American Bison: A Natural History

American Bison: A Natural History

American Bison: A Natural History

American Bison: A Natural History

Synopsis

"American Bison "combines the latest scientific information and one man's personal experience in an homage to one of the most magnificent animals to have roamed America's vast, vanished grasslands. Dale F. Lott, a distinguished behavioral ecologist who was born on the National Bison Range and has studied the buffalo for many years, relates what is known about this iconic animal's life in the wild and its troubled history with humans. Written with unusual grace and verve, "American Bison "takes us on a journey into the bison's past and shares a compelling vision for its future, offering along the way a valuable introduction to North American prairie ecology.

We become Lott's companions in the field as he acquaints us with the social life and physiology of the bison, sharing stories about its impressive physical prowess and fascinating relationships. Describing the entire grassland community in which the bison live, he writes about the wolves, pronghorn, prairie dogs, grizzly bears, and otheranimals and plants, detailing the interdependent relationships among these inhabitants of a lost landscape. Lott also traces the long and dramatic relationship between the bison and Native Americans, and gives a surprising look at the history of the hide hunts that delivered the coup de grace to the already dwindling bison population in a few short years.

This book gives us a peek at the rich and unique ways of life that evolved in the heart of America. Lott also disma

Excerpt

American Bison: a Natural History is the sixth volume in the University of California Press series on organisms and environments. Our unifying themes are the diversity of plants and animals, the ways in which they interact with each other and with their surroundings, and the broader implications of those relationships for science and society. We seek books that promote unusual, even unexpected connections among seemingly disparate topics, and we want to encourage projects that are distinguished by the unique perspectives and talents of their authors. Other volumes thus far have concerned the ecology of Arizona grasslands, the behavior of Bornean treeshrews, Seri ethnoherpetology, the amphibians and reptiles of Baja California, and global lizard biology.

Among all living mammals, bison are perhaps most emblematic of North America and of the fate of wildlife on a continent so long and dramatically transformed, especially under the weight of our impact. During their most recent twenty thousand years or so, bison have witnessed glaciers advancing and receding with widespread climate changes, invasions of the New World by humans from Asia and Europe, and the extinction of several dozen species of other large mammals. Over those same millennia we have slaughtered bison in numbers beyond comprehension, as men first with spears chased them over cliffs, then later with bow and arrows dispatched them from horseback, and finally with rifles shot them from railway cars. Today bison still roam North American prairies, most of them in a few small herds from Canada to Oklahoma, and their biology still mirrors the seasonal rhythms of weather and local ecology. and as did their Pleistocene ancestors, these massive, shaggy creatures stir up the insects that cowbirds eat, crop vast expanses of grassland, and create vernal pools with their dust wallows. Meanwhile, bison are threatened . . .

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