We thoroughly enjoyed Jo Piazza’s visit and resulting article about our Bison Quest Wildlife Vacations!
Bison Photography Fun with Yahoo Travel Jo Piazza and Travel Blogger Jackie Laulainen! November 23, 2014
We were flattered to find that Jo Piazza (Yahoo Travel) wanted to visit us here at Bison Quest, even though it’s winter, it’s cold, and it’s snowy. But she and Jackie Laulainen (travel blogger) came for a visit anyway – and we had a blast. Of course, the buffs are all photogenic and were happy to pose for the gals to take as many pics as they wished. Watching (and photographing) Jo and Jackie taking selfies was priceless. See you gals in June!
Bison Quest Documentary airing on the Sundance Channel October 8, 2009
I’ve promised so many people to “let them know” when I heard the Sundance channel would be airing the documentary that they shot up here at our ranch, that I figured I’d better get with it and put something on the blog. We just heard the definitive date – so here you go. The actual full length documentary will air on Tuesday, 13 October at 8 pm (so the website says). The series is “Big Ideas for a small planet” and the episode is “Leisure”. To see a little clip of it, go to the link and just click on the buffalo picture in the clips at the bottom http://www.sundancechannel.com/big-ideas/video/ They came last year to film us the day we got a huge snowstorm. Ironically enough, they were here for three days and the day after they left, all of the snow melted and we had gorgeous weather for the next month. If you don’t like the weather in Montana – wait five minutes. No kidding.
WHAT THEY DON’T TELL YOU May 12, 2009
I just returned from a week in southwestern North Dakota conducting sharp-tailed grouse surveys and got to view the 20/20 clip on game farming. The title of ABC’s 20/20 show is “WHAT THEY DON’T TELL YOU”. Ironic, indeed, since there is a lot that ABC didn’t tell you. They identified us as bison ranchers, when in fact we are really wildlife biologists. We keep a small herd of bison to use in helping guests connect with wild animals and the natural world via Bison Quest. What they didn’t mention is that Pam and I have graduate degrees in wildlife biology and zoology, and that we have earned our living for over 30 years working with wildlife (including endangered species) both in, and out of, the US. They promoted the idea that raising bison was economically viable despite our telling them the sale of bison meat barely covers the cost of hay and other operating expenses. They never mentioned that they interviewed Pam and I for over an hour (and spent most of the day with us), during which time we outlined the problems with game farming – they are many. This interview was reduced down to part of one sentence where Pam was talking about comments made by some 19th century naturalists and fur trappers as they watched the great bison slaughter unfold. I even told them that, under contract with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, I visited about 30 game farms in Montana and wrote the biological sections on Environmental Assessments for these game farms. As such, I am something of an authority on game farming. I explained that raising elk in game farms in Montana did not stop the poaching of deer and elk for antlers and trophies, and that the biggest impact on the antler trade was Viagra. However, on this film, there was not one word from me on game farming. Instead they present an economist as an authority on wildlife and game farming. During our interview, I explained that holding wild animals in captivity for multiple generations results in domestication. Two obvious cases of this are domestic cattle and sheep, whose wild ancestors are now extinct. And this is a real wildlife success story? I also find it ironic that they use, as their example of “success” stories, a series of animals in cages so small and dismal, that there’s no wonder the animals go insane. Do they think that a pacing mink (with non-wild fur color) in a 2- foot by 2-foot cage is a great solution? Or, how about that tiger laying on a concrete floor of a small cage with a bunch of cubs. Is this what we want to hold up as a way to “save” wildlife? We also pointed out that any program discussing game farming must include discussion of bear bile farms in China, and the horrific conditions these bears are subjected to, along with the associated ethics. But Stossel made no mention of any of these things. Now you know what they didn’t tell you.
ABC’s 20/20 airs endangered species clip May 11, 2009
I just finished watching our bison clip on 20/20 . While the part about us was harmless, John Stossel’s statements on farming endangered species was poorly researched and an example of sensational journalism rather than investigative. I wasn’t surprised by Stossel’s piece on endangered species, but I still had held out a little hope that he would be more interested in facts and less interested in being a shock jock. He wasn’t. We certainly gave him all of the info (see our blog on farming endangered species), but he made no attempt to address any of the real issues. And the comment, “farming saved the bison” is hogwash. We outlined the history of the bison in our interviews and made it clear that that statement was historically false but he chose to ignore fact and stick to fiction. Still, we do learn something new everytime we get the tv media here. We’ve had a diverse variety of film crews now and we have sure learned a lot about them. And Woolly Bully has become such a star, that he has demanded a raise in his treat rations from the next film crew!
Our visit from ABC’s 20/20 January 18, 2009
Of course, the easiest time to add to our blog is when life is slow and mellow, and there’s some spare time. But then there’s not so much to say! It’s when life is exciting, challenging, and full that I can think of all kinds of things to write about, but can’t find a minute to sit down to do it. And that’s what winter has been like for us ever since Christmas day. We had a great Christmas here at the ranch and were able to “ferry up” kids and grandparents via four wheel drive to spend a beautiful and peaceful Christmas day. But we had no sooner gotten everyone back to their cars (which had been left seven miles away down by the highway) on Christmas evening when it began to snow. And did it snow! We had 7 inches of the fluffy white stuff. And then – it began to blow. And that spells trouble big time for our 7 miles of back roads leading to the ranch.
Now there are a few things to understand here. It’s not unusual for people in the northern states of the US to get snow. In fact, many of you get much more snow than we do – like in Maine or upstate NY or Minnesota. The difference is, those folks have services that plow the roads on a regular basis. When you live clear out here, in a poor county in Montana – well, they clear the road when they can and if they can (are drifts are big). And they give priority to roads with more people along them, as they should. So, it’s not the amount of snow you get that’s the problem – it’s the drifting snow and whether or not you have someone clearing the road for you.
Another thing you learn living in remote areas like this, is that you don’t “schedule” things. You work around the weather and the roads. You don’t say, “I want to go to town today.” You say, “The road is open, I think I’ll go to town today.” or “ The road has drifted shut, I think I’ll work up in the office today.” Life is much easier that way, and it keeps the stress level down. But we do live in the modern world – at least some of the time – and that world just doesn’t have that laid back attitude. “Modern Life” centers around schedules and plans and set times. And when those plans collide with the weather in remote country – well, it makes life very interesting indeed.
Jeff Diamond, a producer from ABC’s 20/20, had scheduled to come up here to film the herd and talk to us about our views on whether farming wildlife domestically could save them in the wild (see my earlier blog entry – that’s what initiated that entry). They had it all planned for a specific day – of course – since the camera crew had to come in from Minnesota and Jeff from New York City. It all seemed reasonable at the time. Until it started to snow. And then to blow. The day they were scheduled to arrive. A flurry of phone calls between Jeff and I established that they did want to come, weren’t afraid of snow, and didn’t mind what their mode of transportation was. And I must say, they were as good as their word.
That morning we met the crew at the highway where we had parked a truck prior to the snow and wind. We managed to drive 5 miles before encountering an impassable drift. We then switched to snowmobiles (and neighbors with snowmobiles – we have awesome neighbors), to ferry the crew and equipment for 1 mile over a series of large drifts to another truck to complete the journey. Jeff’s comment was, “You really ARE out in the wilds”. It was actually a lot of fun, and I don’t think that any of the crew will forget their arrival at Wild Echo Bison Ranch. Leave it to us to stand out in the crowd. It snowed hard all day (just ironic that it was clear with a bright blue sky both before and after their visit). What is it with film crews that they have to come in the snowstorms!? The crew from the Sundance channel “Big Ideas from a Small Planet” did the same thing!
At any rate, we thoroughly enjoyed our time with Jeff and his “crew”. Mark, the cameraman (and wildlife cinema photographer) and his “soundlady” Heidi, were really great and, being from Minnesota, the snow didn’t even slow them down. Everyone was dressed to the “nines” (in this case, that means lots of layers of wool and down and pacs for footwear) and we all managed to stay warm even though the snow fell all day. They filmed the herd all morning, and the buffs – well, suffice it to say that they are always happy to see us with guests Not because they have latent dreams of being film stars, but because we break out the bags of sweet grain and they just LOVE that! And as for the filming itself – well, buffs always look good in white.
After a lunch of buffalo stew, they spent the afternoon setting up and filming the “interviews” with Craig and me. Definitely my least favorite part of the day. I am quickly coming to the conclusion that I really am not fond of formal interviews. It’s too hard to relax and “just chat” when a camera is turned on one. Not to mention that one has
no idea how it looks – or exactly how it will be used. But we got through it and, if nothing else, were able to give our view as wildlife biologists on why farming endangered species is a bad idea. While I would much prefer giving my views via the written word, there’s no question that info via television reaches a wider – and different – audience. It will be interesting to see what the storyline looks like when it all airs.