OH, GIVE ME A HOME, where the buffalo roam…
Whenever I think of buffalo, those lyrics pop into my head. My classmates and I sang the words during informal music time at Vesta Elementary School some 50-plus years ago.
Or, whenever I think of buffalo, I remember childhood visits to the small zoo at Alexander Ramsey Park in Redwood Falls. There a tall wire fence separated us from these massive animals I associate with Native American buffalo hunts on the prairie.
Or, more accurately, bison hunts. These powerful animals are technically bison, not buffalo.
Today you can see them in Minnesota at the Minnesota Zoo, Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne and now at Minneopa State Park outside Mankato.
On a recent weekday afternoon, we drove to Mankato into bison territory. Literally. Vehicles turn onto a gravel road that winds through the Minneopa prairie, home to about 20 bison. Having grown up on a dairy and beef farm (with several mean bulls), I respect animals that outsize me, especially those with horns.
I didn’t even question the validity of signage warning visitors to stay inside their vehicles because bison are dangerous. I watched in disbelief as a woman stood outside a car taking photos with the bison herd within stone’s throw. What on earth was she thinking? Only moments earlier a sheriff’s car passed by and I wished the deputy had seen, and ticketed, her.
We had a bit of a scare ourselves when a bison walking nearby suddenly bolted toward our van, but veered away at the last second. I envisioned horns impaling the metal.
These animals command respect. They are massive, powerful and beautiful, a part of our state’s history.
To share space with them upon the prairie is not only an experience, but an honor.
© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
The Bison is a keystone species like the Gator is to Florida. They are key to the ecosystem and when their numbers dwindle the ecosystem is declining in its health. Loving your captures 🙂 Happy Day – Enjoy!
I never thought of it from that perspective. But, yes, good comparison to the gator in Florida.
What did papa buffalo say to his son when he left for college?
Good one, Gene. I like that. It seems most fitting for a father sending his son to North Dakota State University, home of the Bison.
In the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, near Medora ND, the bison wander through the campsites. I found this out one morning while taking a walk. I heard a snort behind me and found myself face to face with a bull. Fortunately, he couldn’t care less about me.
Whoa! Wander through the campgrounds? Now that seems mighty dangerous to me.
I saw a news clip this morning about a rhinoceros charging a zoo employee’s car, rolling the vehicle three times. The staff member suffered only minor injuries. But the incident took me back to the startled bison that lunged, then veered away from, our parked van.
Bison attacks are on the rise in the Custer area for this exact reason. Obey the signs they are their for a reason
I expect the increase in bison attacks is due to people not heeding warning signs as they try to get photos?
You are wise to respect animals that can kill you, if only more people were gifted with that common sense. Thank you for your post.
“common sense” certainly fits.
I had no idea one could encounter a bison herd in southern MN and yes I agree photo taking at times one can be dangerous just trying to get that perfect shot. But you did manage to get great shots staying safe in the car
I barely got the shot of the woman outside her car. And, yes, I took lots of photos, though my open passenger side window and then around Randy in the driver’s seat. And a few through the dirty windshield.
Great photos. We did not see the buffalo when we visited Minneopa State Park…we wondered where they were…
That would be disappointing. But given the acreage, they could be anywhere on the Minneopa prairie.
There is a huge bison farm on the way to our cabin…..did you see them when you came up a few years ago. Its quite a sight to see. 🙂
I don’t think so, Jackie. Near which town?
I’ve seen many foolish people/photographers, getting out of vehicles in the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge (about an hour from here – and a lovely place to hike and see wildlife) to get a closer look or photograph of the Bison. I’ve seen bison charge vehicles and people. I think people mistakenly think they are large and slow beasts, but they are ferocious and quick footed. I’m content to stay in my car and use the zoom lens!
Me, too. Stay in the vehicles and use the zoom lens.