Contrary to popular belief it wasn’t just the greedy European Americans who led the bison to near extinction. As much as ecological romantics would like to have us believe that before the white man came the Indians and all of God’s creation lived in peaceful harmony, the evidence does not back up the claim. The Plains Indians and the volatile environment of the Plains itself most likely played a far larger role in decimating the great herds of the 1800’s than previously thought.
Here’s some points to consider:
Archeological kill sites show that long before the white man came there were periods of time where bison kills were absent suggesting catastrophic declines due to disease, predators or climate change.
The environment is not static, that is, it is constantly changing. Large mammals roamed the earth and when they went extinct they left room for animals like the bison to take their range land and thrive.
The Indians, who in the not so distant past took to riding horses and hunting bison, often slaughtered large herds by sending them over cliffs and wasting much of the carcasses.
Also, by keeping large herds of horses that competed with the bison for the same limited grassland resources the Indians strained both species.
Estimates of bison herd sizes of the 1800’s were faulty since the herds gathered into enormous groups only during the summer rut. Counts were estimated in the summer leading many to believe there were huge herds everywhere, but that probably was not the case.
While white men played their part especially in the trade of buffalo robes, etc, the Indians also engaged in trade, slaughter and poor land management.
Whites, Indians and bison were victims of the harsh, unpredictable realities of nature.
Indians had a unique culture before they became nomadic bison hunters and kept it despite the loss of their hunting grounds.
Eastern groups of Euro-Americans organized the efforts to save the species and succeeded.
My own little bison guarding my books.