Crunch . . . Crunch . . .“Huhhhgh” – a loud sigh followed the heavy noises, close to a tent where the energetic girl and her mother were sleeping. Over breakfast, stories were told of strange noises heard before dawn throughout our camp. Some rather large wild animal had been roaming through the grassy wilderness area where we were sleeping. At breakfast the following morning, I enjoyed the company of our suspected camp snooper – a young male bison. The bearded creature slowly munched on grass just a few yards away from where I stood. I froze when he looked up from his grazing to gaze directly at me, then humphed and turned back to his meal. The lyrics from “Home on the Range” came to mind – “oh give me a home where the buffalo roam” (technically, this is a bison, as true “buffalo” do not live in North America). He especially seemed to enjoy munching on the brush right where my uncle’s tent had been set up minutes before. It was amazing to see this creature so very near, in person.
Looking at that contemplative bison, the word “heavy” came to mind. His double coat of dark, coarse fur, broadly humped shoulders, and large head gave him a very somber look. His wise-looking dark beard and low grunts would be quite the contrast to the fluffy light beard and high-pitched bleating of a goat. Watching this large creature walk around with his heavy, humped shoulders reminded me of how I felt hiking with my heavy backpack full of camping gear (read more about that trip here). Standing at up to six and a half feet tall, adult bulls (males) can weigh one ton and the cows (females) weigh about half as much. I was amazed at how gracefully he walked on the rough terrain of the mountain. These bison can run at up to forty miles per hour.
I enjoyed this personal close encounter with a young American Bison (classified as Bison bison) while camping at Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. Wichita Mountain is in southern Oklahoma, north of Wichita Falls, Texas. The wildlife refuge is 59,020 acres, sitting right next to Fort Sill Military Reservation. Large animals on the refuge include bison, elk, and Texas longhorns. A number of interesting birds, rodents, and reptiles, and other creatures also make their home in the Wichitas. Wildlife refuges like Wichita Mountain often bring to mind questions about animals, the environment, and what we (as humans) should do to change things. There is a lot of fear about the environment and various animals going extinct, but it’s important to stay balanced and firmly grounded in what the Bible says about these issues, rather than getting caught up in the emotional changing winds of the world around us.
As humans, we do have a special role over creation. Our Creator made mankind with souls, different from animals, and gave us the command to take care of His creation, having “dominion” over it, like a good ruler or leader (a reflection of Who He is). Preserving certain rare wildlife is a good thing, because it is having good dominion over creation, as long as we keep our focus correct. Worshiping God and caring for other people (made more special than animals) takes priority over animals and the environment. It’s important to make sure you worship and serve the Creator rather than the creation. Creation – animals, nature, landscapes – was meant to remind us of God, turning us back to Him, not to distract us from Him and His priorities.
Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, May 2016
- American Bison: Bison bison. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Oklahoma. Last accessed 5-6-16. http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Wichita_Mountains/American_bison.html
- America Bison. Mammals. Animals. National Geographic. Last accessed 5-6-16. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/american-bison/