Why Does Fermilab Have Bison? Supposedly Science, But Probably Just for Fun

Maybe Robert R. Wilson, the guy who set up Fermi Lab, thought he’d bring people in with the charismatic megafauna and they’d stay for the high-energy physics. For reasons that are somewhat vague, he got the place a herd of bison, which still roam the 6,800 acre campus. Only a handful of bison herd live in Illinois, so I went to visit them on New Year’s Day.

Just show a driver’s license and you can visit FermiLab, which is like a quirky college campus with lots of big art and unusual buildings. About 15 bison interrupted their lunch when we approached, but got bored with us as soon as they realized we had no food. The huge double-fenced pastures can support about 70 animals (as long as they also get hay), but Fermilab keeps the herd at about 45 by selling off the bison. Mainly the males go to keep the population genetically fit. We were apparently pretty lucky to see them; a guy who was showing them to his daughter explained that they’ve been inside a lot lately. They came empty-handed, too, which disappointed the bison so much that one charged at the fence.

Normally when you think of animals at a big lab, you don’t think of fun, but that’s all the bison are really here for. Founding director Wilson made the place shockingly inviting; with unusual buildings and big art, it looks like a quirky college campus. The official reason is something about connecting to the prairie heritage. Huh? I wish

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2,700 Wild Horses Fight Eviction in Federal Court

Ocracoke Pony

Today a federal judge in Washington will hear wild horse advocates argue that 2,700 wild horses in Nevada shouldn’t be rounded up and held indefinitely in holding pens. Seems like an obvious choice, but under the antiquated U.S. wild horse protections, it’s not.

Wild horses in America are like a beleagured employee who has somehow gotten stuck with a totally inappropriate manager who doesn’t understand their charm or why he can’t just get rid of them. Horses somehow fall under the The Bureau of Land Management, despite its mission to provide land for energy producers, cattle ranchers and miners. Since 2000 the BLM has gone on a spree of rounding up wild horses, creating what has become a vast, money-sucking collection of 11,000 in corrals and 22,000 in Midwestern pastures–the same number that run wild. In 2008 the BLM started openly talking about mass euthanasia for mustangs. (To save them, Madeleine Pickens proposed a private sanctuary.)

The BLM announced its final decision Monday to remove 2,700 horses near Reno in what it calls the Calico Complex Round-up, which includes five herd management areas: Black Rock Range East and West, Calico Mountains, Granite Range, and Warm Springs Canyon. The BLM decided the right amount of horses for the area is 600-900 and it counts about 3,000 out there.

If they don’t round up the horses, some might die, the BLM threatens. Well, yeah, they’re wild animals. That’s what they do. It’s not as if this is a magical species that would

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Elk Shun Official Viewing Spots for Benezette, PA, Yards

Elk Herd of Benezette, PA The largest elk herd in the east, about 552 as of the last count in 2003, roams wild in western Pennsylvania. There are elk viewing areas around Moore Hill in Cameron County and Benezette in Elk County. The NE PA Great Outdoors provides a driving map and a brochure they’ll mail you.

For travellers, the great thing is the easy access. Western Pennsylvania is where you’d want to stop overnight on the way to the midwest–it’s roughly halfway and it’s easily the most gorgeous area you’ll see on the way. The place to see elk are less than an hour off Route 80. Probably the easiest thing is to head to Benezette. When we visited in Jan., 2006, we toured the local official viewing areas. Some you just pull off the road and watch from your car, others have elaborate blinds or seated viewing areas. We got the consolation prize of tracks, but saw no elk. The woman at the Elk View Diner told us to check out the churchyard in town. Didn’t see any, but when we stopped at the Benezette Store and Restaurant, the man casually told us there were two bulls across the street. (He also said they can usually be found in town.) Sure enough two massive elk were chewing on a lawn. The owner came out and shooed them away.

That’s somewhat unusual. Most are very into the elk. There are elk decorations everywhere and endless elk-themed businesses. (Wapati

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