Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Quarterly 15:2 (Spring 1995). Copyright © 1995 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Charles and Mollie Goodnight, C. J. "Buffalo" Jones, Frederick and Mary Dupuis, and Samuel Walking Coyote and his wife Sabine saved the bison. They hunted, caught, and raised bison calves that increased buffalo numbers at a time when the Great Plains monarchs clung desperately to a tenuous existence. Their remarkable stories, deserving of reiteration, cast light on four themes of Western history: proper recognition for front-line conservationists, the role of women, hunters as conservationists, and the profitability of species preservation.

Western bison conservation was not a matter of eastern politicians and scientists, such as Theodore Roosevelt and William Hornaday, legislating and instructing ignorant country folk about their resources. Eastern efforts helped by setting aside habitat and mandating protection, as exemplified, for instance, by the establishment of the National Bison Range and the anti-poaching patrols of the U.S. Army in Yellowstone National Park. Such environmentalism, however, was only worthwhile because a few westerners insured that some bison survived in captive breeding programs. Several western women played key roles in guaranteeing the survival of the bison by instigating "calfnapping" expeditions, helping raise young orphans, and, in the case of Sabine Walking Coyote, even physically capturing the bison.