June 12, 2013 | Volume 100 / Number 24

Disappearing Bison

Do you ever feel like the blind men in the fable that were studying the elephant? You can grab the tail and say, “Oh, the elephant is like a rope,” and then grab the trunk and say, “Oh, the elephant is like a snake.” The trouble is, you can study the tail and trunk closely for years without realizing that they also go together!

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I had one of those moments recently when the implications of something I’ve known for years hit home. Bison were disappearing from Yellowstone in the early 1900s.

Here’s the timeline according to my sources: Reports from 1856, 1870, 1873, 1874 and 1875 st...

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