Saturday, September 20, 2014

Where the Buffalo Roam

Buffalo on the Vermejo Park Ranch

The herd which was close to the highway was about 47 to 50 in number and included several of this year's calves. Needless to say we were going for the up close and personal photographs.

Aunts and Calf

And there really was no end of opportunities. The grass was long and lush and the bison all had their heads down. The calves were curious and edged closer to the fence and the adults almost unconsciously covered them. The entire herd comprise of adult females takes care of the calves. It was very interesting to watch.

The Gang of three

We got so engrossed in the herd by the fence we did not notice at first another herd moving into the area in the distance.

Herd Two in the distance

Herd Three coming through the pass

Off with the long lens and on with the wide angle. I walked back to the car to get my second camera already set up with the wide angle.

Jessica Duke and Equipment Management
Jessica's High Country Photography

First a herd moved from the middle to the far right along the base of a ridge line and vanished into a gully. Soon it or another herd was moving from the right to the left while another herd was coming down through the gap on the left. Each herd numbered around fifty or more.

Four herds?

Then another herd began appearing on the ridge to the right and filtering down through the trees on the top of the ridge. I almost forgot to take pictures. Watching the slow but steady movement of the herds was like a scene from How the West Was Won. I had to wonder if this was what the pioneers on the Santa Fe Trail, which ran through this area almost where we were standing, had seen before the buffalo herds were decimated by hunters so ranchers could put cattle on the land.

I have to applaud land owners such as Ted Turner who is trying to restore this area to what it once was and give it back to the majestic beasts that inhabited it. Yes, I am sure the herds are culled and meat sold to support restoration of the prairie. Two other ranchers in the area are raising buffalo commercially. And the Valle Vidal Unit of the Carson National forest which abuts Turner's land has its own buffalo herds.

Our herd moving back toward the others

Not breaking up meal time the herd that had been up by the fence began to inch back toward the others. Every once in a while one cow would break from one herd and run to the next as if it spotted a long lost friend or herd they had gotten separated from earlier.

It was a wonderful gift to watch this drama unfold. And during that time other cars stopped and occupants ran out through the tall grass in shorts to snap pictures with their iPhones or small cameras. They got their few shots and left without having seen what we had seen. One man from Maryland was so upset this had been the first herd of buffalo he had seen in the entire trip.

As an area local I drive this road often and the buffalo are not always here. They have other areas to graze. And this year with the good monsoon season has also been a return of the good grass. May the rains continue.


  1. Love the series and that you took the time to observe as well as photograph.

  2. Fantastic post and Photos Jacqui. Love how they protect their young, was watching them on a documentary about two weeks ago.

  3. Animals are unique in that the move in hers, protect one another and look after their young. Probably more so barring the herd movement than human beings. What a delightful narration with great illustrations by way of photos. Well done!


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