We have resident moose here at the ranch on a year round basis, and it’s not uncommon to see them striding past the kitchen window. You would think that, with such long legs and oddly proportioned head and body, they would look ungainly, but they most definitely do not. They have a grace that makes their long legged pace look almost relaxed and easy and they cover distance at a remarkably fast rate. Their long legs lift them up above the snow, and they don’t find it the obstacle that deer do. So, while the deer and elk leave our high mountain ranch in the winter time, the moose are content to move from one drainage to another, crossing over the ridge that our home and bison ranch sits on, and striding down the other side. While they eat substantial amounts of aquatic vegetation in the summer months, spending long hours in willow thickets and streams, their winter diet is more accessible on the mountain slopes and south exposures where aspen, fivewillow and chokecherry, snowberry, snowbrush and other shrubby offerings stick up above the snow. This fella is using his front hooves to paw through the snow to reach vegetation hiding away there.
There’s a reason that bison have such big heads (a bull head can weigh up to 200 lbs). They can forage through 1- 2 feet of snow by using their head to push snow aside to reach any vegetation underneath.
Here Gigi is finding some green grass under the snow that grew as a result of our fall rains .
Bison – how do you tell them apart? We’ll start at the beginning with the calves and their horns! January 12, 2015
When guests come to visit, Craig introduces them to all of the herd cows by name. And that leads everyone to ask, “How can you tell them apart?” Well, the simple answer is the same as your answer to this question, “How do you tell your friends from each other?” Because they all have individual characteristics that are unique to them. Of course, if you aren’t used to looking for those characteristics, they’re hard to see (I have Caucasian friends that tell me they can’t tell Asians apart, and I have Asian friends who tell me that all white folks look the same :). It’s just a matter of knowing how to look for those differences. So I figured I’d do a series showing how we identify our buffs!
And since horns are probably the characteristic that most folks look at first, we’ll start there with a look at age classes. And to do that, let’s begin at the beginning. The calves!
The one sleeping on the left is a newborn. If you could touch the top of her head, you would feel the tiniest little bumps that will become her horns. And you would really feel some horns when her mom caught you doing that!
The next calf picture (sniffing my fingers) has little horn buds that are just showing up above the curly wool.
The little black faced “red” calf is about 4 months old,
and the last is a six month old calf. I think their little horns make them look like devils!
We thoroughly enjoyed Jo Piazza’s visit and resulting article about our Bison Quest Wildlife Vacations!
New Buff Babies at Bison Quest! April 30, 2014
The last week of April and the first week of May are the big baby buff weeks here! Here are Emma and Gracie with their new little ones last week.
Knock 3 Times – and you get buffalo! February 16, 2013
Feeding our bison in the winter is just a matter of driving out to where we last saw them and throwing out hay. Usually they’re there. Sometimes they aren’t. And that’s when that old song by Toni Orlando and Dawn (yes, VERY old song) starts running through my head, “Knock 3 times on the ceiling if you want me, …. Because I honk the horn three times, over and over until…. HERE THEY COME! http://youtu.be/3K61YvfxbXA
Why Bison Quest? January 11, 2013
Come face to face with nature and wildlife in an eco friendly vacation. Live among bison and study wildlife alongside our biologists-then use what you learn to save our wild world.
Because everything dies. December 10, 2012
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.
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.