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Snow stories – the lion doesn’t sleep tonight. December 18, 2012

Filed under: ecology,Musings,wildlife — bisonquest @ 9:23 am
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Ghosts.  And like ghosts, our lions are rarely seen.  But there is a reason that “our” does have their fawns in the yard every spring, and keep them there throughout the summer.  Although we don’t often see our lions we, like our deer, know that they are here.  Because our ghosts leave tracks.  Snow stories.  Gotta love it!

Ghost tracks

Round with no claw marks, the size of Craig’s palm – unmistakeable lion tracks.


Because everything dies. December 10, 2012

Filed under: bison,ecology,Musings,wildlife — bisonquest @ 5:46 pm
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It’s the time of year when we field harvest some of our buffalo and I invariably get the question, “I know you love them, so how can you live with them and still kill them?” Those are honest questions and here’s my best answer.

“Because everything dies. Every thing.”

As a biologist, as well as for me philosophically, it’s not the fact that things die that we should focus on – after all, every one of us will do that – it’s the quality of life and the quality of death that matters. Because we do love our buffalo. And we do care about them. And we do eat them. Those are not mutually exclusive ideas. In fact, they are the basis of life around us. We all eat living things.

buff and tipi

To us, that means that our bison are treated with gentleness and respect and honor. They are never penned and fattened, but are allowed to roam wherever they want on the almost one square mile they call home. It means that calves are never separated from their mothers, that there is no pain of castration, dehorning, branding, squeeze chutes, or electric prods – often a part of “traditional” livestock raising. It means that we can live on a ranch that is home to other wildlife including predators, where we can encourage native vegetation rather than introduced plants, and basically run the ranch in an environmentally friendly manner, all while living with that most amazing of creatures – the buffalo.

Yes, there is a cost to that, in both time and money. It means that we have to spend hours trying to coax a buff onto a trailer instead of forcing it, that there is never a semi-truck crowded full of our bison and trucked long distances to a central feedlot and slaughterhouse with it’s horrors, and it means marketing the meat ourselves, wholesale, one animal at a time, instead of in large commercial quantities.  But it also means that when death does come to our buffs, it is done instantaneously, painlessly, and without bringing fear. And most of all, it means that each bison is treated as an individual with emotions and feelings that deserve respect. I wish we all had it so good.


Snow stories – Pop goes the weasel. December 7, 2012

Filed under: ecology,Musings,wildlife — bisonquest @ 1:41 pm
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Deer mouse tracks

weasel tracks

Weasel tracks

First I saw the weasel tracks – then I saw some deer mouse tracks.


Oh Oh.

Oh Oh.  Weasel tracks on top of mouse tracks.  I bet the weasel was smiling.


Snow stories

Filed under: ecology,Musings,wildlife — bisonquest @ 10:26 am
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After hauling firewood into the house, making fires in each of our outbuildings, plowing roads, slogging through snow to feed the buffs, and sliding across the driveway on ice, some days I have a hard time finding the upside of a snowstorm.  So I take a walk through the meadow covered with a white blanket of snow, watch the white flakes drift to the ground, wrap myself in the hushed silence of a snow filled world, and let the peace of my seemingly empty world envelope me.  Such a peaceful world.

But tracks are all around me – unfolding tales of curiosity and survival, the hunter and the hunted.  They tell of coyotes looking for food, ermine following mice, squirrels scampering from tree to tree, a cottontail scurrying from haystack to chicken house (they know where the food is), dusky grouse nibbling the doug fir buds, even the flight of the great horned owl as her wings sweep the snow.  Activity everywhere I look.  Snow stories.  Reminding me that this isn’t really a peaceful world at all.

One of our resident cottontails who lives by the chicken house.  Safe from coyotes.  Bunnies aren't dumb.

One of our resident cottontails who lives by the chicken house. Safe from coyotes. Bunnies aren’t dumb.


Spring? in the Montana mountains June 7, 2009

Filed under: Musings — bisonquest @ 1:38 pm

Arrowleaf balsamroot and a Montana mountain spring.

Yesterday afternoon we went out to the meadows to burn slashpiles of dead wood and branches that we stacked during the summer, and I snapped this perfect example of a Montana mountain spring.  If I had been willing to brave the weather in the morning, I could have caught the snow blanketing the ground and the flowers.  But, alas, I behaved like a wimp and didn’t stir myself outside until the snow had pulled back from the meadows…. and the flowers.


Bison Quest Turf Wars May 31, 2009

Filed under: ecology,Musings,wildlife — bisonquest @ 6:54 pm

I was visiting with one of our guests and she made a statement that set me to thinking. Her comment was, “It’s so peaceful and quiet at the camp – none of the strife and noise of the outside world.” While it’s a common concept that nature is peaceful and quiet (and it’s a great marketing ploy) as a wildlife biologist in charge of facts, I needed to bring some reality into this statement.  Sooo……. I’m going to start a little series over the next week or two comparing our Bison Quest camp here at Wild Echo, with the big cities that many of our guests live in. Let’s just see if, indeed, Wild Echo Bison Reserve really is a place of quiet with a peaceful population who all get along. And we’re going to start with something that all of you in the big cities know as….. turf wars!

You say you have drive by shootings and gangs arguing over who can control what part of town. Well – here at camp we have some bird feeders and right now the feeder full of thistle seeds is getting downright dangerous.  Today, we’re featuring the Pine Siskin gang.  Like any self respecting gang, the Siskin gang is experiencing dissension within the ranks – which leads to aerial confusion as the gang members jockey for position.

Dissension in the ranks

Dissension in the ranks

Leads to aerial confusion

Leads to aerial confusion

There's one in every crowd - the Peacenik - who gets along with everyone.

There's one in every crowd - the Peacenik - who gets along with everyone.


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