Bison herd roams Fresno County

May 7, 2013 12:16:13 AM PDT
The sight of grazing bison has always drawn double takes among Valley motorists lucky enough to spot them at their home on the range.

Strong winds whipped through Western Fresno County but as the dust settled a majestic image appeared. Along Highways 198 and 33, an iconic silhouette is enough to stop travelers in their tracks.

Coalinga rancher Chuck Herrin said, "Oh my goodness gracious. It's a real tourist attraction for people coming from the Valley going to the coast and vice versa."

Chuck Herrin's ranch has become a place where the buffalo roam. His father-in-law Homer Worth bought the first two 18 years ago. "He thought it'd be cool to have some bulls. He wanted a herd."

Technically they are bison but the term buffalo has long been accepted throughout American history.

"Buffalo Bill" Cody was a colorful old west figure. The buffalo nickel is coveted by coin collectors and "Ralphie" still leads the Colorado Buffaloes onto the football field.

Herrin said, "As the sun starts to go down you'll see silhouettes running around and they'll start romping around and playing."

A few thousand head in Yellowstone National Park make up the largest wild bison herd. Millions once roamed the prairie but their number today is estimated at under 500,000.

17 of them jockey for position on this dirt mound. It provides the best view of the lay of the land. But the title of king of the hill doesn't last long. Someone else always butts in to take over the top spot. Herrin explained, "They can get aggressive."

Other animals must be separated. Herrin recalled the time his dominant bull battled a Texas longhorn bull. "The buffalo bull literally picked this guy up and slung him and his hind end went over the fence and into another pen."

They keep a close eye on each other and sometimes test the locks and steel pipe fence.

Normally the herd has room to roam in a pasture but dry conditions this year kept Herrin from growing oat hay. Still, they get plenty of cool water to drink as well as food to graze on.

The bison and the bald eagle have become US emblems. Statues of both welcome you to the family's property which Herrin noted is located on Buffalo Lane, of course. "Where the buffalo roam. Oh yeah I know where your house is so it's quite the conversation piece."

Fresno County approved the name change on the road many years ago. The family doesn't raise the bison to sell the meat. They just like to have them around.


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