July 3, 1841

Saturday, 3rd. Left the N. fork; a distance of 12 miles took us to a spring of cool, though unpleasantly tasted water. The day was intensely warm, and road mountainous; killed four buffalo and two deer.

The Company is still relying on bison for meat, but at least they aren’t killing eight or ten a day like they did earlier in the trip. They must have realized what a waste that was. Bidwell in particular was bothered by the evidence of wholesale slaughter he saw about him, and predicted that, “If they continue to decrease in the same ratio that they have for the past 15 or 20 years, they will ere long become totally extinct.”

During the 1820s and ’30s they were mainly slaughtered to harvest their hides for buffalo robes. The meat was left to rot, much to the dismay of men like Bidwell, who rightly feared their extinction. This continued until there were only about 500 American bison left. At last in 1884 Congress ordered the Army to protect the wild buffalo at Yellowstone National Park from poachers and their numbers began to recover. It was a near thing.

Hunting buffalo from a train in 1871.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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