Men Skinning Bison That Died Boarding Train in Ravalli, 1907
March 23, 2022
In the early 20th century, after weathering the scourge of hunters who prized them for their coats as well as suffering the encroachment of the railroad into their grazing lands, the North American bison, also known as the buffalo, was waning throughout the continent. But there were still some wild bison left in Montana.
As the conservation movement picked up steam, some adopted the notion of trying to repopulate ravaged areas with bison. As such, many were sent from Montana to Canada, including many from the Conrad herd. They were loaded onto trains in Ravalli, and offloaded at places like Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta. Larger than Switzerland, and the second-largest national park in the world, Wood Buffalo National Park is still an important sanctuary for bison.
In this photo taken in Ravalli, you can see the result after one of the bison died in the process of being loaded into the train cars. Now, a small crowd has formed around the animal as it is skinned before the train's departure. Notice the Northern Pacific rail cars in the rear of the photo and the Native-American women in the foreground.
In July of 1909, the Wainwright Star of Wainwright, Alberta reported that animals had arrived from Montana: "The animals comprising this shipment were immediately unloaded and despite expectations did not take unkindly to the fence around the corral at the unloading place. They had been in the cars for periods varying from four to fifteen days and were consequently quite weary. The railway journey from Ravalli was made in the fine time of seventy-two hours and the bison stood the journey fairly well. No time was lost in releasing the buffalo and before dark the entire trainload were quietly grazing in the park."
Click on the photo to zoom in and inspect the fine details!