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Bringing Home the Thunder

As the song goes, a herd of buffalo once needed a place to roam, and they found a home on the range, at Caprock Canyons State Park.
"This is bison conservation in the state of Texas."
CAPROCK CANYONS STATE PARK --    As the song goes, a herd of buffalo once needed a place to roam, and they found a home on the range, at Caprock Canyons State Park.

Since then, growing that herd and keeping it's genetics intact, has been the park's focus.

"It's cool enough to have bison roaming around here. But to have the last remnants of the great southern plains herd, the true Texas bison roaming here...It's awesome. This is bison conservation in the state of Texas." said Park Superintendent Donald Beard.

Not far outside of the small town of Quitaque on a few hundred acres are the dependents of Charles Goodnight's herd.

How he came by that herd in the late 1800's, is a story in itself.

"Marianne [Goodnight] would hear the calves baaing for their momma and it just drove her crazy.So, Marianne convinced Charles to go out and capture a few of them. You know, we're gonna loose them, we've gotta do something. So he went out t and captured a few calves, and started a herd in this was in 1878. And the descendants of those animals are the ones that we have in Caprock Canyons State Park."

Once down to just a few hundred, there are now thousands of bison in public and private herds.

The herd lives on about 1,200 acres of the park, which they are quickly outgrowing.
 
"We can't go backwards, we have to go forwards. So we have got to open up that pasture to get them out there... And I'm hoping that we'll be able to get them out there this year." Beard said.

In 1996 the herd was donated to the park, and thanks to a grant from the Ted Turner Foundation, the conservation effort began.

"They belong here," said Beard, "They belong here, the prong horn, the prairie dogs, they all belong here. And that's our goal with this park. To take it back to 300 years ago, what did this look like before European settlement."

Once a year, the bison are brought in, and given a medical checkup and routine vaccinations.

"There will be some human contact, forever. That's just part of the deal... But we just try to keep it as minimal as possible." Beard said.

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