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A Buffalo Love Story

Story & photos by, Jill O'Brien

A few years back, when we moved our buffalo to their winter pasture on the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, we left seven behind. They consisted of: a crippled-up older cow with her calf, (who had been keeping to the outskirts of the herd to stay out of harm's way), a young bull (about 2½ years old), which we guessed as the cow's older offspring, three older bulls who had separated themselves from the main herd as they often do after the breeding season, and a motherless cow, which at the time seemed a bit odd.

The motherless cow had palled up with the three big bulls, and the crippled cow/calf pair stayed to themselves, with the younger bull staying within a few hundred yards of them. We monitored the cow/calf pair daily, ensuring that the mother was getting around to food and water. Toward the end of January, after a day of not seeing them, we set out in search for the trio, keeping our distance, so they would not feel pressured.

We found the pair tucked into a hillside, where water flows from a spring year round.  The younger bull was just down the hill, keeping his usual distance, but filling his required hospice duty (at least that what we like to believe).

To ensure that she wouldn’t have to roam for her food, the guys put out a thousand pound, round bale of grass hay close by.  She was as comfortable as she could be in her selected finale resting spot and died within the week. Then, as if on cue, the young bull stepped in and took the now seven-month-old motherless calf into his care and lead it to the others. 

We moved the hay closer to where the others had been grazing, which was within viewing range of the house. Just before sunset, the six would often stop by the hay for a quick, easy snack.

I watched the new band of buffalo with binoculars from the window. The calf would occasionally buck and kick as he ran between the massive bison bull’s watchful eyes. The cow assisted too, nudging the calf now and then when it would lollygag behind as they moved on into the setting golden light.

The whole scene played out as if it was the buffalo's/nature's plan. As a hopeless romantic and one who also believes in the amazing communication of the animal world - I believe it was.

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51 comments

  • We were created for stories such as these. Much better reading than the daily news!!

    Jim GIllespie
  • “We should not wait until a person or thing dies before showing our respect.”

    greg globetti
  • This is the natural order of things and when we try to mess whith what nature has done for thousands of years it will get screwed up so we need to work with the natural order not against it I love this story and like to read them when you send them thanks

    Kenneth Kirk
  • Cool story! Nature rewards those who patiently view her beauty

    Bill Coldwell
  • Real love is all around – especially close to Valentine’s Day – you just have to look for it.

    Gary Kaiser
  • Thank you, Jill

    James E. Swab
  • Hi James – That’s a good question.
    “When a bison dies out on the range, do you leave it there to decompose, or move it or bury it or what?”

    We typically leave it where it dies and allow it to return to the earth, as well as provide food for other predators. Nothing is wasted in nature.

    Jill / Wild Idea Buffalo Co.
  • My oh my: your words and photographs and those buffalo.

    Kathy Antonen
  • yes, you are a hopeless romantic like myself and with those eyes of awareness you witnessed an act that is of their covenant. what a captivating testament to life you brought for us. thank you. just love you guys!

    Blake O'Quinn
  • This is a precious story. We live in Eastern Iowa very near the Mississippi. Every day eight whitetail does walk through our back yard. One has a hurt hind quarter, the other seven keep an eye her and protect her. I understand what you say.
    There is HigherPower at work here.

    Allan Rathje
  • Poetry of life captured … thank you for sharing this with me…

    Patricia Samdoval
  • I love watching the buffalo. There is a small herd not far from me and I drive out to watch them alot. They inspire my art. Have painted a little buffalo on a perfect rock for one – he was so cute and sold the day I took him out for show and tell :) Love your romantic story …

    Rock Artiste
  • Thank you so much for sharing, that was very tender and touching.

    Patricia W
  • We really enjoyed the pics and narrative. We live “next door” in Wyoming and are so grateful to be able to appreciate the beauty of nature and God’s creatures – we are so happy you shared this with all of us! Please continue with more as you able! We love the quality and service your company provides – we have never been disappointed with our purchases. Also, the organic ingredients with your specialty items is a big reason why I chose you over competitors.

    Patti T.
  • Yes, and we believe it is too. Animals are amazing when left to their own instincts and abilities – or even if they are not. But in this case, we believe it only a part of every day life to do the amazing things they are capable of doing on their own without human intervention. Thank you, again, for a wonderful look into their – and your – amazing lives.

    Jerry & Norma Reynolds

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