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Landscape in Peril: The Changing Landscape

Sometimes our ideas change the land no matter how small we believe our ideas are. In my former blog Beavers, Beaver Hats, and Canada, one day in 1668 when explores Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard Chouart Des Groseilliers told and proved to King Charles II that there is an abundance of quality fur is in a distant land, King Charles II responded with a new company called Hudson’s Bay Company. Continual debates about whether this landscape phenomenon was good or bad goes on, but one thing I like to take from this event is that changing landscapes change who or what lives on it.

And to appreciate the land that we live on is to understand that we are not the only ones who live on this land. Today, I would like to introduce you to this wild but majestic creature the buffalo.

The Buffalo

Buffalo, also known as wild ox or bison, can weigh anywhere between 400kg to 850kg. These gentle giants are herbivores, making the Plains of North America that is rich in grasses, the ideal home for them.

Buffalo Grazing in the Plains

A Herd of Buffalo in the Plains.

However, from 1820 to 1890, it was reported that the population of buffalo went from approximately 30 million to 1,000 in the plains area of what we now know as Canada and the United States of America. Prior to 1820, it was assumed that there was enough food to support the local population of people. However, due to a large increase on the demand of buffalos for sustenance, this wild animal was almost led to extinction. So, what led to this increase?

Interestingly, it was a change in the hunting techniques of the day and the effect of the fur trade on the land. According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, the introduction of the horse led to fastest and larger methods of hunting the buffalo. Before the horse was introduced to the Plains, people hunted the buffalo by foot and were limited to how many buffalo they could capture. However, with that horse, people were able to move faster and hunt even more buffalo which eventually led to their near extinction.

Regarding the fur trade, buffalo fur and meat were highly valued. Although all the animal was consumed and used by the local Indigenous peoples, an increase in the use of the buffalo for sustenance by fur trading companies and incoming European settlers put a demand on this available meat.

Unfortunately, this change in the landscape use by people, changed the way animals like the buffalo, use or lived on the land. However, today there are efforts from Canada and United States of America to revive the buffalo population in the Plains.

Sometimes the dangerous way we change our land affect the lives of others. Perhaps we can encourage an awareness of how when we change the use of the land, we change the use of the land for others.

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