Last winter we visited one of our bison suppliers to see these amazing animals during the snowy season. The temperature was around 10 degrees fahrenheit, there was over 5 feet of snow covering the earth, and to make the environment even more harsh, a blustery winter storm was on the horizon. It was an incredibly humbling experience to share the winter climate with these hearty creatures for a few hours. Although pushing us to our breaking limits, these bison thrived in a high mountain winter season.
One of the greatest insights of that trip happened when I noticed the ranch fences completely covered by snow. In some areas, the bison could have easily walked over the fences due to the 5-8 feet of vertical packed ice that had temporarily elevated the animals above any soil or grass. Without any confinement, these animals could have left the ranch property at any point in time. Amazingly enough, the bison stay because of daily deliveries of hay from the ranch manager! All they have access to is snow and grass, and their surrounding environment is seemingly lifeless, yet they are some of the most content creatures on the earth.
These amazing ruminates are native to the great plains of North America and due to a brilliant genetic lineage that pre-dates homosapiens sharing their land, they are hardwired to survive in a myriad of natural environments. Like all ruminates however, these great animals quickly become ill when they are forced to eat corn, soy, and other grain based foods. Once you see a bison covered in snow eating grass, you understand the vital power of pasture and the brilliant symbiotic evolution of this iconic American animal.