The Osage Nation received its first shipment of bison Oct. 16 on its 43,000-acre Bluestem Ranch.
The shipment contained 20 bison from the Wichita Mountains Refuge herd, which is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said ON Bluestem Ranch Board LLC Chair Faren Revard Anderson. The ranch board is a member of the Intertribal Bison Cooperative and received the bison on behalf of that partnership. The Wichita Mountains Refuge is located north of Lawton, Okla.
“We feel like they’re going to be a great fit for us because they’re already acclimated to the Oklahoma area,” Anderson said.
The bison include 11 heifers and nine bulls. Their age ranges are: one four-year-old, one three-year-old, 10 2-year-olds and eight one-year-olds. They join the seven bison that were left over from media mogul Ted Turner’s bison herds when he owned the ranch. A calf was born on the ranch under Osage Nation ownership this year, and now the Nation owns 28 bison.
Osage and non-Osage community members, Osage elected officials and ranch workers were on hand for the delivery of the bison, which took place on the north side of the ranch around 6 p.m. A blessing was given by Osage Minerals Council Chairman Everett Waller. He walked into the pen where the buffalo were being held and with his eagle fan blessed the 20 bison. He spoke about the return of buffalo to the Osage Nation and the blessings it would bring for the Osage people.
“It was a very moving experience,” Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said. “I believe we are on the right path in restoring the bison to our lands.”
The Nation took over ownership of the Bluestem Ranch in 2016 when they bought it for $74 million from Ted Turner. The road has been long between Standing Bear, the Fifth Osage Nation Congress and the Bluestem Ranch LLC board in determining the path for the ranch and how to incorporate bison into that vision. Standing Bear signed a 42,3000-acre lease for $1 per acre for 25 years to the ranch board in April.
The ranch board has turned the ranch into an operating cattle business and has sectioned off a portion of the property for a bison preserve. Anderson said the 20 bison are a “good start” and hopes to receive grant funding to update the fencing for when the buffalo mature. She said the ranch board is staying in contact with the Wichita Mountains Refuge in case there are bison available in the future.
The fencing that is currently on the property is adequate for yearlings and has been there since Turner owned the ranch, said Mike Alexander, ranch foreman. Alexander worked with bison on the Bluestem Ranch for two years under Turner, just prior to the Nation’s purchase.
“We’re pretty excited about today and we appreciate everybody that was able to come and join us, and the blessing we were able to give these animals,” Anderson said.
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