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oreclan

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Five years ago my wife and I along with some relatives took a cruise out of Vancouver to Alaska. Just prior to that week I read an article about Alaska re-introducing the woods bison back in the state from where they had been discovered in Alberta, Canada back in 1957! I had to arrange to see some! As luck would have it there was a land portion via bus. The bus tour's first stop was the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center where they had a herd of wood buffalo.
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Kansas Jake

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My daughter has a bison bull head not just the skull hanging on the wall in her house. They purchased it from a bison rancher in our vicinity who had the animal slaughtered as part of his herd maintenance program. A local taxidermist did the work on the skull. The rancher also offers tours where he drives folks to his herd on a trailer and allows you to hand feed range cubes to the animals. They are used to it and come right up to the trailer where folks ride. It is quite an experience having a bison eat a range cube out of your hand. Obviously there is no walking among the herd as they are still a non domesticated fearless animal.
 

Notchy Bob

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Five years ago my wife and I along with some relatives took a cruise out of Vancouver to Alaska. Just prior to that week I read an article about Alaska re-introducing the woods bison back in the state from where they had been discovered in Alberta, Canada back in 1957! I had to arrange to see some! As luck would have it there was a land portion via bus. The bus tour's first stop was the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center where they had a herd of wood buffalo.View attachment 47933
Oreclan, I know what you are talking about! I took an outfitted hiking trip to Alaska in 2015. Prior to the trip, I had read about the wood bison at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, and arranged a side trip to that facility. I was able to see their herd of wood bison, some of which were later released in the designated wilderness area. You got a much better picture than I did! There are at least a couple of videos online which go over the rewilding plan, and show the release.

There is some current archaeological research now that indicates the Athabascan people of Alaska and northwestern Canada were heavily dependent on bison for subsistence prior to European contact. Bison populations declined, and the people turned to caribou as their principal quarry. The wood bison from the AWCC which are being rewilded are actually "coming home."

Thanks for your comments, and for that terrific photo!

Notchy Bob
 

akaMOTU

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While the excess slaughter of bison is well documented that was not the sole cause of their demise. It is documented, but seldom reported, that brucellosis (bangs disease) was the primary cause for them going nearly extinct. And, it is said, that there are no purebred bison left in north america. Meaning many crossed with bovine cattle over the years and still do.
Actually, there are some left. The latest discovery is a genetically pure herd in Utah. So, hope abounds that pure bison herds could be replicated...
 

WRussell

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As Rifleman1776 said, humans weren't the only reason for the demise of the bison. Commercial hunting would have driven them extinct eventually, but the highest estimates of the number killed by humans is less than the lowest estimates of their total numbers. The main reason they died off seems to be that their food source was going away, probably due to the ending of "the little ice age". Not enough to eat - weakness - diseases take over; exacerbated by diseases brought in by settlers. Yep, climate change did 'em in, according to ongoing research.
Do a little Googling starting with "Bison and the little ice age".

- Bill
 

akaMOTU

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As Rifleman1776 said, humans weren't the only reason for the demise of the bison. Commercial hunting would have driven them extinct eventually, but the highest estimates of the number killed by humans is less than the lowest estimates of their total numbers. The main reason they died off seems to be that their food source was going away, probably due to the ending of "the little ice age". Not enough to eat - weakness - diseases take over; exacerbated by diseases brought in by settlers. Yep, climate change did 'em in, according to ongoing research.
Do a little Googling starting with "Bison and the little ice age".

- Bill
Actually, it was almost entirely due to "human effort". There was a concerted effort to deny the plains Indians of a valued resource.

Going way back before then, Spanish explorers documented many Indian villages along both sides of the Mississippi - and very few bison. When French explorers traveled the same region about a hundred years later, they wrote about large herds of bison, and saw very few natives - they had been almost wiped out by diseases, transmitted by the previous Spanish explorers. The lack of hunting had led to a repopulation of the species.
 

Tangosierra

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seems that all of the cow sculls always have one, a bullet hole between the eyes. this is grand!!
I have a skull with a hole near the top between the horns. It is from a pneumatic steel rod used to kill it for slaughter. If u have seen NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN u will know what I mean.
 

Oldbear63

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There was a pistol that was traditionally used for dispatching cows and horses (.32 short?). The shot placement was the same as for captured bolt guns, through the forehead, aiming to the spinal cord. If the shot was correctly placed it went through the midbrain and into the spinal cord causing instant death. Obviously this disfigures the skull. A shot through the occipital bone or opening forward into the midbrain might do the same thing, but if you miss it might just injure it. I wouldn't want to be on the wrong end of an injured and delirious buffalo.
 

toot

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Five years ago my wife and I along with some relatives took a cruise out of Vancouver to Alaska. Just prior to that week I read an article about Alaska re-introducing the woods bison back in the state from where they had been discovered in Alberta, Canada back in 1957! I had to arrange to see some! As luck would have it there was a land portion via bus. The bus tour's first stop was the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center where they had a herd of wood buffalo.View attachment 47933
when you take a good look at them, I think that they look like something that time forgot?
 

oreclan

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My daughter has a bison bull head not just the skull hanging on the wall in her house. They purchased it from a bison rancher in our vicinity who had the animal slaughtered as part of his herd maintenance program. A local taxidermist did the work on the skull. The rancher also offers tours where he drives folks to his herd on a trailer and allows you to hand feed range cubes to the animals. They are used to it and come right up to the trailer where folks ride. It is quite an experience having a bison eat a range cube out of your hand. Obviously there is no walking among the herd as they are still a non domesticated fearless animal.
I have noticed over multiple visits to Cabela's, Bass Pro Shops, and other national chains that despite their huge mounted animal displays non have a bison head displayed. I've asked no one at the stores knows why.
 

Kansas Jake

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Just a note on the rancher with the bison, his dominant herd bull got displaced by another younger bull. Rather than haul him to the butcher he allowed him to live out his life on the ranch and die the natural way.
 

1clayguy

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The occipital bone (base of skull) is shattered on the left side, on that skull in my first post. This is not evident in the pictures, and the damage is in fact not even visible from the front or side.

I met a buffalo rancher a few years ago and had an interesting conversation with him. He did his own slaughtering, and would run the animals into a chute of some sort, one at a time. He said he would stand on a rail, lean over the top, and shoot the animal in the base of the skull with a .44 Magnum revolver. The buffalo would drop in his tracks. Based on the damage to Old Bull's skull, I suspect he was killed in pretty much the same way. I also bought a second bison skull in 2006, from a shop in Custer, South Dakota, when I was up there on a trip. This was from a younger and somewhat smaller bull, but it was a really nice specimen. I ended up giving it to my son, who is just as crazy about this sort of thing as I am. This second skull has a very neat dime-sized hole in the occipital bone. It isn't visible from the front or side.

I spent my career working in rehab, much of the time with stroke and trauma patients. From this, I gained a little understanding of neuroanatomy. It would seem to me that a large-caliber bullet to the base of the skull would blow out the brainstem and likely the cerebellum. This would probably paralyze the animal instantaneously. If the bullet continues on through the midbrain and into the cerebrum, the animal would also very likely be rendered immediately unconscious. A shot or blow to the forehead might very well make the animal unconscious but not necessarily, and would probably not paralyze it, either. It would seem to me that the base-of-skull shot would be quicker and more humane. However, this is all speculation on my part.

I have seen bison skulls offered for sale and described as having "a dime-sized hole at the base of the skull." However, it does seem now that most of the skulls you see for sale have an obvious hole in the forehead, either from a bullet or the pneumatic piston device mentioned by Appalachian hunter. Sometimes these holes are patched. A hole in the forehead would ruin it for me.

I think there are a very few buffalo ranchers, mainly native-run operations, I believe, that kill the animals in the field with a rifle. I've heard that shot placement behind the ear can make for a quick kill, but I suspect heart/lung shots may also be used. I can't say for sure.

If you are shopping for a skull, you'll want to decide for yourself what is acceptable in terms of damage. You may pay more for one without a hole in the forehead. If there is a bullet hole in the skull that has been patched, the seller should disclose this. If you're not sure, it would be worthwhile to ask.

Bison and humans have a lot of shared history, and for me, bison skulls have a mystic aura that may be hard to describe. Some of you may feel the same way... Maybe not, which is okay, too. These are animals whose ancestors wandered out of the Pleistocene with our own, and I'm glad they are still with us.

Best regards,
Notchy Bob
I attended the annual buffalo roundup at Custer Park in SD a few years back and was able to get quite close to the buff's as they were penned prior to being examined. As was clearly demonstrated while in the round up pen, buffalo are incredibly powerful and have a serious attitude. I think pursuing them on horseback was quite a dangerous undertaking.
 

Eterry

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Several years ago my hunting buddy and I were on the Red River in Clay county, he was noodling and found a buff skull in the water. Lord knows how long it'd been there. He took it home to clean it up, it was in really good shape, I offered to take it to the local university to see if it could be aged.
Then he died suddenly and I never asked his widow what happened to it.
 

Dale Lilly

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Since childhood, I've been fascinated by bison. Relatives of today's bison helped sustain our European ancestors and also lumbered across the Bering land bridge along with the people who populated the New World. Looking at a buffalo skull takes me back to the old west, the earliest frontiers, and back to the most ancient of times.

I have a buffalo skull. No, I did not kill the animal. I bought the skull from a meat-producing buffalo ranch, maybe 15-18 years ago. This old fellow may have lived out his days on a ranch instead of open range, but he was still a buffalo, and his skull still has that aura of mystery. I took a few snapshots and thought I would share them with you.

View attachment 47679

View attachment 47680

Most of the skulls and horns you see are from two to three year old bulls, and may be considered by-products of the buffalo beef producing industry. However, this old fellow was a fully mature, older bull. I think he must have been kept as a breeder, and he must have been magnificent. This is a massive skull. The mortar joints between the bricks in the picture are 12" apart horizontally and 3" vertically, to give some perspective. The maximum spread of the horns, outside of curve to outside of curve, is 25-3/4", with 23-1/2" horn tip to horn tip. These horns are mirror images of each other and remarkably symmetric, with nearly identical measurements. Both measure 16" around the outside curve, with a base circumference of 12-3/4". This was a big animal. Just in case there is any doubt, I balanced a yardstick on the skull and took one more snapshot:

View attachment 47688

I just call him "Old Bull." Not a very creative name, but it seems appropriate and respectful.

I hope you enjoyed taking a look!

Notchy Bob
Deep down in your psyche is the ancestral spirit that was so much a part of ancient cultures. That is what makes history so fascinating. You are blessed my friend. Dale
 

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