Bison skulls to be used for fertilizer, 1870


The bison was hunted to near extinction in the 19th century and had been reduced to a few hundred by the mid-1880s. They were hunted for their skins, the rest of the animals were left to rot on the ground.

Skins were prepared for leather processing and shipped to the East and Europe (mainly Germany). Homesteaders collect bones from carcasses left behind by poachers. Bison bones were used in refining sugar, as fertilizer and for making fine bone china. Bison bones ranged in price from $2.50 to $15.00 per ton.

When modern Europeans arrived in North America, an estimated 50 million bison inhabited the continent. After the mass slaughter of American bison during the 1800s, the number of surviving bison in North America dropped to 541. During that period, a handful of pastoralists collected the remains of existing herds to save the species from extinction.

By the 1830s Comanche and his allies on the Southern Plains were killing about 280,000 bison per year, which was close to the limit of stability for that region. A growing export market for firearms and horses, as well as buffalo clothing and bison meat, resulted in larger and larger numbers of bison being killed each year.

The railroad industry also wanted bison herds to be removed or eliminated. Herds of bison on the tracks may damage the locomotive if trains fail to stop in time. The herds often took shelter in artificial cuts created by the grade of a track winding through hills and mountains in harsh winter conditions.

As a result, bison herds can delay the train for several days, or potentially wreck the engine. Railroads used to hire shooters to ride their trains and shoot bison as the train moved.

The US military approved and actively supported the bulk slaughter of bison herds. The federal government promoted the hunting of bison for a variety of reasons, to allow ranchers to keep their cattle without competition from other cattle, and to weaken the North American Indian population.

The US government also offered a reward for each bison skull recovered. Military commanders were ordering their soldiers to kill bison—not for the food, but to deprive the Native Americans of their source of food.

One general believed that bison hunters "did more to defeat Indian nations in a few years than soldiers did in 50 years". By 1880, the slaughter was almost over. Where once millions of bison roamed, there were only a few thousand animals left.

In 1884 there were about 325 wild bison left in the United States—including 25 in Yellowstone. Before Europeans arrived in the New World, there were more than 50 million bison in North America.

How many bison skulls can there be in the photo?

It's hard to tell without seeing the whole stack. Some rough calculations based on the volume of the skull and the dimensions of the pile place 180,000 skulls on that pile.

Thanks in large part to conservation efforts by volunteers and later the US government, the American bison was saved from total extinction.

There are currently about 500,000 bison on non-public land and about 30,000 on public land that includes environmental and government protection. According to the IUCN, about 15,000 bison are considered wild, with free-range bison not limited primarily by fencing.

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.