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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Presettlement Wildlife and Habitat of Montana:
An Overview

Annotation Of Expeditions And Individuals Recording Natural History Notes

Hornaday Expedition, 1886:

When word reached Washington, DC. of the total failure of the 1883-1884 winter bison hunt, the Smithsonian Institute decided to send an expedition to Montana for the purpose of securing specimens for the U.S. National Museum. William T. Hornaday headed this expedition which traveled to Montana on two occasions in 1886 for the sole purpose of collecting up to 100 of the surviving bison. Some bison were reported to remain in the Judith Basin, Big Dry Creek, and the upper Powder River areas. After much effort, scattered small groups of bison were located and 23 were collected over about a three month period about 80 miles northwest of Miles City. These surviving animals were reported to be as wild as deer and as wary as an old wolf. Hornaday also noted that cowboys were killing the remaining bison as opportunity presented and rationalized it was better that he should collect them for the museum than be wasted by cowboys. In addition to this account, Hornaday's report contains several firsthand accounts of the final days of the bison in Montana which he obtained from unemployed bison hunters. Not related to this expedition is the book by Brown which also has original accounts of the demise of bison in Montana.

Brown, M.H.  1969.  The plainsmen of the Yellowstone: A history of the 
     Yellowstone Basin.  Bison Books, Univ. of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.

Hornaday, W.T.  1887.  Buffalo hunt. 

Hornaday, W.T.  1889.  The extermination of the American bison, with a 
     sketch of its discovery and life history.  Pages 367-548.  in: 
     Part 2[1889]. Rep. U.S. Natl. Mus., 1886-87.

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