History of the Bison Herd

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Between 1830-1880, the American bison, or buffalo, was reduced in numbers from 60 million to a mere handful.

By 1900 there were only two small wild herds in all of North America, numbering only 550 animals. This change was accelerated in the last 40 years of the 19th century by the coming of the buffalo hunter and thousands of land-hungry settlers. Farsighted conservation leaders such as President Theodore Roosevelt became concerned. They realized that this native American animal could easily become extinct. 

In 1905, William T. Hornaday and others organized the American Bison Society and demanded that the buffalo be given care and protection. Through the efforts of the American Bison Society and the New York Zoological Society, an offer was made to donate 15 bison to the Wichita National Forest and Game Preserve in Oklahoma. Congress set aside $15,000 for this purpose, and on October 11, 1907, 15 of the finest buffalo from the New York Zoological Park were shipped by rail to Oklahoma. Seven days later, these six bulls and nine cows had safely returned to the plains and mountains.

There was great excitement in the little southwestern Oklahoma town of Cache when the train pulled in with the heavily-crated buffalo. The great Comanche Chief Quanah Parker was among those who came to the station. The crates were transferred to wagons and hauled the 13 miles to the Wichitas. People from the whole countryside flocked into the Wichita Forest to see the shaggy beasts. Mounted braves and their families rode in to see the bison of the plains that had provided meat and teepee skins for untold generations of their ancestors.