20 November 2005

Buffalo Hunting.

Legal buffalo hunting is back (actually, Maine has had it since 1980, and Montana's hunt this year joins Wyoming, Arizona, Utah, South Dakota and Alaska). I'm ambivalent about the development.

It isn't that I'm against killing animals, or buffalo in particular, for meat. As a matter of fact, I have two pounds of buffalo meat that I picked up at my local supermarket today in my refrigerator right now, and my family probably eats at least 50 pounds of buffalo meat a year, mostly ground, but not always. And, I am pleased to see the American bison's numbers restored after nearing extinction due to overhunting about a century ago.

I want to hope that the hunting will be better regulated to maintain and expand buffalo populations, although the prospect of another hunting induced near extinction worries me a great deal. Still, it is hard to think that 49 hunting deaths a year in a population of 4,900 can have that great an effect.

My intuition is that while animal meat is, generally speaking, a less efficient source of food than vegetables, that in marginal arid Colorado and much of the Great Plains that bison might be one of the more efficient means of turning land into food, especially as the fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation needed to maintain non-native cash crops in the West become harder to maintain in the face of rising oil prices and an increasingly strapped water supply. Maybe I'm wrong.

They are certainly massive, majestic animals, so I can understand the simple pyschology that makes them attractive to hunters. Bigger is better.

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