It’s always amazing to me how far you can see in Northern New Mexico. On our ranch outside of Las Vegas (New Mexico, not Nevada) you’ll be struck by the rugged outline of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the distance and the expansive blue skies stretching into infinity. The snow capped peaks on the horizon coexist peacefully beside the bright New Mexican sun. The ranch has a large valley running through it, and the view from above offers an aerial perspective of the Gallinas River. At this time of year, the river is often frozen and edged with snow. Large boulders dot the river banks and some of the many caves on the property can be seen from this elevated vantage point.
Also Read: Bison Meat: A Potent Sexual Health Tonic
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The First Bison To Roam In Over 100 Years
There’s 5,000 acres of land here for bison to roam freely. Many people are surprised at how soft and mineral rich the soil is, as well as the green vegetation. Although much of New Mexico is desert, mountainous regions at higher elevations enjoy a completely different climate. The landscape is dotted with small waterfalls and springs, and everything from elk to cougars call this land home. There were once as many as 60 million bison roaming American soil. They could be found across the majority of the country, even venturing north into Canada and south into Mexico. During colonial times, their population was decimated to less than 1,000. The last wild bison in New Mexico were hunted and killed over 100 years ago, in the very same area that our ranch is on.
As you enter the land, there’s an expanse of trees with a distinct gap running through the middle. This gap lent itself perfectly to a tactic used by Native American hunters to take down buffalo (a nickname now synonymous with the word bison in America). American buffalo are enormous, powerful animals and can be extremely dangerous. Smart strategies that worked in harmony with the lay of the land enabled hunters to kill buffalos while lessening the threat of casualties among their own kind. By surprising a herd of buffalo and guiding them into the thick area of trees, the huge animals would be forced through the gap, making an easy target for waiting hunters on the other side. This unique feature of the land resulted in the name Buffalo Gap.
The Unique Mystery That Is New Mexico
There are various caves on the land, as well as a mysterious and ancient adobe structure. It’s the sort of place that lets your imagination run wild with what has occurred across the vast stretches of time and space. It’s full of life and a fierce beauty that is completely unique to New Mexico. When I think of the labeling requirements for “free range” meat in stores in comparison to what life is like for bison on our ranch, it seems to me that it shouldn’t even be considered the same food, much less the same quality.
American Bison Are A Lost Keystone Species
When we released a herd of buffalo onto this land, they were the first in over a century to roam the Buffalo Gap area. It was a joyful experience for our entire team to see the buffalo gallop into the vast expanse, eventually disappearing into the distance. Buffalo were once an integral part of American ecosystems. Their hooves are shaped in a particular way that actually irrigates and enhances the soil health of the land they graze. Their rough fur helps to catch seeds and pollinate plants, and grazing animals, especially in such vast numbers, help to trap carbon in the soil where it belongs.
There’s a sense of incredible freedom on land like this, and the return of a keystone species such as the American bison promises renewal in ways we probably can’t even imagine. When I spend time at our ranch, I experience an incredible feeling of connectedness and joy that comes from somewhere deep within. They say that New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment. It’s easy to see why when you find yourself in untouched natural beauty such as this. Once you’ve seen a sunset here, you’ll find yourself never wanting to leave.
Increasing demand for bison meat means more herds of bison. This helps to increase genetic diversity - something that is desperately needed, although the species demonstrated incredible resilience when forced through an evolutionary bottleneck. There are currently around half a million bison in the United States. At Beck & Bulow, it’s a goal of ours to see their numbers increase to at least one million in our lifetime.