The Buffalo Girls Stories – Buffalo Connection

Earthfire Institute    Yobo Member
February 22nd, 2012

Credit: Jeremy Kunz/Creative Commons

When we look for Bluebell the buffalo in the pasture, we know exactly where to find her. Out of 20 acres of freedom and grass, she is lying right up against the fencing that separates her from Ramble the grizzly bear, perhaps 12 feet away.  It makes you think . . .

Buffalo are intensely social creatures with all that that implies. They are oriented and responsive to one another; they crave one another’s company and are continually together in a herd. When we say an animal is social, I wonder if we feel what that fully means.  Chickens are social – ours are often found lying close to one another, or taking dust baths practically on top of one another. Apes are social, wolves and dogs are social, humans are social. We need one another. We are all made to be with one another and lapse into depression when we are alone.  It is a biologically-based thing, hard-wired into our nature and theirs. It is something we have in common. The sensations a lone social animal has are very probably the same sensations we have, being animals too.  An ache, a hunger, and feelings of not knowing exactly what to do with ourselves.

There is quite a variety of ways we adapt to loneliness and deal with it and so it is with buffalo.

We had the pleasure and honor of taking care of two baby buffalo that grew into fine young girls, Bluebell and Rosebud. Rosebud bonded intensely to Josie the Buffalo Goat who helped feed her excellent goat’s milk as she grew. They were always together as a unit. When Josie suddenly died, Rosebud went into a depression. She developed pneumonia and nothing we did could save her. Bluebell was herself, brokenhearted, trying to groom the still form of Rosebud; to lift her, to bring her back to life. For a long time she mourned and we worried that we might lose her too.  But something interesting happened.  Somehow the tragedy softened her; opened her to other possibilities. She began to look to people. She who was dominant and even mildly threatening became softer and softer. Last time I wrote about Bluebell I recounted how she would always be at the base of the yurt when we have meetings. That trend has unmistakably deepened.  During a program last June she stood for half an hour while 6 women systematically groomed and plucked her winter’s fur until she was smooth and shining.  She remembers that and now comes to greet all humans who visit, and allows herself (actually kind of asks) to be touched, admired, groomed.  Bluebell is nine – yet she learned, and adapted and changed.  She has matured with a wider acceptance of other beings. It is not just buffalo that are worthy of her attention and interaction; not just buffalo who can give.

Going back to Bluebell and Ramble the grizzly . . . twelve thousand years ago megafauna such as the giant short-faced bear, giant sloth, mammoths and other huge animals roamed the continent. More than 50 species were driven to extinction during what is called the “Pleistocene Overkill,” a combination of human hunting and climate change. There are only a few species left from that great extinction – and two of them are the grizzly bear and the bison.  If one thinks about more subtle connections between living beings, as one does if one has the time or inclination or exposure, you can’t help thinking – do they recognize one another in some way?  Do they share a deep loneliness? A sense of being the last of their kind from another time, remnants of a once vast community, hunted still to a miniscule number?

There is help on the horizon for Bluebell.  A visitor deeply moved by her has made a commitment to help us find a baby buffalo for her when they are born in the spring (thank you Joan!) Or maybe two.  Bluebell will have her herd again.

[Source: Earthfire Institute]

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