Thursday, February 04, 2010

Buffalo, Ted Turner, Ashley & Me

What on earth could these 4 things have in common?
Well, you know that Ashley is my very favorite 15 year old on earth.
Ted Turner is a business mogul who was once married to Jane Fonda.
And Buffalo.... well, the closest thing I came to buffalo was buffalo mozzarella...that was until 2005.

Picture it... April Vacation, 2o05.
This adorable little 11 year old studied the great state of Montana for a school project. I thought that the best way to learn about Montana was to see it first hand. Ash studied Yellowstone National Park, so we decided to go there. We drove the 3-4 hours from our hotel in capital city of Helena to Gardiner, Montana. Now, even though Yellowstone is a national park, that was the only entrance open to cars all year.
Not to be discouraged, we pressed on. We entered the park and were given multiple warning materials. They were brightly colored and illustrated flyers telling us NOT to socialize with the animals, particularly the buffalo. Don't get out of your cars FOR ANY REASON. DO not stop and take pictures. Do not engage the buffalo.
I am no fool. I don't need any warning to realize that, especially when they look like this up close! Up to 2,000 pounds each.
I don't even need to be warned, "don't make eye contact". Seriously, these are some buffalo that we saw on our drive into the park. They are large and travel in herds and are plentiful!
Here I am, a little ways into our journey. Not as cute as Ash.

Here are some buffalo, walking politely and single file in the road. These buffalo were not so polite. OK. I slowed the car.
They still didn't move.
I am used to deer in NH that see you, take a moment to assess the situation and then take off.
These were not NH deer. This was their territory and THEY KNEW IT.
So, we stopped the car.
People driving behind us (and approaching cars did the same thing). We all waited for the buffalo to leave the road. They didn't.

Then, I saw an image that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Some woman gets out of her car and walks closer to photograph these beasts!
I see the crazy woman and I cringe and started to moan. Oh, God. Oh, God, I don't want to see this. Here, I am taking my 11 year old to see the beautiful Yellowstone countryside and we are going to witness a mauling.

As if some guardian angel was watching over us, a female park ranger drive past the stopped cars with her lights flashing and her horn blaring and scared off the buffalo and the dare devil photographer.

Well, after that adventure, you can imagine the sight of "Old Faithful" the natural hot spring geyser was rather dull.

But, back to Ted Turner.
The Yellowstone buffalo are pure breds. Their genetic make up is entirely unique in that its ancestry dates back to the 1800s as being bred in the wild, with no intervention from mankind. They are free-roaming and unfenced. This is truly unique.

However, herds roam. "Give me a home, where the buffalo roam". And roam they do.
When they roam outside the boundaries of the park, they are slaughtered.
(And if they catch disease).

So, animal rights groups were upset by this fact. Truly, it is a terrible thing. But, what is a solution? These animals require a lot of land and/or a lot of money to keep.

In walks one of the richest men in the world.

Ted Turner already has 50,000 buffalo in various ranches across the country.
He has agreed to take 88 buffalo on loan from Yellowstone for 5 years, until Yellowstone can make arrangements to prevent the animals from crossing borders outside the park. He figures that it will cost him $4,500 per year per buffalo to keep. At the end of 5 years, he will return the 88 buffalo + 25% of their offspring. In exchange, he keeps 75% of their offspring.
He wants to do this to get his hands on the genetic material.

He already owns a chain of 50 restaurants in the USA called Ted's Montana Grill.
Guess what this restaurant serves? Buffalo burgers!

So, some of the animal rights groups who protested the slaughter of the buffalo are now protesting the saving of the buffalo. They do not want Turner to get them, even though he promised keep them, not serve them.

For some reason, I picture that crazy dare devil photographer as one of the chief protesters!

PS - I use the term buffalo in the above article. To be 100% accurate, they should be called Bison. Buffalo are classified as the genus Bubalus and Bison from Bison.
Bison have thick fur, buffalo have light fir.
Bison have a thick beard, buffalo none.
Bison have a 13 - 19 year lifespan vs Buffalo with a 25 - 30 year life span
Bison horns are sharp & small, Buffalo horns are long, not sharp.
Bison can live in rugged conditions, buffalo can not.
Bison are not domesticated, whereas buffalo are domesticated.
Bison have a population of 250,000 where Buffalo are 150 million.

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