strange behaviors

Cool doings from the natural and human worlds

  • Richard Conniff

  • Reviews for Richard Conniff’s Books

    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

  • Wall of the Dead

  • Categories

American Buffalo

Posted by Richard Conniff on December 6, 2008



Steven Rinella’s new book American Buffalo:  In Search of a Lost Icon, is getting good chatter:  Bill McKibben blurbs it as “some of the best writing on our great national beast since George Catlin–and that was in 1841. A real triumph.”  The folks at VSL write that  “it sets that mythic resonance against hard ecological realities brought on by the animal’s resurgent population.”

The book caught my eye because I have just been reading the official account of the Long Expedition, the first scientific exploration of the American West.  And I was astonished to discover that the near-extermination of the buffalo was already well under way as early as 1819.  Here’s what the great (forgotten) American naturalist Thomas Say wrote:

 It is common for hunters to attack large herds of these animals, and having slaughtered as many as they are able, from mere wantonness and love of this barbarous sport, to leave the carcasses to be devoured by the wolves and birds of prey; thousands are slaughtered yearly, of which no part is saved except the tongues.  This inconsiderate and cruel practice, is undoubtedly the principal reason why the bison flies so far and so soon from the neighbourhood of our frontier settlements.”

I was also impressed that, 70 years before the start of the conservation movement, Say was already arguing for protective game laws:  “It would be highly desirable, that some law for the preservation of game, might be extended to, and rigidly enforced in the country, where the bison is still met with:  that the wanton destruction of these valuable animals, by the white hunters, might be checked or prevented.”  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s