Interviewing Amory

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A classic George Ostrom column, from January, 1989...

In a radio interview I did last Friday with Cleveland Amory on the phone from New York, I learned that Amory wants the stupid, kill-crazy, *$%%#&*&, park rangers in Yellowstone to catch all the cow buffalo and equip them with an implanted device which shuts off the normal estrogen production cycle. Amory is president of the National Fund for Animals, which is the most radical of the anti-hunting groups. He says their plan would stop the cows from going into estrus, thereby thwarting the breeding season and ending the reproductive cycles, which are causing too many animals for available food, which causes starving bison to flee from the park and then get shot by bloodthirsty hunters waiting outside the boundaries. Amory said there would be nothing to it, “Just run ‘em through a chute.”

I thought I’d check this plan out with a few people who know about such things and immediately called my old friend Babe May down in Lake County for his idea on the best way to round up all the bison in Yellowstone Park. Babe commanded the annual buffalo roundups at the National Bison Range for more years than anyone before or since, so I was anxious for his advice. Babe thought for awhile..maybe 3/100s of a second, then said, “It can’t be done.”

He mentioned stuff like Yellowstone Park having 2,220,000 acres, many peaks over 10,000 feet high, as well as big rivers, lakes, thick stands of trees, cliffs and deep, steep canyons; and he suggested that buffalo don’t drive too well except under idea and controlled situations using experienced riders on the best of horses. He did finally admit that with a few million dollars in planning, searching for qualified people, closing down the park to all tourists, building many corral systems and having a lot of luck, “you might catch a few bison” without losing too many of the crew.

Next, I called my old friend Jon Malcom, the current Superintendent of the National Bison Range at Moise. His wife said Jon was in the shower but on a matter of this importance, she would get him out of there.

I could hear the water dripping when Jon answered, but I went ahead and anyway and asked him about rounding up all the bison in Yellowstone Park and putting estrogen control devices in the cows. That’s the only time I’ve ever gotten a guy out of the shower to answer the phone where he ended up laughing.

So much for the world’s top bison roundupping experts. It was then I decided to call my old friend Dr. Les Pengelly, internationally recognized wildlife biologist, big game management specialist, and man of highly developed powers of memory and observation. I told him about Clevelend Amory’s plan. “Cleveland Amory! Have you ever met him? You were talking to a runaway missile.”

Doc Pengelly is the first person I’d talked to who had actually seen Amory, so I asked him what the guy looked like. “Like an unmade bed.” From these remarks, I somehow just knew Les would not react well to the Amory plan for implanting birth control devices in all the lady bison in Yellowstone Park, so I excused myself and moved on down my list.

I thought of my old friend, Dr. Bart O’Gara, longtime biology professor, writer and internationally known wildlife consultant. The last time I talked to Bart was about ten years ago when I had dinner with him, “Big Jim” from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom TV series, and several other biologists. He answered the phone and I hit him with the question about making Cleveland Amory’s plan work. Bart was quick to reply, “I’d forgotten what a wild sense of humor you have, George.”

Like Pengelly, O’Gara knows the qualifications of almost every major game management biologist in the West and he gave me the name and number of the top recognized authorities in the field of bison studies to call, but I could tell he thought the Amory plan was three light years beyond ridiculous, to I talked with him on other matters.

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