Working Wild Bison: The Ultimate Challenge

Las Rocosa Rogue handling a lone bison bull

Bison management problems had developed during the late 1970’s and 80’s in various national parks throughout the western United States. Part of the problem was tourist liability. Tourists don’t think of this huge, nonchalant creature as a wild animal. Lone bison bulls wander into campsites or along roadsides, drop their heads and graze. They aren’t easily spooked, which makes them appear docile and easy-going. Despite many warning signs along roadsides and in camp areas, people still walk right up to pet and photograph them. Each year, multiple incidents are reported where individuals are charged, escape, only to return to get gored and even killed.

Park rangers had been trying to find an effective method of discouraging bison bulls from “setting up camp” near tourists to minimize potential problems. Reluctantly, rangers resorted to using thumper guns loaded with vials of water which produces a harmless sting to encourage the bison to move along. The effectiveness is minimal. The bulls might run fifty feet, maybe fifty yards before dropping their heads to continue grazing at their leisure.

When a ton of bison wants to go from one place to another, he isn’t detoured by conventional fences. “A bison is a lot like the proverbial 500-pound gorilla — he eats anywhere he wants to,” says bison expert, Chris Madson.  A full grown buffalo bull is a powerful animal measuring five to six feet at the shoulder and nine to nine and a half feet long, weighing anywhere from 1,600 to 2,600 pounds. The cows are considerably smaller, weighing from 700 to 1,000 pounds.

The American bison is not a true buffalo, but belongs to the same family, Bovidae. His horns fit over a bony core on his massive head and are never shed. The distinctive hump is a bony structure, formed by elongated dorsal vertebrae. It extends over the shoulders just behind the back of the neck, and tapers gradually back to the hips.

Many other options had been considered for the program including using horses to haze the bison with. The shaggy monarch of the plains is deceptively fast and agile. He can outrun any horse during the first fifty yards. The bison can pump in large quantities of air, because his windpipe is four times larger than that of similar sized animals. Horses can’t compare when it comes to overall endurance. Even calves have astonishing strength and endurance.

Bison can be unpredictable. One experienced buffalo rancher explained that you can push cattle with a horse, but you’re not going to push buffalo. They’ll wheel around and charge under a horse and throw them. In order to work buffalo with a horse you’ve got to have an athletic, fast, well-seasoned Quarter Horse. The horse has got to respect bison, but he can’t be afraid of them. Furthermore, the rider has got to be able to read bison to keep from getting in a storm.

The next phase of the program was put into the works, using stock dogs. In 1987, we were asked to assist the Department of Interior in a bison control and management project.

To learn how Australian Shepherds were used to work wild bison please visit our history page:

http://lasrocosa.com/lasrocosahistory5.html

Or refer to the book:

Stockdog Savvy 

by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and Ty Taylor.

The Table of Contents:

Frontispiece: Just a Stockdog Story
Preface
Foreword by Ernie Hartnagle
Introduction
1 – HERDING DOGS
2 – WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A HERDING DOG
3 – PREPARING YOUR PUPPY
4 – LAYING THE FOUNDATION
5 – GETTING STARTED
6 – INTRODUCING A DOG TO STOCK
7 – MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR DOG’S TALENT
8 – DEVELOPING A USEFUL DOG
9 – THE OUTRUN
10 – DRIVING SKILLS
11 – BALANCE AND PENNING
12 – FOCUS ON SORTING
13 – BOUNDARY TRAINING FOR TENDING DOGS
14 – BASIC STOCKMANSHIP
15 – WORKING LARGE FLOCKS AND HERDS
16 – THE RANCH DOG
17– TRAINING ANIMALS
18 – POULTRY
19 – SHEEP
20 – GOATS
21 – CATTLE
22 – KEEPING LIVESTOCK
23 – THE TRIAL DOG
24 – TRIAL PROGRAMS
25 – WHAT JUDGES LOOK FOR
26 – OTHER ELEMENTS OF WORKING STOCKDOGS
Appendix -– BREED PROFILES

For more information please visit:

http://www.lasrocosa.com/education.html

Copyright © 2010 by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and Ty Taylor.

All Rights Reserved.

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