Buffalo or bison? Muckrakers adopt a mascot
Strong, determined, resilient, protective, and manifesting a longing for freedom. These are just some of the characteristics of the wild buffalo, characteristics we at Muckraker embrace. Our recent travelogue covering several Western national parks this past summer found us spending time in Yellowstone where we were able to observe these majestic animals. The beasts enamored us enough to adopt the wild buffalo as our official mascot. Marshaling a quote from Kathleen Stachowski, in her Lessons Learned From Wild Bison: “Yellowstone’s majestic bison are wild, in part, because they still follow their instinctual drive to migrate, unimpeded by fences. Observing them can teach us lessons that I can only wish more of our own species would embrace.”
Having lived outside of Yellowstone for almost 25 years, I had the opportunity to spend many a day in the Park observing wildlife while enjoying and appreciating nature. I can vouch firsthand that winters in Yellowstone can be very harsh, and while we all look amazed at how brutal nature can be, especially the record November snowfall in Buffalo, New York, buffalo in Yellowstone face winters much more extreme. Slowly snaking a snowmobile past a herd of bison gathered on a snow-filled path, geysers in the background, smoking in the minus 40 degree conditions, feeling the breath of the collective herd from their ice-covered faces — this is an experience not soon forgotten.
Buffalo are resilient, for sure. The Buffalo Field Campaign, a West Yellowstone, Montana, group dedicated to the preservation of the buffalo, says that “bison are well suited to endure winters in Yellowstone Country, where snows often exceed ten feet and temperatures plummet below minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Their windpipes, proportionately longer than those of other large mammals, warm the air as it travel to their lungs. Their coats, with ten times as many hairs per square inch as domestic cattle, provide excellent insulation.”
So buffalo or bison? Daniel Brister, in his In the Presence of Buffalo, echoes my sentiment the best. “I prefer the sound of the word ‘buffalo’ and its more familiar usage in the American vernacular. I like the memories and dreams it stirs, its power to bring to life the days when millions roamed our prairies. I like the way it rumbles from deep in the chest and rises from within, migrating through the body with a resonance like the bass beat of hooves on the hard earth.”
“If the bald eagle is our nation’s symbol—majestic and free—then the bison is surely our nation’s soul,” says Marty Levinson. Our humble Gazette publication was founded with certain goals in mind: a thirst for the truth — no matter where that takes us, transparency, and giving voice to those who very often are ignored because their thoughts and ideas are not deemed mainstream or popular. We are determined, like the bison, to rout out corruption wherever it is found, expose abuses within our court systems, and keep elected officials (i.e., public servants) accountable to the oaths they’ve taken. And, like the buffalo, we will remain protective of a free and independent press, for a free and independent people, like readers such as yourselves.
Fun facts, reprinted with permission, about lessons we can learn from the buffalo found at buffalofieldcampaign.org:
1. Realize that we are in this together. Draw strength from others.
Bison herds range in size and are ordered in an intricate structure. Members form strong bonds with each other.
2. Let the women lead, they know where they are going.
Family groups are matriarchal; an adult cow leads when groups travel together.
3. Love your mother.
Offspring may remain with mom for as long as three years after birth.
4. You are your brother’s keeper. Unite for the greater good.
When threatened, bison form a tight circle.
5. Protect the children.
Calves go in the center of the circle.
6. Persevere in the face of difficulty. You have what it takes.
Yellowstone bison spend long, harsh winters plowing through snow. The muscular hump is structural, and helps support the huge head, which is used to sweep snow aside in search of frozen vegetation.
7. Pay attention to good grooming.
Bison groom frequently, rubbing against trees to remove loose fur, and frequently take dust baths.
8. Stay active. Size is no excuse; even the largest of us can be active.
Although bison, the largest North American land mammal, can weigh 2000 pounds, they can run 30 mph and can swim rivers over half a mile long.
9. Foster curiosity, travel. Expand your range. Sometimes other grass is greener.
Bison are both curious and migratory creatures who travel long distances along traditional routes as food availability changes with the seasons.
10. Remember to have fun
Bison are gregarious, social creatures. At one month old, calves form play groups.
11. Let it all hang out. Express your feelings, reveal your emotions. A bison’s tale tells it all. Hanging down and switching casually, a bison is at ease; extending out and drooping at the end, she is mildly agitated; extended straight up, he is ready to charge.
12. Care for your home, the Earth. Leave it better than you found it.
Bison move cautiously as they feed, rarely overgrazing an area, unlike cattle. Their hooves till and compact the soil, to which they add beneficial fertilizer.
13. Leave your mark on the world.
Since arriving in North America during the Ice Age, bison have had a greater impact on the landscape than any other species. Ranging from Alaska to Mexico, they were the only large herbivore to successfully make the transition from Ice Age to warmer, drier climates.