To Save the Wild Bison: Life on the Edge in Yellowstone

Overview

Although the American bison was saved from near-extinction in the nineteenth century, today almost all herds are managed like livestock. The Yellowstone area is the only place in the United States where wild bison have been present since before the first Euro-Americans arrived. But these bison pose risks to property and people when they roam outside the park, including the possibility that they can spread the abortion-inducing disease brucellosis to cattle. Yet measures to ...

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Overview

Although the American bison was saved from near-extinction in the nineteenth century, today almost all herds are managed like livestock. The Yellowstone area is the only place in the United States where wild bison have been present since before the first Euro-Americans arrived. But these bison pose risks to property and people when they roam outside the park, including the possibility that they can spread the abortion-inducing disease brucellosis to cattle. Yet measures to constrain the population threaten their status as wild animals.

Mary Ann Franke’s To Save the Wild Bison is the first book to examine the ecological and political aspects of the bison controversy and how it reflects changing attitudes toward wildlife. The debate has evoked strong emotions from all sides, including park officials, environmentalists, livestock growers, and American Indians. In describing political compromises among competing positions, Franke does not so much champion a cause as critique the process by which federal and state officials have made and carried out bison management policies. She shows that science, however valuable a tool, cannot by itself resolve what is ultimately a choice among conflicting values.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Wild bison, better known as buffalo, are closely associated with this country's natural heritage, yet little attention is paid to the fact that most are no longer truly wild. In this lucid account of the controversy over how to maintain the bison in Yellowstone National Park, Franke (Yellowstone in the Afterglow: Lessons from the Fires) shows that keeping the animals in natural conditions is almost impossible. Park officials must balance competing interests-Indian tribes for whom the bison are an important religious symbol; environmentalists who oppose any control of the bison's movements; property owners who suffer when the animals roam outside the park; ranchers who fear the bison will transmit disease to cattle. Many management policies have been tried: the bison's movements are monitored; diseased animals are culled; wanderers found outside the park's boundaries are slaughtered. All these activities threaten the wild bison in Yellowstone-not with extinction, but with loss of their wildness. The author considers each option in depth, finding that so far there are no satisfactory solutions. She does, however, present plenty of food for thought as she explores the ramifications of humankind's desire and ability to control natural processes. 26 b&w illus., 4 maps. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Franke (Yellowstone in the Afterglow: Lessons from the Fires) has worked at Yellowstone National Park for nine summers and knows firsthand the complex issues surrounding wildlife-livestock disease. In her latest book, she maintains that the brucellosis bacteria through which bison threaten Western ranch cattle has probably been around as long as the bison themselves. Franke begins with the history of human-bison relations in North America and the establishment of Yellowstone's famous bison herd; additional chapters on predators, snowmobiling, and native North American culture illustrate the variety of influences on the bison population, but most of the text is devoted to the bison's threat to livestock. Franke offers a well-documented work, but her bias is sometimes difficult to ignore: she is at times critical of both environmentalists and the livestock industry, siding only with the bison themselves. Olson, a Canadian park warden, has written a brief field guide to the bison, the bulk of which identifies these animals by gender and at various stages of maturity. Aimed at bison watchers and Western outdoor enthusiasts, the book contains a rich array of images and anatomical illustrations by equine photographer Janelle. The sheer number of these images, however, overpowers Olson's behavioral notes, safety tips for bison watching, and other textual matter. While Franke's book is recommended for agriculture and zoology collections, libraries can pass on Olson's book. For more in-depth coverage of this subject, see Dale F. Lott's American Bison: A Natural History, which also includes photographs depicting the mammal's physical and behavioral characteristics, and Andrew C. Isenberg's The Destruction of the Bison: An Environmental History, 1750- 1920.-Alvin Hutchinson, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780806136837
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
  • Publication date: 7/20/2005
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Ann Franke, a writer drawn to the intersection of nature and culture, has worked in Yellowstone National Park for nine summers. Author of Yellowstone in the Afterglow: Lessons from the Fires (2000), she migrates seasonally to Sedona, Arizona.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Coming to America 5
Ch. 2 A removable resource 11
Ch. 3 A park is born 20
Ch. 4 Not just another buffalo 41
Ch. 5 For the great national playground 49
Ch. 6 Under more natural conditions 75
Ch. 7 The imbalance of nature 100
Ch. 8 Outward bound 129
Ch. 9 A disagreeable agreement 147
Ch. 10 The high cost of free roaming 162
Ch. 11 Confronting people and predators 193
Ch. 12 Winter range for snowmobiles 204
Ch. 13 Hunted again 219
Ch. 14 Indians at the crossroads 235
Ch. 15 A new buffalo nation 254
Ch. 16 Thinking outside the box 270
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