Out on the ranch we seldom give names to our bison unless they fall into one of two categories. Names are earned by animals that will either kick your ass or by animals who will go out of their way to greet you. In the bison world, there are more ass kickers than lovers, so when we find an exceptionally friendly animal, we work hard to strengthen the bond between human and livestock.
Out of our herd of 126 bison, only one animal was gentle, kind, and trustworthy enough to touch and feed by hand. We gave her the name Poppy, because she was a beautiful and kind soul. Her energy was calm and her eyes seemed to peer deep into the heart of any human that visited the ranch. Poppy acted more like a human than a bison, and as a result, she was low on the hierarchy within the herd. Perhaps this drove Poppy to become even more physical and connected with our human presence.
Over the years our remarkable bond with Poppy strengthened in a way that allowed us to train the herd with our high density grazing techniques. With the challenges of multiple pasture moves a week, Poppy became our lead animal and was always the first to come running to our call. Getting Poppy to move through gates was easy and each time we rotated her into a new pasture, the herd instinct to stick together would kick in, resulting in the entire herd moving anywhere that we asked.
In the Winter of 2020, a tragic and unexpected death occurred within the bison herd. When we first received the news, our initial thought was "It's going to be ok, because we still have Poppy." However, upon arriving to the herd for closer inspection, Poppy was not in her usual lead position. Regrettably it was her that transitioned into death. Having our lead bison unexpectedly die was devastating. The pain we experienced was transformative and served as a profound reminder of the fragility of life, the inevitability of death, and the connection to rebirth. This is Nature's chorus, which has been in place since the beginning of time. When we reflect on Poppy's life we ask ourselves "Did we honor her when she was in our care and in her death?" We concluded that giving Poppy a life in which she was able to realize her full biological potential through regenerating our soil, enriching our ecosystem, and increasing our biodiversity was the best way to honor an animal.
Poppy will be missed, but through her life and into her death, she has created an abundance of birth for an entire ecosystem.