Wild Means Wild
By, Colton Jones
In about a week we’ll start gathering the buffalo off their winter pasture on the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands and bring them back across the Cheyenne River to their summer pasture. It will also be the first time I’ll be among them since my accident.
Shortly before Valentine’s Day, I had an unfortunate encounter with one of our bison. Bison, as we know, are and always will be wild animals. I of all people should know this, but that didn’t stop me from vesting an unfortunate amount of faith into the animals I have become familiar with over the last 7 years. I want to share my experience in hopes to shed light on the authenticity of Wild Idea Buffalo Company's product, and also our herd management. After all, the idea is to keep the wild, wild.
As spring is now officially upon us, we have been preparing for the upcoming calving season over the last month or so. Our herd resides on some 20,000 acres throughout the fall and winter months prior to calving. If you’re thinking to yourself, “20,000 acres seems like a lot of land” you are right. Our fall and winter pasture is not only
One type of
I called Dan one frozen morning to see if he had caught sight of any bison near the river. He in fact had, which was the cue to fire up the tractor and grab some hay. I made my way down the trail from the hay yard to the river bottom, a bumpy 3-mile trek. The temperature was subzero and the snow had covered the ground for over a month filling
Once on the river bottom, I maneuvered around familiar rough spots hidden under the snow. I made my way to the herd in a zig zag sort of way. They, on the other hand, took the crow’s route
Instead of leaving the half bale and returning with the proper equipment to finish the job safely, I had to get out on foot and unroll it by hand. It was something I had done before, but typically, with less hay left to roll out, and thus staying much
closer to the tractor.
I proceeded with caution, trying to keep an eye on the herd and looking for signs of agitation among the bison. Because so much of the bale remained, it was too heavy to maneuver and roll away from the herd, instead, it was
Within a couple of seconds, she started towards me. I looked for nearby safety and saw only the tractor which was at this point 50 or 60 yards away. I knew I didn’t stand a chance of beating her back to the tractor. I knew that if she wanted to protect her kin bad enough, she wasn’t going to let a two-legged upright-walking European
I crawled into the tractor and began to examine myself. It looked as if she had only ripped my pants. It wasn’t until I began driving that I felt the warm wet feeling pooling up in my jeans. At this point, I just figured I pissed myself, but after further examination, I noticed a puncture wound on the inside of my thigh. Knowing the femoral artery was in the neighborhood, I applied as much pressure as I could while I called Dan to let him know we were going to be taking a trip to the hospital. I still had a lot of pasture to cover before I got to Dan and Jill’s. Then, I saw Dan
We covered the 45 miles to the hospital in record time while passing a couple state troopers. The ER doctor noted that the puncture was indeed near the femoral artery but luckily had missed it.
It wasn’t until my wife, Jilian came into the ER room, that I quickly realized how careless I had been. Her tears reminded me that I wasn’t just lucky to come out of the situation with 35 stitches and a bottle of painkillers, I was lucky that I didn’t shatter the one thing I go to work for every day, which is her and my son of course. It was at this moment that I came to the reckoning that over the years I had been slowly losing my fear of bison, and that fear may be a necessity no matter how long you have been around them. Nothing like this had ever occurred on the ranch before, and I will do everything in my power to make sure it doesn’t again.
I want to make it very clear that none of this was in any way the bison’s fault. Looking back at it, there were a number of factors that played a role, my negligence being the lead. Our bison had not seen a human in 5 months. I (being a human) impinged upon their safety zone. Bison’s eyes are on the side of their head and have evolved to graze in massive mobs, thus having eyes all around their surroundings. Standing in a straight line side by side hinders the herd’s ability to see all of their surroundings. I have no doubt that encroaching on the heifer’s area in a way that didn’t allow her to see me until I was too close, triggered her instinct to protect. For this, among other things, I am at fault.
This story is a reminder that as we do our best to let bison be bison, as long as WE are involved, there’s a chance for error. The only way to avoid error is to fully RESPECT all things WILD.