Article and photos by Kathryn Mann
There are fifteen life-sized artistically-painted buffalo sculptures throughout Bartlesville, but there are also two herds of real bison roaming the nearby grassy plains. The nearest one is about ten minutes from downtown at the Woolaroc Wildlife Preserve which is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. However, the most magnificent one can be found at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve about 40 miles away.
A real Buffalo who lives in the open plains near Bartlesville
Less than 160 years ago Oklahoma and most of its neighboring plains states were home to almost 60 million buffalo, but needless slaughter brought the species to near extinction by 1893. Fortunately there were just enough bison left to begin the first full scale conservation movement in America, and within 50 years their numbers had increased to just over 3,000. Today a herd of almost 4,000 free-roaming American bison roam the rolling grasslands in the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve and can be observered up close along its 15 miles of dirt roads. There is no admission charge, and they are they open every day from dawn to dusk.
Buffalo are very sweet and gentle creatures. I visit the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve several times each year and am often surrounded by several hundred of buffalo. I rarely see another human when I am out there.
I was very fortunate to find a group of Bison at the sign near the entrance of the Preserve.
The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is the largest protected remnant of tallgrass prairie left on earth