle or blown by the wind.
When the cars were in position to cross, the hay was dumped into the bottom of the ravine, the tarp was again spread in front of the wheels, and the cars jostled triumphantly across to the other side.
After a short rest in Kanab while the local residents admired the remarkable vehicles and the mechanics tighten bolts and change tires, the party began the final effort.
Deer bounced away, they’re white tails bobbing as they fled from the roar of the laboring engines. Gray squirrels with bushy tails scampered up the trunk of the tall Ponderosa and watched warily from the high branches. The sound of an ax against a stump rang through the forest, or the triumpity found of a large stone dislodged from the path of the slowly progressing vehicles.
And then, suddenly, there it was. The rim of the Grand Canyon had been breached and the Woolley family piled from the car.
” Don’t run,” cautioned their mother as the children rushed recklessly to the Rim.
Jim Owens smiled broadly to greet them.
“Looks like your buffalo and those curly haired cows are going to have to share this country with the tourist,” said Gordon triumphantly.
“Ah, well, “ said Jim dejectedly. “They seem to have a ‘live and let live’ attitude.”
“You mean they aren’t meeting to well?”
“That’s what I mean. Seems like such a good idea, but it isn’t working out.”
One year later the Buffalo project was abandoned. Colonel Jones, who had earned the name “Buffalo Jones”, returned to the East and took the Galloway cows with him.
Jim Owens took the biggest portion of the buffalo herd down to Houserock Valley, just east of the Kaibab. He herded them there for a few years, and then sold them to the state of Arizona. The herd is still maintained by the Arizona Fish and Game Commission, their in Houserock Valley. But one great thing came about because of the experiment, Uncle Dee got out on the Kaibab and had a look at the Grand Canyon.
The motor trip to the Grand Canyon made an important news item. When people read that Gordon Woolley had taken his family there, they began to consider making trips themselves.
Uncle Dee deserves the credit for opening up the road to the Grand Canyon, and it all started when “Buffalo” Jones came up with an idea for breeding buffalo with Galloway cows out on the Kaibab.
Bisbee Daily Review
Bisbee Az. Feb 7 1911
ANTELOPE ARE RECEIVED AT REFUGE
In the Wichita and the Grand Canyon game refuges the government has not left the matter of caring for game protection wholly to the states, but has established national reservations on which an attempt will be made to breed game. The Wichita is notable for the fact that it has a small herd of buffalo upon it which the game Warden regards as the apple of his eye. They were donated by the American Bison Society and shipped from the New York zoological garden in 1908. They then numbered 15, and have since been increased by the addition of 10 calves two of the original herd, however, died in the first year. To the buffaloes are now added the antelope.
Arizona Daily Sun
Tucson, Arizona Oct 13 1911
The national game preserves, which are administered generally by the department of agricultural, comprise the Wichita and Grand Canyon preserves in Oklahoma and Arizona, and the national bison range in Montana, and were set aside by special acts of Congress. As indicated by their names they are established primary for the protection of game. The Wichita game preserve has an area of approximately 57,000 acres, 12,000 acres of which is fenced buffalo pasture, and about 20,000 acres are enclosed by a substantial wire fence.
The executive departments of the government have been doing their best to get Congress to preserve big-game of the United States with a view not only to numbers but to variety. (the rest is on bird sanctuary’s)
1916 17 head reported (5 males, 9 females and 3 young)
Discussion on the care and protection of the Grand Canyon herd of buffalo revealed the fact that it rested entirely upon the question of finding the necessary funds, as it would take from $1,500 to $2,000 per year for a game warden and maintenance of the herd.
THE GRAND CANYON BUFFALO HERD- ABS Published in the 1927 10th annual report. 1924-25-26
The various strains of blood represented in the assemble of the original Grand Canyon herd of buffalo made it the most mixed herd as to blood; in the United States. In 1893 Jones sold his entire herd of pure-bloods and catalo to Michel Pablo and Charles Allard of Montana for $18,000. The pure-bloods were turned loose on the Flathead Indian Reservation with the buffalo then owned by Pablo and Allard. The catalo were kept by themselves on Horse Island in Flathead Lake. In 1905 Jones bought back all the catalo and some pure-blood buffalo—fifty-two head in all—from Michel Pablo, and twelve bulls from the Corbin Estate, he also at the same time bought the entire herd of thirty-three pure-blood buffalo from E. J. Molera at Monterey, California, this gave him a mixed herd of ninety-four buffalo and catalo. Jones killed a number of the bulls and located the balance, about sixty head, north of the Grand Canyon in House Rock Valley. Some few years later; Jones moved part of the herd over into New Mexico and these were known asThe Grand Canyon herd of buffalo in Coconino County, Arizona, is the only unrestricted herd now on the Public Domain, and it also comprises the only buffalo in the State of Arizona. This herd originated from buffalo owned and driven there in 1905 by the late Col. C. J. Jones, “Buffalo Jones.” Their range is located north of the Grand Canyon in what is called House Rock Valley, between Lee’s Ferry and the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. This so-called valley is a plateau like strip about forty miles in width at the southern end and runs to a point at the northern end at Lee’s Ferry, and lies parallel with the Colorado River; between the upper rim of the Grand Canyon and the bottom gorge through which the river flows. This place is so enclosed by natural barriers that no fencing has ever been necessary to keep the herd on this range since they were first located there; twenty years ago. This House Rock Valley is about seventy-five miles from the nearest town or settlement and the sheep and cattle ranches and other habitations are very few and far between for many miles around.
When Jones was about to leave the Grand Canyon, his associate, James T. Owens selected seventeen of what he judged to be pureblood buffalo, these he took in lieu of a settlement, as Jones at that time was financially embarrassed. Jones drove his herd of buffalo and catalo out of the country, and in 1915 disposed of the last of them and never again owned any buffalo. The Jones’ herd while those left on the Grand Canyon range—about seventeen in number—came into the possession of the present owner, James T. Owens. The Molera or Monterey herd was of pure blood and originated in the early eighties when Mr. Molera bought from a small showman in San Francisco a fine bull for $500. and placed it on his Monterey ranch, a few years later he purchased a full-blood cow from Buffalo Jones at Garden City, Kansas, for which he paid Jones $700. for the cow and $300. freight from Kansas to Monterey, California. These two animals bred a number of calves. In 1894 at the time of the Mid Winter Fair in San Francisco, an exhibitor brought seven buffalo from the East. Mr. Molera bought these seven buffalo and placed them with the others on the Monterey ranch, and some ten years later; sold the entire herd to Buffalo Jones. The twelve bulls purchased from the Corbin herd were descendants from the Bedson herd and wild calves caught by Jones in the Panhandle of Texas, and from buffalo purchased in Kansas. The herd bought from Pablo were mostly catalo but a number were pure-bloods from the Pablo herd, therefore it appears that the blood in the Grand Canyon herd is made up from numerous strains, as follows: The Bedson herd, Pablo herd, Corbin herd, Molera herd and buffalo from Texas, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma, and also a good sprinkling of catalo.
The seventeen buffalo that were left formed the nucleus of the present herd and have increased until now they number about one hundred head. One of the animals in this herd is what is known as a pinto or spotted buffalo, he is about ten years old and a monster is size, and is said to be over six feet from the ground to the top of his shoulders, but his general appearance indicates a mixture of domestic blood.
This herd is well located but practically out of control. About all the owner realizes out of them at present is what he receives from Dude trophy hunters who pay him from $200. to $250. to shoot them, this not only demoralizes the herd but has a tendency to make them exceedingly wild and vicious and difficult to approach. Mr. Owens is well along in years and the possibility is; that in the event of his death the buffalo would be slaughtered, therefore it would seem to be a wise move for the State of Arizona to acquire these buffalo which have become fully established; as they will be worth many times their cost by furnishing additional attraction for tourists.
Phoenix Arizona Jan 2, 1924
Want A Buffalo?
Surplus Bison Worrying Warden
One of the few problems confronting G.M. Willard, state game warden, is the question of the herd of buffalo in House Rock valley, just south of Lee’s Ferry, in the northern part of the state, along the Colorado river. As near as can be estimated the herd consists of 76 head of adult bison with four or five calves.
The government, it appears, has more buffalo than it wants at present and in fact. Mr. Willard states the buffalo market appears to be oversupplied, and while there are plenty of animals, there are no bidders for them.
The herd in House Rock valley he states, can probably exist there for several years before the valley becomes overstocked with the animals, but it is the desire of the state to get the herd out of the valley as early as possible.
There is but one outlet to the valley, which is about 40 miles long and about 8 miles wide at the lower end, and this is at a point where the early Mormon settlers in Arizona crossed over from Utah. This road, while impassable for vehicles, does not present much of an obstacle to the buffalo, but so far they have never crossed out onto the mesa beyond.
House Rock valley is a low bench along the Colorado lying on the north side of the river between the gorge of the river and the back canyon wall. It begins just south of Lee’s Ferry and runs along the river for 40 miles. It derives its name from a large rock about the middle of the valley which from its appearance has been called House Rock. More recently this rock has been named Cleopatra’s Tomb from its: resemblance to a tomb.
The back wall of the canyon forms a fence to the valley and numerous springs flowing from this wall at various places along it, furnish the buffalo with water. There is but little feed in the valley and a curious thing is that while cattle in the valley appear very thin from lack of feed, the buffalo are fat.
The buffalo are increasing at the rate of about four or five calves every year. A larger number than that are born, but only that many survive each year, Mr. Willard said.
The buffalo were placed in the valley by “Buffalo” Jones many years ago and are a portion of a herd of buffalo raised in captivity in Texas. Jones drove them to Montana several years ago and failing to dispose of them, brought them back to Arizona and put them in the valley. Since then Jones has died and while his estate owns the herd, they have reverted to the state because of no ownership being made to them. (Rumors…even back then)
It is the plan of Mr. Willard to dispose of the herd to private individuals should any one care to take them.
Grand Canyon Bison Herd
In 1927 the herd was sold to the Arizona Game and Fish Department and continued to reside in House Rock Valley. This land was later designated as the House Rock Valley Wildlife Area under the management of U.S. Forest Service. The Arizona Game and Fish Department was then responsible for managing the bison population at House Rock Wildlife Area through roundups and controlled hunting. NPS
The Beaver Press
21 Dec 1928
HISTORY OF THE BISON OF HOUSE ROCK VALLEY
(While this article claims to be so well documented, I have to wonder why it doesn’t line up with the ABS report printed a year earlier)
BY WILL C. BARNES in Nature Magazine
On the north side of the Grand Canyon of Arizona, that mighty gash on the face of the globe that cuts Arizona so completely in two as to make the region north of the canyon almost a terra incognita, there is a large semi-desert valley adjacent to the Kaibab Plateau known locally as House Rock valley, from a huge rock which, at a distance, bears a striking resemblance to a house.
Uninhabited except for a few isolated sheep and cattle camps; almost waterless as far as running streams are concerned; without a mile of road worthy of ‘ the name and the, nearest railroad point more than 165 miles to the northwest, only the most venturesome tourists have until recently penetrated its solitudes. A few years ago two men found their way on horseback into this valley in search of adventure. Riding across the open range one day they noticed a cloud of dust in the distance which seemed to be moving very rapidly toward them. Suspecting the cause of the dust to be a bunch of wild horses that roam those distant ranges in large numbers, the riders pulled up their horses on a little knoll and waited for the animals to pass them.
Near and nearer came the great tawny cloud of dust, but so dense and all-enveloping they were unable to see the animals that made it.
Then came a breeze that blew the cloud of dust away and the animals were in full view.
Imagine the astonishment of the two strangers when, instead of horses, they found themselves looking at thirty or forty great, heavy maned hump-hacked animals which they quickly realized were buffalo, the true American bison. Wonderful specimens of the old-time plains buffalo, the “crooked backed oxen” of the early Spanish explorers in ‘the Southwest.
The great surprise was a bald-faced one in the bunch showing signs of a Herford cross in his blood, a most unheard-of situation indeed to the observers. At sight of the men and their horses the buffalo stopped for a moment, then moved ponderously on down the trail to the water hole. As they passed out of sight around a small knoll the men turned and looked at each other with inquiring eyes. “Buffalo real, live plains buffalo here in the midst of an Arizona desert!” gasped one. “It’s absurd. Whoever heard of buffalo on this side of the Rockies?”
Later on they saw more of these animals, many branded on the left hip with a regular cattle brand; their ears marked as stockmen mark cattle and sheep. Inquiry developed the fact that these buffalo were the property of several local stockmen.
To stockmen they were quite a pest on the range for they were continually tearing down wire fences or breaking through stockade corrals built around watering places, dangerous to horsemen it crowded to closely and, altogether “undesirable citizens” in every sense of the word. Naturally the men were curious as to the origin of this herd of buffalo; how they came here in this out of the way spot; how did they cross the might canyon that fenced them off from the south and east. Local information on certain points was not very definite nor well supported by satisfactory evidence. After considerable research the following facts have been secured and are here given for the first time that a fairly complete record may be made as to the origin of this Arizona herd of buffalo, exotics in a land far from their ordinary habitat. As far as possible every bit of information secured has been checked carefully.
The originator of this herd was Charles J. Jones, nationally known as “Buffalo Jones” who, realizing the buffalo were fast disappearing, captured in the years from 1884 a number of buffalo calves out of a herd then running in the vast open prairie region along the North Fork of the Palo Duro River in the Texas Panhandle.
Jones took his captives to his ranch near Garden City, Kansas, and beginning with 57 captives, eventually raised a very good sized herd of buffalo, ranging them with his domestic cattle.
Sometime between 1895 and 1900 financial troubles overtook Jones and he sold his Garden City herd. Part of it was purchased by a man named Allard, who shipped them to Montana.
The rest Jones sold to a Spaniard from California who shipped them to a rancher in that state near Monterey.
Jones then made a trip to the Arctic regions in an attempt to bring out of that country a bunch of musk oxen. Returning via the Yellowstone region, he fell in with an old time friend and pioneer, James Owens, who for several years had been a guide and park scout in the Yellowstone National Park. Between them the two old-timers conceived the idea of starting a great game preserve somewhere in the West, stocking it with big game animals, deer, elk and buffalo, with the intention of selling hunting privileges at good stiff figures. Jones had previously explored that vast uninhabited region in Northern Arizona on the north side of the Grand Canyon, where on the “north rim” lay a huge uplift called the Kaibab Plateau, shaped somewhat like a great flatiron with the sharp point to the north cut off from the rest of the world on the south by the Grand Canyon and surrounded on the other sides by a fifty-mile belt of rough desert country, this table land bulked several thousand feet above everything else, its steep sides covered with pinion and juniper trees, while on its fairly level top was a glorious yellow pine forest. To the east of it lay “House Rock Valley,” a vast open prairie country, treeless but covered with excellent range grasses. The early Mormon pioneers called this Kaibab Plateau the “Buckskin Mountain,” due to the large herd of deer found there and from which the Navajo and other Indians annually secured large numbers of buckskins from their hunting.
It seemed an ideal location for their scheme and a sort of partnership was formed between Jones, Owens, and a well-known Mormon pioneer living in the region by the name of E. D. Wooley.
The area included in the Kaibab Plateau had been set aside by the Federal Government in 1892 as a forest reserve in order to preserve the timber from fire and spoliation. So Jones went to Washington in 1906 to lay his plan before the Federal authorities, in charge of the Government forest properties.
The result of his visit was a written agreement between Jones and the Federal authorities under which, on January 8, 1906, he was granted permission to inclose a large area of land on the Kaibab Plateau on which to place the buffalo and other wild animals he and his partner proposed to bring into the region.
It was Jones tale of the great deer herds on the Kaibab Plateau and his enthusiasm for the region as a game country that interested President Roosevelt in the idea of making a large Federal game preserve there and led to his order establishing in 1906 the Grand Canyon National Game preserve, which covered the entire plateau and part of the country adjacent to it.
For many years Jones had been obsessed with the idea of perfecting a cross between the wild buffalo and our native range cattle. He believed sincerely that such a cross would carry the beef values of the cow and the extreme hardiness of the buffalo. Thus the hybrids would be able to withstand the hardship of the western winters and thrive on short feed and scarcity of water. This cross was called “Cattalo,” and, if my memory serves me right, the word was coined by Jones. Several other western range men had experimented on this cross, but Jones undoubtedly did the real pioneer work in getting the cross into the public eye. Jones also had another cross-breeding idea in his head which involved the crossing of the fat-tailed Persian sheep with the Western Merino. Through this cross he believed he could produce a very heavy-bodied, unusually hardy animal suitable for the hardships of the Western ranges. These he named “Persiarino,” another of his coined words. As a matter of fact, the Cattalo proved a rank failure, and the Persiarino, although very hairy and prolific, produced extremely course wool and were more often black than white.
In July of 1905 Jones unloaded at Lund, Utah, a small station on the then recently completed Salt Lake-Los Angles railroad, two cars of buffalo. The exact number is a matter of dispute, but there were between 30 and 40 head in the shipment. Those buffalo were shipped from Monterey. California, and oddly enough were a part of the identical buffalo shipped to that point from Garden City, Kansas, several years before. ,
It has been impossible to learn the causes that led up to the return of these buffalo to Jones. The Spaniard who took them to Monterey intended to do some experimenting in crossing them with native cattle. Jones was notably careless, in his business deals, and the supposition is that they were taken back in satisfaction of an unpaid note.
This shipment was met at Lund by Forest Ranger T. C. Hoyt, who was sent by the Government to help drive the animals across the country some 200 miles to their future home on the Kaibab Plateau, Hoyt hired two men to help him, and as the weather was warm and the country a desert the buffalo were very hard to handle. Hoyt solved the difficulty by loading a wagon with sheaf oats bought at a Mormon settlement and when the herd stalled a few handfuls of green oats coaxed the animal to move along. In this way with infinite work and patience and several loads of oats, the bunch reached the Kaibab country without losing an animal. The shipment had been crossed with Holstein cattle in California and several of the hybrids were black and white with white faces instead of the dull rusty brown of the pure-blood buffalo.
Early in 1906 a shipment from Montana of 87 head reached Lund. These were the remnant of the herd from Garden City previously sold by Jones to Charles Allard in Montana, some of which undoubtedly originally came from Kansas as heretofore stated. Here again the causes that led to Jones securing possession of these Montana animals are not clear. There is no living person known who is acquainted with the facts and Jones left no written record of the deal. It can only be surmised that they were not paid for by Allard or his successor Kennedy, and Jones was obliged to take them back.
Forest Ranger Hoyt was again sent over to meet this second shipment which drove easily excepting one animal, a big and very old bull that refused absolutely to go further. The men in charge of the shipment were forced to leave him, but word reached them that the lone animal was creating havoc at Hurricane, so while the men kept the bunch on the trail Hoyt went back to see what could be done with the straggler. Arrived at Hurricane, Hoyt found the king of the prairies parked in the middle of the community alfalfa field taking life easy but making things decidedly interesting for anyone who undertook to dislodge him. Hoyt was an expert cowboy and finally managed to rope the buffalo, and with the help of every man and boy in the settlement, dragged him by the saddle horn to a corral In the middle of the village, where he tied him to a cedar tree with the heaviest rope that was to be found. Hoyt then agreed to pay for the care of the buffalo until word could be received from Jones as to his future.
The rope was long enough to allow the bull to reach an irrigation ditch that ran through the corral and twice a day several terribly scared Mormon kids forked alfalfa hay over the corral fence where the animal could reach it, and then ran for their lives. Eventually the old chap, cross and sore from the rough handling he had received, made a vicious lunge at several adventurous kids who had entered the corral to Inspect this latest addition to the fauna of Utah and Arizona, and broke the rope that held him. They broke the record getting out of the way of those keen black horns.
Then “Bison americanus” sought revenge for the indignities placed upon him by running amuck through the village. He tore down fences; ravished green fields and gardens; gored two or three horses; chased all the town milk cows out on the desert, and for several days kept the residents of the little hamlet in an uproar. Then seeking new fields to conquer he started on the back trail for Lund, which town he finally reached leaving behind him a trail of ruin and desolation in the way of stampeded freight teams he met or passed along the way. Every horse that came in sight or smell of him at once proceeded to throw not one but several fits, stampeding off into the desert adjoining the road regard less of reins or the load behind them. One freighter with a ten-mule team dragging sleepily up a long grade met his Bisonship at a sharp turn of the road. The leaders took one look at the monster, wheeled, and swung back, draggling with them the other teams until the whole outfit was tied up in one struggling mass around the huge freight wagon.
The driver, sitting sidewise on the near wheel mule, lumped to the ground and met the oncoming bull with a shower of rocks, barely making the top of the high hind wheel of his wagon ahead of those keen horns.
Eventually Hoyt arrived on the scene at Lund, shot the bull, sold all the meat he could, and took the hide and head to his ranger cabin as a trophy of what was probably the very first buffalo hunt ever held in Arizona.
In 1907 Jones purchased eight young bulls from the buffalo herd of Mr. Austin Corbin in New Hampshire. These were placed in the herd on the Kaibab together with a number of Galloway cows with the Idea of crossing the buffalo with those coal black cattle and securing a hide with better color and hair. The cross proved unsatisfactory, however, and the experiment was a failure.
The transplanted buffalo, true to their primal instinct, refused to remain in the fenced inclosure in the mountains where they were first placed and proceeded to make their way down into the open prairie country in House Rock Valley, where they made themselves very much at home.
In the fall 1909 Jones, finding his venture unprofitable and tiring of the whole experiment of crossing buffalo with native cattle, gathered together all the buffalo he could round up, drove the bunch to Lund and shipped them to New Mexico. These he eventually sold to a cattle man near Fort Summer, who still has them or their descendants in an inclosed pasture near there, where on their ancient grazing grounds they appear to be well content.
The fifteen or twenty buffalo left in the House Rock valley by Jones cattlemen and have increased until recently they numbered more than 100 head. They are such a nuisance on the range, however, that frequent efforts have been made to drive them out of the country with herds of steers enroute to shipping points on the railroad
Invariably the buffalo, after a few hours on the trail toward civilization have decided that they like House Rock Valley very well and in spite of everything the cowboys could do to keep them with the steers, every single buffalo turned back to its favorite range.
In the fall of 1924 the Grand Canyon Cattle company while removing the remnant of their large herd of cattle from House Rock valley determined to make a last attempt to move some of their share of the buffalo. Accordingly the cowboys roped about a dozen young calves, out of the herd as they mixed with the cattle, placed each in a crate, loaded them all on trucks and hauled them to the railroad, from whence they were shipped to the company’s large fenced ranch in New Mexico, There they will form the nucleus of a future herd of buffalo in that country.
The remaining members of the buffalo herd have now been-purchased at a price of $10,000 by the state of Arizona, the money being raised by hunting license fees. The game warden state that the bison will be given the run of the open range as a part of the state game. Each year every buyer of a license will get a numbered slip. Twenty numbers drawn by lot will entitle the holder to shoot one male Buffalo each, or twenty killed each season. The warden hopes, to stimulate the sale of licenses in this way. At the same time the herd will be kept at 200 head as agreed upon by the state and federal authorities.
And so this is the story of the bison of House Rock valley that came to the western slope of the Rockies from the west and not, as one might expect, from the east.
Phoenix Arizona June 21 1930
Bison Society To Help State Obtain Lands
FLAGSTAFF, June 20. (UP) The American Bison society today announced steps will be taken to aid the Arizona state game commission in its fight to add 100.000 acres to the Houserock valley buffalo grazing area.
An inspection trip over the area was made by Edmund Seymour, president of the bison association, who announced the organization he represented had joined forces with the state body.
At present, the buffalo herd, numbering 89, has to be moved from the range each summer because of lack of water and feed.
“Utah cattlemen who send herds into the district during the summer months, will fight the move of Arizona,” Tom McCullough of the Arizona commission said, “but with help of the American Bison association we hope to secure the grant of land from the government.”
HOUSE ROCK VALLEY BUFFALO
These buffalo on the House Rock Valley range were established there by C. J. Jones (Buffalo Jones) and later owned by Uncle Jimmy
Owens who sold them to the State of Arizona. We traveled all over this range and saw the buffalo which were in good condition and were being handled by Mr. Hugh Anderson, Deputy Game Warden and his young boys, who certainly understand the business. To see his youngest son shimmy up the foreleg of his horse, and scramble into his saddle, would make a moving picture that would interest most anybody.
The Bison Society has considerable data on this herd which now contains about 85 head. The young spotted heifer shown in the photograph is a throwback from the domestic blood which was incorporated into this herd many years ago by Buffalo Jones. A famous member of this herd was a spotted Catalo steer known as “Old Spot,” born in 1916, he grew to be much taller than either buffalo or domestic stock, being over six feet in height at the shoulder. He died in 1928 in a most peculiar manner, although nobody saw the actual occurrence. When his carcass was discovered he was lying on his left side, his head under his shoulders with his left horn hung over on the right side of the hump and the point of this horn deeply imbedded in the flesh on that side. Evidently he had been fighting flies, and, owing to the shape of his horns,—being longer than those of the buffalo and bent forward,—an extra hard swing of the head backwards caused the horn to slip over and hook into the other side of the hump, from which position it was impossible for the steer to extract it. Evidence showed that he had made a hard fight for existence, but the shape and position
of that horn was against him. I recovered the skull and horns of this steer, and through the kindness of Mr. Anderson had them sent to our Secretary, Mr. M. S. Garretson, for the National Collection of Heads and Horns in the New York Zoological Park.
This herd is owned by the State of Arizona and of course the people in the State are greatly interested in it. They have this year imported four pure-blood buffalo bulls to improve their herd. At the State Fair, there was a drawing by those who held State licenses and wished to hunt the excess male buffalo in the fall. It required no expense more than the usual State license of $2.50 and of course, the hunting is done under supervision. The hunter is allowed to take the head and hide and 100 pounds of meat and the rest of the meat is carefully preserved and transported to State institutions. Professional butchers are provided, and arrangements made for taking care of the meat by the State. These peculiar hunting privileges are of great interest and help to keep down the herd within reasonable limits. Nine such privileges were issued in 1930. This method of handling excess male and old buffalo to keep the herd within grazing limits is unique and original with Arizona and could well be followed in other herds.
One of the most puzzling game problems of the State of Arizona is to preserve this valuable herd, and insure that it has adequate summer and winter range. The House Rock Valley is a natural range, and there would be small expense necessary to make it a permanent enclosed range. What the State wishes to do is to have the National Government make this a reservation or sanctuary for buffalo and antelope, to be only under the management of the State of Arizona. On that basis the State of Arizona will feel safe in developing water, fencing and protecting the range, and preserving the buffalo.
The Secretary of the Interior has withdrawn from entry all the area which the State desired to have designated by Congress as the State Buffalo Reserve. The American Bison Society is strongly in favor of this proposed sanctuary. It is natural for me to say that I was very deeply impressed, as everybody must be, at the marvelous scenery of this section of the country. When I took my first look at the Grand Canyon I had to look away for a while to realize that it was real. It is a wonderland and should be always kept that way for the benefit of the American people.
|1906||Abt 90 Bison & Cattalo||Mixed||Mixed|
|100 head Galloway|
|1908 Jan||ABS Cattalo 63||11Males 46 Females 9 Calves -1907|
|1908 Jan||ABS Bison 15||12 Males 2 females|
1 1907 Young Calf
|1909 -1911||Cattle and Cattalo Removed|
|1910||ABS Bison Numbers||Same- 14 Adults|
|1912 Jan||ABS Uncertain|
|1913 Jan||ABS Bison 14|| 3 Males 7 Females|
4 1912 Calves
|1916 Total||ABS 17||5 males, 9 females|
|1923 Total||ABS 82||34 Males 38 Females|
10 Yrl Clfs
|1926 Total||ABS 80||31 Males 40 Females|
9 Yrl Clfs
|1929 Added||4||Bulls||Wind Cave|
|1930 June Total||89|
|1942 Added||12||Bulls||Wichita Mnts|
|1946 Added||6||Bulls||Wichita Mnts|
|1956 Added||10||Bulls||Wichita Mnts|
|1980 Added||3||Unknown||Nat’l Bison Range|
|2001 Added||2||2 Cows||Henry Mnts|
|2001 Added||3||3 Bulls||Henry Mnts|
St Louis Dispatch
St Louis Missouri Dec 19 1930
WOMAN HUNTER KILLS BISON
Takes Part in Supervised Expedition in Arizona Forest. By the Associated Press. PHOENIX, Ariz., Dec. 18. Mrs. J. G. Tarbell, Phoenix, one of the 10 hunters chosen by the Arizona Game Commission to assist in reducing the State’s bison herd to a normal size compatible with its range in Kaibab Forest, returned here last night and reported each of the hunters bagged one animal.
Mrs. Tarbell brought with her the head, hide and 100 pounds of meat as proof she was able to make the kill. Another woman, Mrs. Emma K. Haynie. Tucson, was in the party. The bison hunt occurs annually and is supervised by the commission. The hunter is allowed only 100 pounds of the meat of the bison he kills.
Oakland, California Apr 24, 1932
BUFFALO HUNTING Revived in America
by Orin Arnold
WELL, sir, eight of the fellows out in Arizona this spring got a chance to do something that a million or so other outdoorsmen would give their fortunes for. Fact is, a few of the unlucky ones offered small fortunes for the chance.
Each of the eight was allowed to oil up his rifle and shoot a real buffalo-biggest game in America!
And it wasn’t just a tame slaughter, either, because the big animals had to be hunted down in the wild and rugged House Bock Valley country, with all the thrills that attended the sport when Bill Cody and the Indians sought bison for blankets and food.
Not quits all the thrills; the only thing lacking was the danger of being scalped. The “buffs,” you’ll remember, were highly prized by the red men and jealously guarded by them. In the good old days, if eight white men had shot buffaloes in House Rock Valley, the local Apache or Navajo camps likely would have been blessed with eight white captives for torture and death. This year the majesty of the State of Arizona, in the person of William O. Joyner, State Game Warden, stood by and supervised the hunt; but still, as one of the hunters said it, “a body could use his magination right peart like out here.”
ARIZONA owns a fine herd of bison, and they run wild in the House Rock country, which is located near the Grand Canyon and is about the most picturesque area in Western America. The herd this year had grown to ninety-four animals, and that was too many, the State said. So a public hunt was arranged.
Now, just anybody couldn’t rush up and start shooting. If that had been permitted, the whole ninety-four would have been run to death before night “a feller could jest picture them old woolly cows staggerin’ along with their tongues hanging out and their sides a-heavln’, with a bunch of school kids after ’em.” That’s about what it would have amounted to, for it takes a good shot in the right spot to bring down a buffalo.
So the game warden arranged to pick eight hunters. On a certain date the names of all men and women who had paid their 1932 hunting licenses were placed in a box and curly-headed little Bernice and Ethel Fountain, daughters of a local farmer, drew out the eight names, one by one.
Bob Franklin, of Glendale, was the first one. The drawing was done on the State Capitol grounds, in Phoenix, nearly a quarter mile from the Governor’s office, but when his name was called Bob let out a whoop like a Kentucky rebel. They say that venerable Governor Hunt, who is now ending his seventh term in office, opened his window and peered out to see if a political riot had started against him!
Next, the name of C. Gunter, from Globe, was called; then came George Ruiz, Eddie Forney, of Peoria; Harry Rich, of Tucson; A. A. Guild, L. C. McIntyre and F. H. Mayberry, all of Phoenix. Four newspapermen acted as judges to see that the drawing was fair.
THOSE eight men were more important in Arizona for a few days than was the entire State Legislature, then in special session. They had plenty to write back home about; they had a chance to join in a sport that has been peculiar to Western America and that has just about passed out of the picture for all time.
Unfortunate persons who did not win a chance wanted to buy one. Rumors had it that some of the eight were offered as high as $10,000 for their winning tickets, but if any tickets were sold it was done on the quiet.
With only eight men scheduled to hunt buffaloes, sporting-goods stores found it good business to display high-powered rifles of every kind, and all the masculine hangouts about Phoenix were cluttered with knots of men yarning about hunting, remembering “the time when I” did so and so. In theory, those eight unfortunate bison were killed a million or so the game actually led his gang into House Valley.
But when the hunting party did start,’ old Mother Nature decided that she was going to join the gang! And she did. She evidently recollected how she used to snort and blow when the forty-niners teamed westward and stopped to hunt, so she started blowing for these 1933 tenderfoot city fellows who essayed to take up the old-time sport. She pelted snow at the party all night, and next day she took to puffing it in their faces. Then she stood on top of the mercury in the thermometer and stomped it down to zero. “Now, let’s see how much he-man stuff Arizona’s got left!” the old gal evidently reasoned.
Bill Joyner and his eight accepted the challenge. The first day they bagged two mountainous’ buffalo bulls, staggering through knee-deep snow to do it. Next day they felled six more, which made the quota. You can picture Mother Nature going back home satisfied that Western men are not a race of softies yet.
THREE days later some of the leading grocery stores in Phoenix astonished their customers by displaying a big sign like this:
BUFFALO MEAT FOR SALE
Sunburned and fuzzy-faced old prospectors, men who recollected when bison were not protected by the State, rode into town that week-end and stared at the sign in amazement. One of them stopped his two pack burros in a back , alley and walked into the store. “Hev yew got real-fer-sartln buff meat?” he demanded, frankly skeptical,
“Yessir, the real goods! How much, please?” a natty clerk answered him. The old man glared at him. His eyes narrowed.
“Son, yew’re a dang liar, ez I see it! I kin still lick fellers yer size, three at a time ef I hev to! I’m glttln’ purty hot about this here; now you make good on that claim, right quick!”
But the grocery clerk, age 18 and a saxophone player at nights, had the trump card for once. The old fellow mumbled his astonishment and went away, wondering, probably, if he had reached that age when a man’s brains begin to slump on him.
Each of the eight hunters was allowed to keep 100 pounds of the meat from the bull he killed and to keep the head of the animal. By this time, surely, eight living rooms about the State have suddenly been glorified by the hanging of bulky, ugly, glassy-eyed, shaggy mounted bison heads. No; it matters not that the housewife’s ideas of esthetic harmony”‘ are offended; her whole scheme of interior decoration likely is despoiled, but, “great goodness, woman, this is a real buffalo head, killed by me, myself!” In such moments of trial, delicate and dainty woman must be patient.
TAXIDERMISTS mounted the heads In lifelike fashion on big wooden plaques and made good jobs of them. The world can move on into the television stage, the era of glass office buildings and interplanetary communication or what not, but the children and grandchildren of these eight hunters can always show proof that their family springs from pioneer stock; that at-least-one ancestor shot wild buffalo on the Western plains.
Most of the hunters took their 100 pounds of precious meat (It retailed in the groceries as high as 80 cents per pound) and distributed it among close friends. One or two gave barbecue parties on the sunny winter desert; some packed samples of the meat in iced cartons and shipped it to relatives at distant points.
Buffalo meat is good, but is hardly a delicacy as the modern world of fancy cooking knows the term. It is thoroughly substantial, often to the point of being downright tough. Side by side, good store-bought beef is much more appetizing and tender, which is why the American ranching industry centered on cows rather than on buffaloes, but bison roast has that invaluable tang of wildness present in venison, wild duck, quail, and virtually all other wild meats. But, on top of that, it has a tremendous, incomparable flavor of sentiment and romance which tickles the mental palate of every true outdoorsman. One of the eight hunters wrapped a piece of the cooked meat the size of a half dollar and mailed it to his 10-year-old nephew In New Jersey, with this message In the letter: “Buddy, I want you to eat this, so you can always tell yourself and your children that you once ate a piece of real buffalo meat. You may never have the opportunity to do so again.”
Some of the hunters cared little for the meat, but, like the’ fishermen who rarely eat fish, enjoyed only the sport of getting the animal. The tales those eight tell already are getting more interesting, by the way, and within five years the narratives should comprise distinct contributions to American fiction.
A friend and I, were out in the snow when we saw our first one,” one of the hunters tells. “It was a big bull, standing not fifty yards from us, and I guess he discovered us about the same time” we” saw him.
“‘Shoot, quick!’ my pal said, for it was my hunt that day.”
‘Not me!’ I answered. And I wouldn’t have, either, for a wounded buffalo, I’ve heard, is as bad as a wounded bear. A bullfight in Mexico is a knitting party alongside a fight with a mad buff bull.
“We stood there and shook at the knees for a spell. Then, all of a sudden, the buffalo started working toward us! Now, gentlemen, if you don’t think, a shaggy-necked buffalo bull in a snowstorm don’t look as big as Piles Peak, you are wrong!”
“I’m not going into details about what I and my buddy did, but it was next day before I got my game.”
QUERIED about this extraordinary episode, one of the State employees from there said the buffalo bull in question doubtless was old Geronimo, the pet of the herd, who would have been thoroughly satisfied if the nervous hunters had given him a lump of sugar or a lick of salt.
House Rock Valley, the home of Arizona’s herd of buffaloes, gets its name from a peculiar rock formation which dominates the landscape and which is known to every person who ever has visited the region. The strange formation is, indeed, a castle from some fantastic fairy tale, at first glance.
The next impression is that’s the gigantic house like rock must be the remains of some prehistoric race of builders, who had thus molded a fortress bigger than many a mountain. Actually, the place is just another freak of nature, albeit a most interesting and spectacular one. It was standing there exactly as it is today when the old boys in Egypt got to thinking it might be a good idea to build some pyramids. It is useless except to look at now, but less than a century ago all sorts of gods and spirits lived in and around it, so the Indians tell.
The buffaloes that live around the House Rock were sold to the State by “Uncle Jimmy” Owens, who lives there, too. In Arizona, that’s enough introduction to “Uncle Jimmy,” for he is part and parcel of the State’s history and will be prominent in its legends for all time. He is an old fellow with a shaggy gray head, a mustache, a grin, a straight-shooting rifle, and a kindly heart. He figured to get rich off the buffaloes once, and maybe he did, but he lost interest in private bison ranching and sold out.
“Uncle Jimmy’s” herd, now Arizona’s, was an outgrowth of the once famous buffalo herd on the Goodnight Ranch, in West Texas. More than fifty years ago a Texas cowgirl found three orphaned buffalo calves and raised them on a bottle. From that nucleus grew perhaps the world’s greatest privately owned buffalo herd. The animals, numbering in the thousands, roamed the Goodnight Ranch, which “took in several counties.”
But the grandeur of the ranch waned and with it the buffalo herd so that last winter a group of philanthropic Dallas businessmen had to step in and save the remnants of the herd from going to the meat markets. The herd had dwindled to 299 animals and had been mortgaged for $7000. The Dallas men purchased them from the City National Bank, of Wichita Falls, Tex., and assured the public that Goodnight bison should forever live on the Llano Estacado or in the Panhandle. It is a matter of deep sentiment with all true Texans.
NEWS of Arizona’s buffalo hunt this year gave rise to a dispute over the ownership of one particular animal in House Rock Valley.
Among the huge beasts, there is a “pinto,” or painted animal one with colorings other than the natural brownish-black. It is a conspicuous member of the herd and worth considerably more than average because of its oddity.Meet Bill Buffalo. Maybe his attitude is friendly or it may be otherwise. You never can tell. It takes him about ten seconds to make up his mind whether to eat out of your hand or try to butt you into the next county.
A. Fields, of Ophir, Utah, says that Pinto belongs to him and wrote W. O. Joyner, Arizona
game warden, to that effect. Said Mr. Fields: “I paid a good price for him several, years ago with the intention of taking him away, but have been unable to do so., I would like the State of Arizona to purchase him if it wants to. If not, I am intending to dispose of him or take him away in the near future.”
The matter was “tabled” by the game warden for future consideration. But it seemed likely that possession would be maybe all ten points of the law and that old Pinto could loll forever in the lush grasses of House Rock Valley.
Arizona did not have quite a full monopoly on the Nation’s buffalo killing this year. Wyoming saw 100 animals killed in Yellowstone Park, but there the business was just an official slaughter by authorized Federal marksmen and was not a hunt at all.
In the late 1990’s, with a combination of a changed bison hunting structure at House Rock Wildlife Area and fires in the area between the Wildlife Area and Grand Canyon National Park, some of the bison from the House Rock herd began migrating higher up on the Kaibab Plateau and into Grand Canyon National Park. NPS
Grand Canyon National Park, Along With Yellowstone, Has Bison Problems
Yellowstone National Park isn’t the only national
park with bison issues. Far to the south, Grand Canyon National Park officials are trying to better manage bison on the park’s North Rim. Actually, they’re trying to get the animals off the park’s property on the North Rim.
The root of the problem dates back more than a century, to 1906, when a rancher by the name of Charles “Buffalo” Jones bought some bison to breed with his cows with hopes of producing “a superior, more robust breed of livestock, the ‘cattalo.’”
Unfortunately for Buffalo Jones, the experiment was a failure. But not all the resulting “cattaloes” were removed from the federal lands on the Kaibab Plateau. Today, the descendants of this hybrid group are managed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department as wild game, with a limited hunting season each year.
Unfortunately for the Park Service, since 2000 these hybrid bison have moved from the U.S. Forest Service lands up onto the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. “The herd now numbers more than 400 head, with the majority staying within park boundaries year round,” park officials note. “Unfortunately these extremely large grazing animals are fouling sensitive and critical water sources, trampling and removing delicate vegetation, and compacting fragile soils.”
During a teleconference Wednesday with reporters, Grand Canyon Superintendent Dave Uberuaga said the cow-bison hybrids have caused grazing problems on the park’s North Rim, impacts to lakeshores, and “there’s been some archaeological impacts as well.”
With hopes of reaching a solution to this problem, Grand Canyon officials are initiating a public scoping period for a bison management plan. Possible solutions range from fencing out the animals to culling, as is done in parks with elk population problems, such as Rocky Mountain National Park.
Genetically, these animals are nothing special, according to a list of “Frequently Asked Questions” the Park Service prepared. While officials on the conference call Wednesday couldn’t break down, percentage-wise, the genetic makeup of these hybrids, the FAQ sheet noted that, “Recent genetic testing indicates the current population continues to have historic cattle genetics, though no outward physical characteristics of cattle have been observed in over 20 years. Genetic science also indicates that these bison do not possess the highly diverse or unique genetics for furthering the conservation of the species, compared to other wild bison herds.”
Still, there are proponents for allowing the animals to remain on the North Rim inside the park.
“Cattle genes are now ubiquitous in North American bison: small amounts of cattle genes are found in the majority of national, state and private bison herds in the United States. While some of those bison are domesticated, others are wild despite gene contamination,” reads an op-ed piece that ran in the Arizona Daily Sun. “The Grand Canyon herd should be genetically tested, and their behavior studied. Individuals of the Grand Canyon herd with excessive gene contamination or strong domestic behavior could be eliminated. Doing so would present a rare opportunity for Grand Canyon National Park to contribute to the genetic heritage of the America bison.”
Nevertheless, Superintendent Uberuaga said the Park Service would like to see an agreement “to move them off park lands, onto Forest Service lands where they would be able to be huntable wildlife.”
The first opportunity to begin to craft such a management plan will be during a 60-day public scoping period beginning when the Notice of Intent is published in the Federal Register. Scoping will provide the public and other interested parties the opportunity to participate early in identifying the range of issues to be considered when the NPS studies the potential environmental impacts of managing bison in the park; to identify topics and concerns that should be addressed in the EIS; and to bring forward any new information that NPS may not be aware of that would be useful in preparing the plan and EIS.
2014- Late Pleistocene and Holocene Bison of the Colorado Plateau:
Are Bison Native to the Greater Grand Canyon Area?
By Jeff M. Martin, Rachel A. Short, and Jim I. Mead
Few animals in North America possess the cultural, spiritual, ecological, economic, political, and natural history attributes of the North American bison. Certainly, no other North American animal has gone to the brink of extinction twice—during the megafaunal extinction at the end of the Pleistocene and then during the late 1800s when Euro-Americans hunted nearly all that existed at that time.
Today, nearly 400 bison live in and around Grand Canyon National Park. Management of the herd is complex because the animals are property of the State of Arizona (Arizona Game and Fish Department, AZGFD), but the herd meanders onto the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and uses the natural resources of the Kaibab Plateau (Martin, 2014). Moreover, while the State of Arizona has designated bison a native species, the Grand Canyon National Park regards them as nonnative and human (re)-introduced. Wildlife, including bison, do not adhere to arbitrary boundaries. As such, wildlife biologists must use science-based precedence, including wildlife nativity, to determine management strategies and protocols (Martin and Mead, 2014). In this case, nativity means naturally occupying an area through time. However, managing transient wildlife across Federal and State lands is not simple because of differing goals of agencies that, in this case, include the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the AZGFD. For instance, according to the State of Arizona, bison are a native species; yet, Grand Canyon National Park does not have the same designation. Conflict between agencies can have cascading effects on management decisions and, in an effort to resolve this, we examined the nativity of bison on the Colorado Plateau (Martin et al., 2017).
Although there are fossil records of Bison in many areas of the western United States, few Bison fossils have been found in the arid Southwest—especially in and around the Greater Grand Canyon Region. Today, there are fenced areas near the Grand Canyon, but the Grand Canyon ecosystem extends beyond the property boundaries and is referred to by us as the Greater Grand Canyon area. We looked at the Greater Grand Canyon area ecosystem and the Colorado Plateau physiographic region as potential areas where Bison could have lived prior to the fencing of the West. We reviewed undocumented and misidentified specimens from archaeological and paleontological localities archived in collections at the Museum of Northern Arizona, at the Grand Canyon National Park, and at the East Tennessee State University Vertebrate Paleontology lab. The previously undescribed specimens consist predominately of dung and skeletal remains from cave, rock shelter, and packrat midden localities. We also located occurrences of Bison from the following online data sets: Neotoma Paleoecology Database (NeotomaDB, www.neotomadb.org); Arizona’s Cultural Resource Inventory (AZSite, http://azsite3.asurite.ad.asu.edu/Azsite/) and Neogene Mammal Mapping Portal (NeoMap, www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/neomap/).
Poor fossil preservation introduced a collection bias that caused previous researchers studying faunal distributions to assume that bison were not native, even with evidence from paleontological, archaeological, and historical sites. A seemingly unintended outcome of this assumption was the erroneous taxonomic identification of some specimens. For example, 13 localities were found to have Bison fossils that were previously mislabeled as Pleistocene horse (Equus) and Anthropocene cattle (Bos taurus; Balkwill and Cumbaa, 1992). In total, we located 74 Bison-bearing fossil, subfossil, and historical localities (for a complete listing of localities, see Martin et al., 2017) since the latest Pleistocene (~160,000 years ago). My Fossil.org