A CHORUS OF BUFFALO by Ruth Rudner

A CHORUS OF BUFFALO

Reflections on Wildlife Politics and an American Icon
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A journalist's account of her mystical encounters with buffalos and the handful of human beings as passionate as she is about their fate.

Rudner (Greetings from Wisdom Montana, not reviewed) confronted her first buffalo when she first explored Yellowstone National Park by snowmobile in 1982. Her interest in these and other park wildlife eventually led her to a part-time career as an instructor and tour guide for the Yellowstone Institute, where she learned that the bison—having been slaughtered nearly to extinction in the late 19th century—are now being nurtured and protected within the park and on Indian reservations. Within the last 20 years, however, a few Montana buffalo have been found to be infected with brucellosis. Federal laws require that if the disease is found in cattle (buffalo could infect cattle if they mate with them), all cattle in the herd must be killed. A wide outbreak of brucellosis could lead to the banning of all beef from the state of Montana, so rather than wait for a catastrophe, ranchers have called for the slaughter of infected buffalo and a general thinning of existing herds to keep buffalo away from cattle-grazing areas. Rudner tries to report on as many sides of the controversy as she can, but after a brief visit to a friendly, hardworking rancher, she spends most of her time in the company of reverent Indians who talk of visions, shed tears about the past, and use their herds for food, religious ceremonies, and occasional profit. Her best essay, about a third-generation buffalo trainer and rodeo performer, suggests that (with enough accommodation, respect, and barley cakes) man and buffalo can coexist.

Rudner seems to never have met a buffalo she didn't like. She eschews facts and statistics for dreamy mysticism and mangled metaphors (at one point she declares that `we could use a little music, something that weaves harmony from the dissonance of polarized voices`). Those looking for serious reportage will find more bull than buffalo.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2000
ISBN: 1-58080-049-1
Page count: 192pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2000




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