Looking Back 4: Buffalo


Mosquito Mountain Montana HomesteadSome of our animal adventures originated from critters we didn't own. We had a neighbor who moved his buffalo onto the property adjacent to ours. He'd recently moved back to his home town and had purchased the land next to ours to pasture his buffalo. The problem was that he lived about 90 miles away so tending them in the winter was problematic. We offered to feed them from hay he purchased and stacked nearby. While we didn't ask for it, we also received some of the best meat imaginable whenever he butchered one of them.

Originally he stacked the hay inside the pasture with a wood fence around it. That turned into a buffalo all-you-can-eat buffet when they knocked the fence to the ground. After that he stacked it outside the pasture, and I threw it over the fence. It was normally just two or three bales per day, and we didn't mind doing it. We went for daily walks past there anyway, and it was kind of a novelty to have buffalo next door. Most of the time the feeding was uneventful but there were a couple of times it got interesting.

At first I went through the fence to scatter the hay so that the younger ones could get to it. Buffalo have a distinct hierarchy and the biggest and baddest of the group ate first, which left the calves and some of the cows standing on the fringe and looking with longing while the others feasted.

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One time I noticed the two calves playing. They'd drop their heads and charge each other in their mock battle for supremacy. Then one of them eyed me and dropped his head to include me in the game. The thought of being butted by a buffalo didn't thrill me. Even though they were calves, they probably still tripped the scales at 250 pounds each. I began to back toward a thick stand of lodge-pole pine. Then out of the corner of my eye I noticed one of the mothers coming after me from the side. It was obvious that her intentions were not playful!

By then I was in my safe haven of trees and slowly working my way to the fence. She decided the threat was over, the calf went back to playing with his half-brother, and I vowed to just throw the hay over the fence if they were there at feeding time (they usually were).

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