Bison return to Bluestem Ranch

Nathan Thompson |
A herd of American Bison gather together in a pen at the Osage Nation’s Bluestem Ranch after being released from a transport truck Monday afternoon. The bison are the first belonging to the tribe in over a century.

Nathan Thompson/Journal-Capital

Twenty bison were brought to the tribally-owned ranch from the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge near Lawton. The transport of the bison was made possible through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Wildlife and the Intertribal Bison Council.

After making the long trek from Lawton via a semi truck, the herd of bison arrived at the pen at Bluestem Ranch slightly before 6 p.m. Monday.

Bluestem Ranch foreman Mike Alexander said the herd of 20 bison consists of young cows and bulls, ranging in age from 1- to 4-years-old.

“The new bison will stay in the pen for the next two to three days to get used to the area, and then we will begin to acclimate them to responding to a feed truck,” Alexander said.

American bison, the largest land mammal in North America, are making a resurgence after facing near extinction. The bison is considered to be a sacred animal for Native American tribes, as bison provided sustenance for tribes across the plains.

“This is the first time in over 100 years where the buffalo has returned to us, and they will bring blessing to us,” Osage Minerals Council Chairman Everett Waller said during a blessing of the herd.

After the blessing, Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said Monday was a great day for the Osage people.

“What you have seen speaks for itself. It is a great day for the Osage. It gives us hope that we have come this far and we will move further into the future,” Standing Bear said.

The Osage Nation purchased Bluestem Ranch from media mogul/conservationist Ted Turner in June 2016. Cost of the property was $74 million, bringing traditional tribal land back to the Osage people.

Alexander said the new bison will occupy 607 acres of land on the ranch, and will be integrated with a six heifers that were already there from when Turner owned the ranch and one bull that was purchased from the Cherokee Nation.