Great Plains Bison traces the history and ecology of this American symbol from the origins of the great herds that once dominated the prairie to its near extinction in the late nineteenth century and the subsequent efforts to restore the bison population.
A longtime wildlife biologist and one of the most powerful literary voices on the Great Plains, Dan O'Brien has managed his own ethically run buffalo ranch since 1997. Drawing on both extensive research and decades of personal experience, he details not only the natural history of the bison but also its prominent symbolism in Native American culture and its rise as an icon of the Great Plains. Great Plains Bison is a tribute to the bison's essential place at the heart of the North American prairie and its ability to inspire naturalists and wildlife advocates in the fight to preserve American biodiversity.
"Dan O'Brien's reverent history of the buffalo is a fascinating look at the relationship between nature and people – and an important reminder of the need to keep that relationship in balance."
– Mark R. Tercek, president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy
"In America we have never liked wildness in our rivers, parks, or animals. The bison, wolf, and grizzly have all suffered from deliberate extirpation. Dan O'Brien warns us that it does not have to be that way."
– Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia Inc.
"In just a few pages Dan O'Brien narrates the arc of Manifest Destiny and the demise of cultures and creatures at the heart of the American story. He describes our kinship with buffalo and the moral imperative to keep this wild creature, its landscape, and our indigenous cultures from going completely extinct. A must-read."
– Carter Roberts, president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund in the United States
List of Illustrations
Chapter One. The Great Plains: The Lay of the Land
Chapter Two. Invasion: The First Wave
Chapter Three. Cleansing the Land: Killing the Buffalo on the Central and Southern Plains
Chapter Four. The Empty Land: The Slaughter Moves North
Chapter Five. The Old Switcheroo: The Second Wave
Chapter Six. Penning the Prairie: The Third Wave
Chapter Seven. The Unintended Consequences of Technology: The Fourth Wave
Chapter Eight. The Resistance: Creeping Back from the Shadows
Chapter Nine. Legacy: Lessons from the Buffalo
Appendix: Where to Find Buffalo on the Great Plains
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Dan O'Brien is the author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books, including Wild Idea: Buffalo and Family in a Difficult Land and Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch. He founded Wild Idea Buffalo Company in 1997.