Where the buffalo roam(ed)

Several Silbernagel siblings (say that fast five times) are reading this book right now because of a shared interest in what has been North America’s largest mammal for the past 10,000 years or so.

I’m particularly interested in the American buffalo, or bison, because I’ve read several historic journals and reports that indicate they were once prominent in the mountains of Colorado, although never in the numbers that crowded the Great Plains.

The author, Steven Rinella, is an outdoorsman and writer who obtained a permit to hunt a buffalo in southeastern Alaska in 2005. He intersperses his stories of his successful hunt with a history of bison in North America, from pre-human times until they were nearly obliterated by white hunters, to more recent conservation efforts.

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Rinella is an engaging writer, self-effacing and often funny.  I was pleasantly surprised that this isn’t a polemic about hunting, conservation, federal wildlife policies or anything else. It simply tells a good story, while adding some of the author’s views, not too stridently stated.

One minor critique: Some of the theories — which Rinella states as fact — about early human migration to this Continent and their immediate impact on megafauna of the day, are now being challenged by other scientists, according to articles I’ve read. But the book was published in 2008, and it may just be the fact that after nine years, research is challenging what was viewed as settled science a decade ago.

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