The Bison of Catalina

Perhaps the only place in the world where you can find an American bison (vs. buffalo) standing near a beach next to a palm tree.  The week on Santa Catalina was an wonderful one, and despite a cool spring with a few unseasonable frosts, some decent collecting was done.  Here are just a few amusing images and you’ll notice one thing right away: no fields of wildflowers!  As it turns out, almost a century of goat, pig and bison grazing has left mostly grass and cactus on the island.  At one point there were over 1000 bison and countless herds of goats; it’s a wonder anything survived at all!  Today, there are thankfully only a modest ~200 bison left that are even on birth control (you guessed it, you can’t shoot the damn things since people “love” them – just like the stupid eucalyptus you can’t cut down).  In 1924 a small heard of bison were brought over to shoot the movie The Vanishing American. Naturally, the project went over budget, the scene was cut and the animals were let loose instead of paying to return them home.  80 years later and you’re left with an island you can only fight to “conserve” and not restore.  Sad fact is that we have no clue what the island actually used to be like.  It’s even hypothesized that the endemic island fox (of which we saw 6!) was brought over by indigenous peoples a few thousand years ago from neighboring islands.  I guess it’s in our nature to mess with our environment.

 

As I was photographing the above, this beast walked up behind me.  It wasn’t running, I was!

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