On a hot September afternoon, we visited the Ranch and spent a hour or so learning what a person may achieve by determination and love for a herd of untamed 'buffalo' or bison. Leo, whose unaffected way of communicating his experience to us was immediately attractive, gave us some background information about the ranch and how he came to create and maintain it.
The bison were keeping cool in woodland so Leo called to them. The females responded quickly and came - first one, then several - to sample the oats he threw on the ground as a treat. The senior male, now pretty old, decided to keep well back, but we could see he was still quite a lot larger than the young males and mature females. One of these came really close to our quiet group of adults, separated from them by a strong wire fence. It was useful to know that buffalo can outrun many animals, including man, and Leo told us of several 'dashes for the fence' that he'd been forced to make after displeasing one or other of the buffalo.
We were told about the problems of keeping such wild creatures in a partially tamed landscape, and were shown the fresh spoor of what Leo recognised as a mountain lion /cougar. He pointed out to us marks on the back of one of the females made by claws. He told us that he had no intention of guarding his animals, but would need to be watchful in the following days in case the big cat returned so that the authorities could be alerted - young children of neighbours could be at risk.
Yes, the animals were captive and yes, their grass had to be supplemented during the hot, dry early autumn, but the peace of the place and the pleasure of being there at the foot of the mountains, with Leo leading our interest clearly and fully and answering our questions, made us realise how fortunate we were to be there then. It may be artificial, but it's the better way of 'keeping' nature available to be observed. A real treat.
Also suitable for quiet children.
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