For nearly every human on the face of the planet, the place where the buffalo roam exists solely in the mind. It's understandable, therefore, that for those few hardy souls who venture into buffaloland, things are never quite as they expected. And that's okay.
|Stolen from the Neu Euorke Thymes! S|
I don't know how widespread the national reporting was regarding the poor little buffalo calf abandoned by its herd in Yellowstone last month, but perhaps you saw or read about it. Some tourists “rescued” the calf and delivered it to park rangers, who tried to reintroduce it to the herd. Ultimately the calf was rejected by its group and the rangers euthanized it.
|Stolen from natgeo, who stole it from the interwebs. Natgeo seem to believe that all humans are murderers of all of nature, and should never, therefore, be allowed into national parks. I disagree. So sue me. S|
There was no shortage of opinions about the situation, but for all intents and purposes, there were really only two basic opinions. The tourists were heroes and the park rangers goons, or the reverse.
That’s one of the interesting things about humanity. For most of us, we tend to see the world in terms of opposites or opposing ideas. Good or bad, right or wrong, black or white, my side or the enemy. It’s human nature, but it’s a serious shortcoming, and it keeps a lot of people very unhappy in my opinion. Unhappy in the sense that they feel a need for the world to be one way or another, and they become very unhappy when the reality doesn’t match their desire.
In the case of the buffalo calf there really weren’t any “sides” at all. First of all, the buffalo herd was simply being a buffalo herd. Buffalo are herding, grazing prey animals. Individuals in the herd have to stay with the herd in order to survive. Even the baby calves. If a baby calf can’t keep up, it will be abandoned and perish. That’s just nature. Buffalo have evolved this behavior and they can no more abandon it than they can start climbing trees and become monkeys. This is just reality. It’s neither good nor bad, it just is.
In the case of the humans, there were really no sides either. The tourists were trying to save the baby calf. Humans have a very strong drive to nurture babies. It’s primarily a drive to nurture our own young, but it tends to leak across species boundaries, probably because we also have the ability to reason. That doesn’t make a lot of logical sense, but it’s a consequence of having both instinct and reason operating at the same time. It’s neither good nor bad, it just is. The tourists felt a need to intervene, and used reason to come up with and execute their plan to put the calf in their car and take it to the park rangers. Not knowing or understanding the nature of buffalo, it seemed to them a reasonably good idea.
When presented with the calf, the park rangers found themselves in a tough situation. Part of their job is to manage the interface between nature and tourist; to teach and explain, as well as to protect human visitors, wildlife, and the environment. Park rangers understand the nature of buffalo, and they knew that the odds were against the herd accepting the calf. They gave it their best shot, but it didn’t work out. The herd had moved on and the calf no longer belonged. To human sensibilities this seems harsh, but buffalo are not human. When the rangers saw that the calf was rejected, they were in a tough situation. Leave the calf to starve and be predated, or euthanize it.
At the end of the day we had a case of buffalo being buffalo and humans being humans. No right or wrong, good or bad. What happened, happened. The buffalo behaved like buffalo. The people behaved like people.
A lot of folks have opined that the tourists should never have touched the calf, and that the rangers should never have tried to reintroduce it to the herd. Well, that’s one approach. But even if we agree that in general such attempted reintroductions usually fail, they don’t always fail. Where and how do you draw the line?
In reality, you simply can’t draw the line. You can make and try to stick to various guidelines, but there is simply no one-size-fits-all solution. Nature doesn’t work that way. The universe is a dynamic place.