If you are fortunate upon arriving at exit 254 on Colorado’s I-70, you will be rewarded with a perfect view of The American Bison herd. I say “The” because these animals are descendants of seven of the remaining wild animals discovered in Yellowstone National Park in 1914. Exceptional survivors such as this herd escaped the twenty-year massacre of bison, which took place after the Transcontinental Railroad was completed and the Civil War ended.
Try to excuse the sign, which states “Buffalo Herd Overlook.” The City and County of Denver Parks still use the popular name for bison. If you do not spy the herd immediately, you can drive to the Chief Hosa exit and continue north on a dirt road which is part of the Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway. The bison are also fed here and can actually cross under I-70 to the Overlook.
Prior to being hunted to the brink of extinction, American bison roamed over 40% of our nation. Indigenous people and early explorers thrived on bison meat and were protected by their hides. Since there were millions of bison, it was not unusual for people to come upon a herd of 1,000. They were so numerous that members of the Lewis and Clark expedition stopped mentioning them in their journals.
Why do you think the United States Army, and early pioneers ignored the value of these beasts and did nothing to preserve the species? With no foresight, they concluded that wiping out the bison would make it easier to wipe out the Indians. Were news and historical agencies aware that 50 million bison were being exterminated?
These facts help with our current efforts to right the wrongs.
- A bison can outrun a Quarter horse over a ¼ mile tract
- A bison can jump a six- foot fence from a standing position
- Their curved horns can grow to be two-feet long.
- Today there are about 4,000 American bison in Yellowstone National Park. They are more dangerous to humans than bears.
- See The Long Trail of Yellowstone Bison, Defenders of Wildlife.