The Yellowstone wild, free, roaming buffalo are a unique wildlife resource to Montana and the nation. Certainly we can fashion a Montana solution that shares the land with our buffalo and their annual movements without slaughtering them when they step into Montana. Buffalo provided food, clothing, and shelter for the Indians. They fed the explorer and railroad builder. Without the buffalo, the West would have been a land of starvation. It is only right that we make a permanent place for them in Montana, managed as wildlife.
In the early 1800’s there were sixty million roaming free on the prairies and mountains of North America. In the late 1800’s they were commercially slaughtered by the thousands for their tongue and hump meat, robes and dried bone. The U.S. Army encouraged the buffalo slaughter in order to subdue the Plains Indian. If you did away with the Indian’s food and shelter source you could more easily subdue them and place them on marginal land reservations. Cattle grazers, sod busters and land speculators then occupied the plains. Railroad builders were given grants of land far beyond reason. Within the Musselshell River area in central Montana lived the last survivors of the great Northern Buffalo herds. In 1885 President Theodore Roosevelt sensed the buffalo may become extinct and sent Smithsonian taxidermist William Temple Hornaday to collect buffalo specimens so the Americans may remember what buffalo looked like. With the help of the US Army, Hornaday got his skins to the trailhead at Miles City in the nick of time to avoid the historic blizzards of 1886. Jack Drew, a local rancher, showed us Hornaday’s camp at the head of McGinnis Creek, a tributary of Big Porcupine Creek, east of Mosby in the Big Open.