Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

1907

Wichita National Bison Herd

THE WICHITA NATIONAL BISON HERD.

Presented to the Nation by the New York Zoological Society.

It seems strange that the East should undertake the task of restoring to a permanent basis in the West an important wild-animal species that was destroyed by the men of the West. Greed and blood-lust is not, like the tariff, a local issue. It is thoroughly cosmopolitan. Wherever there is found an abundance of wild animal life, there will be found also the buzzards of commerce-destroying life and wrecking” carcases. It was the men of the West who got up the wild and bloody orgy of the buffalo plains, and left behind them only foul carcasses, poisoned air and desolation. Strange to say, however, the West has shown little more than a bystander’s interest in the effort now being made to establish the American Bison species on national ranges with such a degree of permanency that it will endure for the centuries of the future. Most of the appeals of the Bison Society for contributions from beyond the head of the Ohio River have fallen on deaf ears and tightly-closed purses. The West as a whole has yet to learn what it is to give dollars for the preservation of wild life; but the record of Wyoming and Colorado in feeding starving Elk, last winter, constitutes a fine exception.

For many years, various individuals have urged Congress to “do something” for the Bison. I think it was the efforts of Col. “Buffalo” Jones, of Kansas, that finally resulted in the establishing of a national Bison herd in the Yellowstone Park. It cost a mighty effort, backed by the Biological Survey, to secure through that grand champion of wild life. Congressman John F. Lacey, of Iowa, the sum of $10,000 for that nucleus.

Later on, the New York Zoological Society conceived the idea of a corporate sacrifice in behalf of the Bison, and proposed to the government a partnership arrangement for the founding of a new herd. The Society offered a nucleus herd of 15 pure-blood Bison as a gift, delivered on the ground, provided the National Government would set aside 12 square miles of fine grazing grounds, on what once was the range of the great southern herd, fence it in, and permanently maintain the herd.

The offer was promptly and graciously accepted, the money involved was immediately voted, and the fence was erected in a very satisfactory manner. Without any unnecessary delay, the Zoological Society selected 15 of the finest Bison in the Zoological Park herd, and with most generous aid from the American and Wells-Fargo Express Companies (who carried the herd free of all cost), the gift was delivered at the southern boundary of the Wichita National Forest and Game Preserve in southwestern Oklahoma.

The following animals were selected to constitute the nucleus of the Wichita National Bison herd:
1 large bull, 5 1/2 years old, “Comanche”
1 bull, 3 1/2 years old, “Geronimo”
2 bulls, 2 1/2 years old, General Lawton formerly know as Lone Wolf” and “Quannah”
1 spike bull,
1 bull calf, 6 months old,  “Black Dog”
6 adult cows, all breeders,
1 cow, 2 1/2 years old,
1 cow, 1 1/2 years old,
1 female calf, 6 months old.
Total, 15 head.

 

WICHITA BUFFALO RANGE. pg356

We are advised by the Bureau of Forestry, of the Department of Agriculture, that the fulfillment of the contract for the erection of the fences, corrals, barn and sheds of the Wichita Buffalo Range has been satisfactorily carried out. By July 15th, the work will be completed, and the range will be ready. For several excellent reasons, it is not best to send the herd southward in midsummer, but at the earliest satisfactory date the shipment will be made. It is the opinion of those most interested that October will be the best month for the transfer of the nucleus herd, and arrangements will be made accordingly.

 

 

Zoological Park send bison to Wichita Range
THE NATIONAL BISON HERD. Pg 400 Harvard University

An Account of the ‘Transportation of the Bison from the Zoological Park to Wichita Range

By Elwin R. Sanborn.

After a lapse of many months, the National Bison Herd has become an accomplished fact, and the energy and perseverance of the Director at last realized in the establishment in the Wichita Preserve of fifteen of the Zoological Park’s finest bison.

*In 1905, an agent of the Society visited the \\’ichita National Forest and Game Preserve to select a suitable location for a range. The conditions proved to be all that could be desired, and Mr. Loring’s enthusiastic description of the wonderful possibility was a powerful incentive to the consummation of the plan.  (*Report of the New York Zoological Society for 1905.)

Bison chute

The problem of successfully shipping these ponderous animals such a tremendous distance, was one of the utmost importance. Experience had shown that animals, confined in small crates, ride uneasily and with serious results, often reaching their destination tired, emaciated, and wholly off their feed, with bruised flesh and sore bones, which necessarily must be overcome. An inspection of the various crates in which specimens had been received at the Zoological Park, indicated that most frequently the animals could neither recline nor stand with perfect freedom, and often were ill-fitted to journey hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles, with the never failing delays.

The Director planned a series of crates, which would in every case be comfortable for each individual, and these were constructed after his ideas. Each crate was large enough to permit its occupant to lie down comfortably, and was carefully padded to relieve the inevitable jolting.

The Park herd was trained to the hour, and its members were as fine and healthy as human ingenuity and good food could make them. The animals had been selected months before their actual shipping time. The work of rounding-up the herd was commenced in October, upon the arrival of Mr. Frank Rush, the Government agent, who was to accompany the bison on their long journey, and the work of separating the selected stock from the main herd proceeded with precision and dispatch under Keeper McEnroe. A chute, fifty feet in length, had been erected between the two main corrals fronting the Buffalo House, communicating with both and terminating with a very ingenious sliding iron gate. Against this gate the crates were placed. The herd of fifteen was driven into the north corral, and the animals, one at a time, liberated into the chute. As soon as each bison was selected, the properly marked crate, designated for this particular specimen, was fastened into position adjacent to the sliding-door. Most of the animals were rushed down and into the crate before they could realize it. Occasionally one became obstreperous and delayed proceedings by hurdling and various other tactics, but from eleven o’clock until five of

Train Cars

Thursday, October 10th, thirteen were crated and loaded into the cars at Fordham. On Friday, the last two were disposed of, and by noon of that day the last crate was placed in position in the cars. The Arms Palace Horse Car Company, of Chicago, furnished two fortv-four foot cars, of the type used for transporting fancy stock. These were equipped with collapsable stalls, and water-tanks capable of holding water sufficient for the trip. The cars were arranged with high and low speed air-brakes and steam connections. And no one would have dared to believe that such inoffensive apparatus could make as much trouble as those several bits of hose swinging from either end eventually did.

Through the late Charles T. Barney, Esq., Mr. Dudley Evans, President, and Mr”. H. B. Parsons, Vice-President of the Wells-Fargo Express Company agreed to transport the cars free of charge from St. Louis to Cache, Oklahoma, on account of the public interest in the shipment. Mr. James C. Fargo, President of the American E.xpress Company, was then advised of their offer, and at once decided that he would also do the same, provided the New York Central would concur. This President Newman promptly conceded on behalf of his company.

These arrangements having been quickly and satisfactorily arranged, the cars were stored with hay and water for the animals, provisions and blankets for the attendants. On Friday night they were attached to train No. 37, of the Central’s fast passenger service, in charge of Chief Clerk Mitchell, and the long journey began.

We signed our lives away to the Express Company and secured accident policies at the Grand Central Station, for four days’ duration, to balance the account.

It was a bit awe inspiring, a train of thought superinduced no doubt by our reckless barter, to realize that in the midst of this vast station with its multitudes of people, its coughing, booming trains, in the center of the greatest city of the new world, were fifteen helpless animals, whose ancestors had been all but exterminated by the very civilization which was now handing back to the prairies this helpless band, a tiny remnant born and raised 2,000 miles from their native land. Surely the course of Empire westward takes its way.

But sentiment is forgotten when at the conductors’ “ail-aboard,” we clamber into Arms Palace Horse Car 6026, and in the dim light of a swinging oil lamp with the accompaniment of rumbling wheels and snorting bison, realize we are at last actually in motion. When we close the side doors and throw over the cross bar, we are cut off from the outside world entirely. No bell rope, no signal of any kind ! Enthusiasm is at its lowest ebb, 2,000 miles from our journey’s end, and anticipations only to buoy our hopes. As the train gathers speed, the clanking chains clash against the floor of the car, the partitions of the collapsable stalls thud dismally together, and the upper works in general creak and groan in the most cheerless way. It is then that we realize how very comfortable must be the “Pullmanites.”

Bison Crates on Wagons

Smoking would be a solace, but is out of the question. A fire once started in the midst of all that dry hay, fanned by sixty miles of speed, we would be hurled furiously through the darkness of the night a seething mass of flame, for we were then as helpless as the bison themselves. No exit for us except by flying, and no ingress for others, unless they adopted the same means. Very soon we left the yards and dropped into a steady roll, plunging through the night along the banks of the Hudson, occasional glimmers of the water showing through the glass covers of the crated doors. Every swing of the train was echoed by hoarse remonstrances from the bison.

An ample space at the head of the car had been partially filled with bales of hay, and at ten o’clock we made up our bunk there, as there seemed little else to do. Mr. Rush decided to try an upper berth, as he facetiously termed it, on the tops of two of the crates, and by spreading his blankets there upon a pile of hay, composed himself at a right angle to our direction, with true western resignation to all sorts and conditions of things. With more hay, Mr, Mitchell and I laboriouslv constructed on the floor a bed of voluminous proportions and turned in. I can boast all my life of having slept within seven-eighths of an inch of an American bison. He resented it. and betrayed his feelings by stealing our bed ; not all at once, but piecemeal. Very dexterously thrusting his flexible tongue through the openings of his crate, he would carefully get a firm hold on a wisp of hay and wait until I slept, then give a good, healthy pull. I could feel that rope of hay start at my feet, and gradually extend itself with a snaky motion to the wisps which curled over the blankets at my head. After six or seven of these alarms, I made a rapid calculation of the number of hours I actually could sleep before striking bottom, and by dividing the pile of hay by his capacity, figured that I could just reach morning by throwing in the gunny-sack-full which we dubbed “pillow.”

We awoke in the morning many miles from Buffalo in a raw, cold air. We were thoroughly employed, caring for stock, until the train rolled into Buffalo, and it was a great relief to have the animals contentedly feeding, and to find them enduring the journey so well. The wisdom of the Director, in making roomy crates, was more than abundantly manifest even so early in the journey, for with but one or two exceptions, the animals were lying down. The big bull stubbornly resisted this

Caravan

provision for many hours, but before we reached Cleveland, he was glad to make use of it and stretched himself out with a grunt of satisfaction which was more expressive than words. We rolled into Buffalo late in the forenoon and gladly leaped out of our airy quarters to attend the needs of the animals in the rear car. Here we encountered the first obstruction to our journey, which afterwards occurred so frequently that it became a habit. The inspectors blandly reported to us that the steam-hose had been pulled off in the night and the bolts in one of the brakebeams had loosened, almost dropping it to the level of the rails. The cars must be run into the cripple track and jacked up, and with the customary yards of railroad red-tape surrounding such events, Mr. Mitchell could readily understand what a delay this would mean. Moreover, to cap the climax, the Lake Shore road refused to handle the cars, declaring them not properly equipped for fast work. It was right here that the esprit de corps of the Zoological Park showed its true worth. Mr. Mitchell was a bulwark against all opposition, and his perfect familiarity with the proper railroad methods rendered him absolutely impervious to all opposition. Scarcely twenty minutes elapsed before the yardmen had expanded under the influence of Zoological Park spirit, and the cars were being whisked away to the repair yards. That was half the battle accomplished, but there yet remained the fact that we were denied the right to ride with the passenger service. Buffalo officials peremptorily refused. After a lengthy argument, Cleveland was reached by long-distance ‘phone and the Traffic Manager reluctantly gave his consent to couple us with the second section of 37. Our spirits arose appreciably and after assuring ourselves that the construction work was progressing rapidly enough to ensure our making this train, we awaited our leaving time with great satisfaction.

Each Bison Was Sprayed With Crude Oil

At 1:30 we were attached to a train of express cars, running as the second section of 37, en route to Cleveland. We skirted the shores of Lake Erie, feeling the first real breath of winter sweeping across its surface. The season was three weeks earlier than the New York region, and autumn had laid her finger heavily on all the vegetation. Out of Dunkirk we ran into a smart storm of rain a cold, penetrating one, which the rapid motion of the train drove into every nook and cranny, finally dripping into the remnants which the bull had left of our bed, so that we were forced to erect a shelter over it with a piece of oilcloth. The broken windows were repaired with New York dailies and overcoats donned. At every station the trainmen crept into the car, drenched, condemning the weather and accommodations with one breath. It was so delightful to see others miserable that our spirits rose in ratio. In spite of these discomforts, this was our smoothest ride. We arrived at Cleveland promptly on the hour, the first, last and only time it happened. So far we had experienced some trials and tribulations, but the unvarying courtesy of the railroad people amply compensated us. We were not surprised to learn at Cleveland that the steam hose had once more been left along the line. This completely forestalled making the proper connections for St. Louis, and it was 3.50 Sunday morning before the Big Four could handle the cars.

The steam connections had to be repaired again at Indianapolis, and this, together with delayed trains, held us there until nearly ten o’clock Sunday night. The temperature still remained low, and when the train crossed Ead’s Bridge into St. Louis, the structure glittered with frost.

At St. Louis we encountered the worst obstacles of the entire trip, with their resulting disappointments. Train service had grown visibly heavier, on entering the border lines of the West, and our scheduled time had long since been completely lost to sight and memory, both by monotonous accidents to our equipment and lost time. At St. Louis the conditions were more congested than ever. The Frisco Road had already informed the Terminal Association that it could not possibly accept the cars together. One car might go with No. 7 at 8.41 Monday evening, and the other at the same hour the next night. Better service than this was impossible. Mr. Mitchell then called on the Superintendent to the Wells-Fargo Company, and explained how desirable it would be to retain something of our original arrangement. Together they went to the General Manager of the Frisco, but this was of no avail. As a last resort, the suggestion was broached of sending one car over the Rock Island to Oklahoma City, there connecting with the Santa Fe, but this the Santa Fe was unable to do, on account of heavy traffic. We, therefore, accepted the situation with the best grace possible and divided the force in a manner suitable to the occasion.

Wichita - A Portion of the Corrals Showing Shelter

The cars were thoroughly taken care of and the stock watered and fed. We found every one of the bison in as good condition as we expected. All the animals had become thoroughly accustomed to the unusual situation and behaved exactly as if peacefully grazing in the Zoological Park.

A protion of winter valley showing the location of the corrals

Mr. Rush, in charge of car 6026, left St. Louis at 8.41 Monday evening and without delay or accident arrived safely in Cache Wednesday afternoon at 3.00 o’clock. Wagons were in waiting and the seven animals were safely transferred to the corrals at the Reserve before midnight of the same day. We remained until Tuesday evening at 8.41, at which hour we left St. Louis with the other car of eight animals.

No sleeping accommodations could be arranged in this car, and we transferred our blankets to the express car, where we slept on the floor the night through, arriving at Monette, Missouri, at 7 o’clock Wednesday morning. As nearly all of the western papers had described the bison transfer, our arrival at the various towns south of St. Louis was awaited with considerable interest, and in some places, it approached enthusiasm. As the side doors would be opened throngs of men, women and children rushed up to get a glimpse of the famous animals, and if the stop was long enough, they climbed in and inspected the bison through the openings of the crates. In some places, the car was packed to suffocation, and the people only departed when they were forced out by the speed of the train. The signs attracted attention everywhere and the curious observers noted them all along the line, reading as long as the car remained in sight.

The word “Zoological” was pronounced in more ways than I thought ever possible. The air became milder hourly, and it was possible to open the side doors and view a country at once both interesting and strange. Gradually the hills gave way to low swells and the wooded portions were confined to the streams, whose course could be marked for miles by the narrow ribbons of green which finally lost themselves in the distant blue of the horizon. Fields of corn, some standing, others stacked, with an occasional field of cotton, lay on every side basking in the mellow light of the early fall. We reached Oklahoma City at 11.30 Wednesday evening, where we remained until noon the next day.

A band of Commanche Indians who came from Cache to see the bison

The station at Oklahoma City was thronged with interested people who crowded the cars on both sides; and in fact, these visits developed into ovations, the farther toward the promised land we progressed. At Lawton, we were surrounded by citizens who pined to see the bison, and as our hunger had by this time superseded all other considerations, we left the car in charge of a strong man who had kindly volunteered his services, so that we might satisfy the cravings of healthy appetites. After a ride of seventeen miles from Lawton, it was a relief to arrive at Cache at last, and know that our railroad trip was at an end, just seven days from the leaving time at New York.

Mr. Rush and Mr.Mattoon, the Acting Forest Supervisor, met us here upon the arrival of the train at 7.30 P. M. We commenced early in the morning to transfer the crates to the wagons provided, and by ten o’clock Friday all were safely loaded. The entire population of Cache turned out, together with a band of Comanche Indians, resplendent in their gayest clothes. At eleven o’clock we started for the Reserve. One small bull persisted in thinking that liberty was the only thing he desired at that moment, and played a perfect tattoo against the ends of his crate, but aside from that, the caravan moved away without a hitch.

Mr. Rush had planned every detail with the greatest care, and the success of all the arrangements at Cache and the Reserve was due to his tireless interest and forethought. We rode three miles over a flat, sandy road, bordered with prosperous farms, and through prairie land, studded with mesquite, and all along the streams with oaks, elms, and various hardwoods. The line of the Reserve is just within the borders of the Wichita Mountains. Once inside, the road was more uneven, and except for short distances became fairly rough, making the progress of the wagons rather slow. The direction was almost due north for a matter of six miles as far as Pattersons, and from that point is extended toward the

A Comanche Brave

northwest. At Pattersons the trail winds through a forest of oaks; white, post, black jack and Texas red oak, which become scattered at Winter Valley is approached. Not a single evergreen of any kind can be seen in the low land, but a variety of cedar, scrubby and gnarled, grows on the mountain sides. The leaves of the oaks were a rich, glossy green, showing not the least sign that it was autumn. The country is certainly one of the fairest the sun ever shone upon. All one has read and all that imagination could conjure would be inadequate to picture this vision of loveliness, of nature scarcely touched by the hand of man, which spread before my astonished eyes when once we were fairly in the valley.

The tan-colored sward swept away in a succession of gentle undulations, gradually merging into the blue silhouette of the mountains away in the west, and abruptly ending on the north and south, in the rock-covered sides of those nearby.

Through the center of the Bison Range, a clear stream traced its course

Comanche Squaw and Papoose

with a hedge like line of trees, the yellow tops of the tall cotton-woods marking its path as it disappeared among the swells. The silence was profound. It was a bit of nature as wild and free as though just created. These mountains were a source of wonder to me as long as I remained, and when I knew better all their varying moods, Irving’s beautiful description of the Catskills frequently occurred to my mind. “When the weather is fair and settled, they are clothed in blue and purple, and print their bold outlines on the clear evening sky ; but sometimes, when the rest of the landscape is cloudless, they will gather a hood of gray vapors about their summit, which in the last rays of the setting sun will glow and light up like a crown of glory.”

 

Section Of The Fence

 

The eastern boundary of the Bison Range crosses the end of the valley and five miles beyond are the corrals, where the bison arrived about twelve o’clock. The wagons were driven in and the rear wheels dropped into depressions dug in the ground. After spraying the animals with crude oil, each was liberated. Aside from a very slight lameness, they were in perfect condition, greedily eating their allotment of hay. The corrals, three in number, each about 200 feet square, are placed just inside the southern boundary of the line fence, separated from it by a passage of 15 feet in width. Two long sheds with mangers have been erected on the northern side. Individual members of the herd may be quickly transferred from one corral to the next, through the lane on the south side, the ends of which can be closed with strong wire gates. The fence is 74 inches high, made by the Denton Wire Fence Company, of Denton, Texas, supported on oak posts twelve inches in diameter, set three feet in the ground. Above the fence proper, for greater security, are three wires extending parallel to the line of the top, about five inches apart. One of these will be insulated for a telephone service, which is being installed. The gates are most ingenious, handsomely constructed, and can resist the rush of a big bull as easy as the fence itself. The grass in the corrals has been burned off, and the animal can get no other food but the alfalfa upon which they are now feeding almost exclusively. Large galvanized tanks, of the type used exclusively in the west, have been placed in each enclosure, and a constant supply of running water will flow into each as soon as the windmill on the banks of Cache Creek has been completed.

The bison will be kept in the corrals until spring when i\Ir. Rush expects to liberate them into a range of some 200 acres. This pasture will be fenced in the winter and the grass burned. A number of cattle graze through the valley, and as it is quite well known that they carry the tick which causes Texas fever, the spraying with oil and burning of the grass have been thought expedient to prevent the bison from becoming infected. ^Ir. Rush is thoroughly familiar with all methods of prevention and has adopted the most stringent measures to carry the animals through the dangerous season. Once they become acclimated, the danger line will be passed.A Gate Lock

On October 23rd, with Mr. Rush, I rode along the line of the fence, which is being constructed, but scarcely more than half completed. Its ponderous character has made the task a heavy one, especially through the gorges, where in places but one post can be carried at a time, and even then by hands alone.

We saw some signs of wolves and coyotes, but not a single furred animal nor game bird. Perching and rapacious birds were in abundance: jays, crows, flickers, meadow-larks, cardinals, eagles, buzzards, owls, hawks, sparrows, and several others which were strange, flying in all directions. There are a number of quail in the range and should increase, as food is abundant. The miners and woodsmen have all kinds of bear, wolf and panther experiences to relate, and if these animals were as abundant as they say, the calves would have very little show for their lives. The fence is nearly fifteen miles around and encloses 6,200 acres of the best of the valley and the mountains on the western side. Four rangers will police the range at all hours, and the dangers from forest fires and breaks in the wires can be detected and reported with dispatch, as telephone boxes will be placed at each of the five range gates. Mr. Rush gives his entire time to the bison and Mr. W. R. Mattoon. Acting Forest Supervisor is in charge of the construction and working of the station.

It would be churlish and a neglect unpardonable not to award to Mr. Mitchell praise for the admirable manner in which the details of the transportation were executed. In every instance, his knowledge of railroad methods and his tireless energy overcame obstacles which would have meant hardship and perhaps death to some of the bison, and their safe arrival at Cache was due absolutely to his splendid work. The people of Oklahoma are enthusiastic over the Reserve and are duly grateful to the New York Zoological Society for having thus established, in the finest portion of the great southern bison range, a herd which will soon increase to grand proportions, and play its part in the permanent preservation of the great American bison.

 

The Wichita Bison Herd.—The last news from the Wichita National Bison Range reported the herd in first-class condition, and the outlook for the future entirely satisfactory. The two calves born on the range are doing well. An effort is being made to procure a few elk to introduce in the range, and it is reasonably certain that this plan will be carried into effect at an early date.

 

THE NATIONAL BISON HERDS. pg 675

Very satisfactory reports have been received from the wardens in charge of the Montana National
Bison Herd, and the Wichita Herd. Concerning the former. Warden Andrew F. Hodges reports that the herd came through the winter in very fine condition and that up to May 20, several calves had been born.
From Warden Frank Rush, in charge of the Wichita National Herd, we have received the following report:

“The five calves which were due to arrive in the Wichita Buffalo herd are all here, 3 bulls and 2 heifers. This brings our total number to 23 head, 10 males and 13 females, all in the very best condition. I wish you could see them. They certainly look very prosperous, and if you were here you could see in reality what you had predicted for the Wichita Bison herd many years ago.” The last remark of Warden Rush refers to
immunity from Texas fever.

 

 

Bisbee Daily Review
Bisbee Az. Feb 7 1911

ANTELOPE ARE RECEIVED AT REFUGE
(excerpt)

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

GAME PRESERVES

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. Since 1903 fifty national bird reserves have been set aside by executive order and placed in charge of the Department of agricultural. Congress has passed a special law for the preservation, and they are maintained by the biological survey in cooperation with the national Association of the Audubon Society.

These reservations are usually small but two in Oregon and one in Alaska each contain more than 100,000 acres, and one in Hawaii which includes a number of islands extending through 5° of longitude in the mid-Pacific. The bird refuges are scattered in seventeen states and territories from Puerto Rico in Michigan to Alaska and Hawaii. They comprise chiefly small rocky or marshy lands, or narrow strips of land surrounding reservoirs on some of the reclamation projects. They were selected either because of the presence of large nesting colonies of water birds or because they afford favorable resting places for waterfowl or birds of migration. Other bird colonies which happened to be located or near naval stations for lighthouse reservations are given protection through the cooperation of the Navy Department in the department of commerce and labor.

Work Yet to Be Done

Except in a few of the national parks, comparatively little has been done to develop the bird or animal resources of the various reservations. As far as animal and bird life is concerned, these resources are as yet scarcely known in their value, when fully developed, can hardly be estimated. The enormous refuges are destined to serve not only as centers for the experimentation of desirable classes, and a reservoir from which supplies may be drawn for other reservations — public, national, state, and private.

While at this season of the year, annually, ______ _____ _____ are killed to satisfy the

———-  the government, through its __________ of preservation of game at the different reservations.

_____ assured the perpetuation of _____every desirable species of animal to be found within the _____ of the states.

It is believed that within the next few years Congress will greatly increase the number and size of the appropriations for the preservations of game.

Wichita Bison Herd

 

The Wichita herd has lost seven animals, a cow in 1907, a bull and a cow in 1908, two bulls in 1909, and a bull each in 1912 and 1914. Two of the losses, which occurred shortly after the establishment of the herd, were due to Texas fever, but this disease was effectually stamped out,
the ticks in the enclosure destroyed, and no trouble has since been experienced from this cause.

1915 Col. Charles Goodnight—the well known breeder of buffalo and catalo—after a recent inspection of the Wichita herd, proclaimed them to be the largest and finest buffalo he had ever seen. This is a valuable endorsement, as Col. Goodnight was brought up in the buffalo country, he laid out the Goodnight trail in 1866, and is known as the “Father of the Panhandle of Texas.”

1916   – 35 Males, 22 Females and 10 young total of 67 head

 

The establishment of this herd was in every sense an experiment. It was thought by many to be an unwise procedure to thus jeopardize the lives of the few remaining buffalo by transporting them to a tick-infested country, where they would be exposed to the fatal Texas fever. Dr. Hornaday was not unmindful of these dangers, and the United States Bureau of Animal Industries was called upon to combat the tick menace. All possible precautions were taken to avoid disaster. It was not only a courageous experiment but also remarkable owing to the fact that in order to establish this herd in a territory which had recently been the home of countless numbers of buffalo, it was necessary to transport this nucleus herd from a section of the country over eighteen hundred miles away, and from which the wild bison had been exterminated for more than a century.

The success of this experiment has been amply proven. A summary of the Report of the Forester of the Wichita Forest and Game Preserve covering the period from the establishing of the herd to the end of the year 1929 shows there has been about 450 calves born and over 200 animals of all ages have either died, been donated, sold or otherwise disposed of. The herd at the close of 1929 numbered 247 as follows:— 173 females and 74 males, to this may be added the calf crop of 1930 consisting of 30 males and 22 females, total 52, the largest ever recorded on the Wichita.

The only surviving member of the original fifteen shipped to the Wichita in 1907 is the buffalo bull “Lone Wolf,” subsequently renamed “General Lawton,” now over twenty-five years old, and on
account of his age he is kept in the exhibition pasture with four cows. In 1929 two of the cows gave birth to calves, and as they had been separated from the main herd for two years, he is, therefore, the sire of both these calves, the oldest of which is a female and the other a male. A remarkable feature of this old bull is the long hair on his head which measures fully twenty inches in length, he is also a wonderful specimen of the American Bison. He obtained his title “General Lawton” August 2, 1916, while being exhibited in a street parade in Lawton, Oklahoma, during the City’s annual celebration. He was hauled in a crate and attracted considerable attention, in fact, so violent were his objections to being cooped up in that fashion it was thought that a sudden change in the programme would be likely to occur at most any moment, nevertheless the crate held him to the end of the parade where the attendant in charge was instructed to head at once for the Wichita and keep going until he had him safe in the enclosure at headquarters.

Measures have recently been adopted for the care and improvement of the herd whereby all undesirable animals are to be eliminated and disposed of, this includes surplus bulls, barren cows, deformed and maimed animals, and all such as are not up to a fair standard. It has been decided that about 300 is the limit that the present game pasture will sustain on a year-long grazing. The herd will contain about 200 cows, 40 or more bulls and 50 yearling heifers. The specifications to be followed in the selection of breeding animals are, large size and well proportioned with the highest point of the hump over the point of the shoulder, shoulders broad and deep and hips broad. To
this should be added, a broad skull with full convex frontal bone. A buffalo’s head is his most imposing feature and should receive attention when selecting for breeding purposes.

The buffalo bull “General Lawton” died in November, 1930. His head will be mounted and placed on exhibition in the Oklahoma State Capitol.

 

1918 – 37 Males, 39 Females and 16 born in 1917 for a total of 92 head

1920 – 43 Males, 56 Females and  20 born in 1919 for a total of  119

 

The Wichita Daily Eagle
Wichita, Kansas Feb 18, 1922
PAYS FOR UNRULY ACTS WITH LIFE
“Big Bo,” King of Wichita Buffalo Herd, is Butchered This Week

“Big Bo,” king of Wichita’s buffalo herd, became incorrigible and paid the extreme penalty for it Monday. He is now in his temporary resting place, the Kansas Ice and Cold Storage company building. “Big Bo.” was executed Monday by Ed Koestner, animal custodian, after a trade had been arranged with K. C. “Coons”, Beck of Hutchinson, who will replace the late bison with a young bull.

Beck found he was unable to remove the buffalo from Linwood park, alive. The animal was butchered by J. F Hafner, expert butcher of the Wichita Dressed Beef company. On hoof, he weighed more than 1,800 pounds. Dressed his carcass weighed 800 pounds and the hide 150. The liver alone weighed 20 pounds; the heart six and the tongue eight. The head and shoulders will be mounted. For months the animal has been unruly and dangerous to the lives of attendants and people wandering near the pen, according to Herbert Mellor, custodian. No one could approach the fence, even the custodian with the feed, but the aged bull would become enraged. Several times Koestner has avoided serious injury only by a narrow margin, he states

 

Manhattan Mercury   
Manhattan, Kansas Aug 21 1922

BUFFALO BULL TO URAGUAY
To Deport Animal After 15 Years of Residence

Washington, D. C. Biso is unhappy. He is to be deported, thrust from the land of his birth, torn from his wives and children and doomed to live in exile for the rest of his days.

Secretary of Agriculture Wallace has decreed that he must go; the Forest Service has arranged his transports and Biso is inconsolable.

Biso is the big buffalo bull that for fifteen years has been the admiration of visitors to the Wichita National Forest and Game Refuge in Oklahoma. The city of Montevideo, Uruguay has asked that its zoological garden be supplied with an American bison and the Forest Service men who have charge of the buffalo on the Wichita say that Biso will be an excellent representative of this typical North American species whose once mighty herds roamed the great plains from Mexico to northern Canada.

In 1907 fifteen were “planted in the Wichita National Forest and have since increased to over 150 head This herd promises to maintain the type of stamina of the original bison since the animals are kept at all times under natural conditions. They subsist entirely on wild grasses and live within so large inclosure that they are under practically no restraint.

So Biso has been well content and is reluctant to leave. Yet many of the younger buffalo bulls are casting envious glances at the old fellow. It would be very pleasant, they think, to doze idly beneath a palm tree and be served with fresh cut grasses or have their  noses patted by some dark haired senorita. But Biso has doubts.

 

The Lawton Constitution
Lawton, Oklahoma 09 Jul 1948

Bison Rustlers Snatch 3 Calves; Reward Is Posted

With  three buffalo calves of the 1948 crop dead or missing, officials of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife refuge intensified their search for culprits making nocturnal forays on the herd and posted a cash reward for information leading to their arrest.

Blood stains on the highway to the vicinity of the Lake Rush dam this week revealed that at least one and possibly two of the baby bison had been snatched from the herd.

Earnest Greenwalt, refuge manager, who posted a $15 reward in an effort to bring the buffalo thieves to justice, said extra precautions are being taken by rangers to patrol the expansive mountain area during the nighttime hours.

Several days ago the carcass of a buffalo calf, shot between the eyes by a medium caliber weapon, was discovered in the Lake Jed Johnson area. It is believed that herd reaction, which becomes violent when one animal in the group is injured, prevented the slayer from claiming the carcass.

Tell-tale highway signs caused rangers to count the calf herd this week. It was discovered that two additional calves are missing.

 It is a federal offense to destroy animals in the wildlife sanctuary. Mr. Greenwalt warned that persons caught will face the full penalty of the law. The Wichita mountain herd is one of the nations largest.

 

The Wakita Herald
Wakita, Oklahoma 09 Jun 1949

OKLAHOMA BUFFALO GOES TO LONDON ZOO

An Oklahoma born buffalo is this week on its way to England to become the mate of a lonely bison bull in London Zoo. The animal was shipped recently by rail from Cache Oklahoma to New York, there to be put aboard a vessel bound for London. She was selected from a herd of 1300 bison maintained by the U S Fish and Wildlife service in the Wichita mountains wildlife refuge. The herd is the second largest in North America.

 

The Norman Transcript
Norman, Oklahoma 18 Feb 1951 (extract)

Oklahoma Flying Farmers win fly delegates on Friday to the Wichita wildlife refuge near Lawton to see longhorn cattle on native bluestem range A buffalo barbecue win be served.

 

The North Star
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 09 Jan 1958

The first calves were born in 1908 when three heifers made their appearance. The herd prospered and grew. More than 3600 calves have been born up to now and the herd finally became so large that its range was expanded to include all the present 59,300 acres of the refuge. Offspring from this herd have been used to stock zoological gardens all over the United States and in several foreign countries. With the exception of four bulls brought in from the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in Nebraska, the herd today is made up exclusively of offspring of the original nucleus from the New York Zoological Park. More than 2,000 buffalo have been disposed of, yet there is no dearth of calves – they average 40 a year from each hundred cows, young and old, on the range.

The progress of the herd can perhaps be shown most succinctly by the five-year census figures:

Year
1907       15
1910       17
1915       52
1920       119
1925       173
1930       247
1935       362
1940       415
1945       544
1950       522
1955       973

Today the buffalo roam the refuge prairies in herds of 200 to 300 animals usually fully visible from the paved or graveled roads frequented by the visitors (nearly a million a year) who come to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge on holidays. Each year in November when the Bison are rounded up people come from long distances to watch as the calves are cut out of the herd and vaccinated. They come in bright and colorful automobiles not in “Indian hacks” as 50 years ago but the excitement and interest are still keen. For these are to all intents and purposes the wild buffalo of the old days living as their ancestors did. They feed on wild prairie grasses and forbs the year around— they get no supplements from the government. The result is that the animals are not sluggish but are quick and active a thing it is always well to bear in mind. I recall that not long ago a nine-year-old boy after being “whistled in” to supper at the headquarters area inadvertently came between a small buffalo calf and its mother. The big cow turned and charged and the boy beat a hasty retreat.

 Later after the buffalo resumed grazing the boy came in to supper.

“Who’s afraid of a buffalo?” he said “I am!”    

 

Recently (spring 2021) a photographer was in the Wildlife Refuge and was able to capture these images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This bull was born in the refuge and is thought to be about 16 years old. (click image for photographers copy)