Rural System's

The Bison Group

This document was first prepared for the owner of a Western-US ranch. Additional material about the biology of the animal and details of its management will be developed later. The ranch name has been removed and changes made to reflect Eastern conditions. The concept is still believed to be sound.

The vital herd of bison is an historic treasure and wildland spectacle. Whether they are best categorized as wild fauna or as domestic animals is not worth the debate. They are at the center of profitable, cooperative, synergistic relations among groups of Rural System. In addition to their meat and related products, they can be an attraction and the basis of an ecotourism industry. They may be the center of presentations on managing threatened and endangered animal and plant species. In number and grazing intensity, they can (and will) have profound effects on the success of the entire system.

Major links for the woodland bison. A second link on its extinction.

There are major faunal enterprises within Rural System. Within it is a component of intensive management (described next) and several single-species enterprises such as:
  • The Wild Turkey Group
  • The Deer Group
  • The Owl Group, and
  • Coyote

These are for-profit, complex enterprises just as is Bison Group, the name of one of the enterprises. By analogy with the U.S. football enterprise, the football itself, while essential, is almost irrelevant in the context of the total football enterprise - stadiums, uniforms, food, drink, medical support, travel, etc. The bison, the animal, is essential but, as imagined, almost irrelevant within the total Bison Group enterprise.

The herd is intensively managed; groups of animals on cooperators' lands are contemplated. They must be intensively managed to prevent future collapse, for if left as "natural" the population will "boom and bust" (as in mining) and the "bust" period is intolerable for the land, other natural systems, and the people dependent on them. The bison, once migratory, allowed grasslands to recover their intense herd grazing pressure. They are no longer migratory. They are herewith semi-domesticated. They must be carefully studied, managed, and regular removal made under conditions that support all aspects of the Rural System Concept.

A variety of activities similar to those described and listed under Deer Group will not be repeated here. Select elements of the enterprise that are designed collectively to produce profit or a break-even management of this important resource and tourist/visitor/guest attraction.

Monographs on the herd, its nutrition, and range management
Visitor tours of observation points
Visitor motorized tours
Visitor night-vision aided tours coordinated with lunar phases
Meat sales
Hide and horn sales
Craft, sculpture, and art sales (bison related)
Photography opportunities
Touch-a-bison experience opportunities
Membership in Nature Folks and the Bison Group
Veterinary work (brucellosis is a special concern)
Publications on the entomology of the bison (ectoparasite relations and animal health)
Paid use of blinds
Snow-sled rides or winter hikes to view herds
Range management software
Other publications such as those about the buffalo people, early people and the woods bison, tall tales, history.

This enterprise creates a special ecotourism destination. It maintains facility occupancy, allows uses of other enterprise services (e.g., Prospectors, The Fishery, The Owl Group). "After you've seen some, you've seen them all" may be the reaction of some people and satisfaction will only come from diverse experiences in a short period but over many years with regular returns to a planned special Bison-related event.

A complex research plan will be available and tax-reducing investment opportunities will be available to visitors and others. These studies will typically support a comprehensive bison ecology and Bison economics model.

Range management is centered in the staff of this enterprise.

Fencing will be required in select areas and the fencing group working with new fence design and products may sell the Bison Fence - It will hold anything! made from local products with local tools. Other products may be involved ... repellents, range-surveys, multi-dimensional animal exclosures, and esthetically-correct fences.

The Bison Group requires sensitivity to (1) a feeling of historical correctness, and (2) modern sophisticated resource management. Typically, these will be separated in "place." The range, animals, rancher, cowboy will be authentic "wild west." The tour guides are instructors will present the clear, crisp, informed version of control and authority. Skits or special enactments will be done in proper dress.

Special annual events, local Bison-tennials, parade, barbecue, dances, music, exhibits, sales of outdoor equipment will be sponsored by this group with its strong bison theme. Deer Group and other livestock relations are evident.

Research projects of a basic nature will be sought on:
  • Horn-to-antler comparisons related to horns as regulators of brain temperature
  • Rumen fluids as an in vitro digestive standard
  • Bison strategies for handling tannins and phenolics, chemicals inhibiting digestion in other animals.
  • The survival values of the "hump" and "under chin" anatomical structures.

The majority of the studies prepared for the future are to gain information for a continually-improving herd and herd landscape, one carefully modified from Savory concepts for local pasture, soil and precipitation conditions. These will build toward forest and range ecosystem models with the bison once as a key component - but one competing with deer and supplying calves as food to predators.

Cost-effectiveness of the Bison Group is aided by other enterprises such as marketing, security, and writers camps. A dynamic herd GIS map (equivalent to flying over an area) will show managers and
visitors how herds may have moved in the past, splitting and coalescing over many years. Interesting in itself, the map will be the basis for assuring tourists success in viewing animals as well as the basis for dynamic rangeland inventory and strategies to balance the population with available high-quality forage, a protected soil resource, and a superior fishery.

See preliminary species information on bison

Contact the Fish and Wildlife Reference Service

Perhaps you will share ideas with me about some of the topic(s) above .

Rural System
Robert H. Giles, Jr.
July 22, 2005