by M. Diane Bairstow

A lone bison wanders near Cottonwood Creek in the southwest area of the Baca Grants. Did it come from the Baca Wildlife Refuge left over from the days of the Baca Ranch or had he escaped from the Medanao Ranch? This could be the last of the wild bison running free. Photo by Cora Wilker

On January 19, at least two people sighted a lone buffalo (bison) roaming along Camino del Rey, around the far western end of the Cottonwood drainage. One called the POA and then the police department, but neither agency knew what to do about it.

In an attempt to get some information on this “breaking news” story for the Eagle, I called Zapata Ranch, Colorado  Division of Wildlife (CDOW), the Nature Conservancy and Gary Boyce.  No one knew, for sure, where the buffalo came from or to whom it belonged.  Jeff Gossage, from Zapata Ranch, said he might come out and take a look. He promised to give me a call if he did come to round up the buffalo, but no call was forthcoming. Gossage told me that Gary Boyce had, at least at one time, owned one lone buffalo.

Gary said that when he owned the Baca Ranch. before it became the Baca Wildlife Refuge, he had purchased a buffalo from the Medano Ranch. The buffalo, a male, liked Gary’s property better than his own turf, and when the buffalo’s owners came to round him up, the buffalo tore down 7 or 8 gates on the way home. Gary decided it was cheaper to buy the buffalo than to keep fixing gates.  “I saw him as the last of the real bison,” Gary said, “the wild buffalo.” Gary sold the ranch, and on January 1, 2005 when he moved his 85 bulls, 200 head of cattle and numerous horses from the ranch, the buffalo was not seen and didn’t come along. Gary hasn’t seen him since.

photo by Cora Wilker

Is this that same buffalo? Has he been roaming wild and free all these years? No one knows. But it seems likely. Gary likes to think of him as “a free spirit,” and in his opinion, “he should be left that way.”

“We never bothered him,” Gary said, “and he never bothered us.” So if you see a buffalo roaming around, and he’s not bothering you, I’d say, let him be free—he may be the last of his kind.