Improbable as it seems on the basis of the facts you’ve just mentioned, these were not gratuitous or wasteful slaughters. Hunters in the old West—I mean hunters of our own culture—could have explained it. They knew from experience that you could literally starve to death surrounded by bison, if these were lean animals such as you’d find late in the winter.

In the absence of other food, the only way to survive in the midst of lean bison is to kill vast numbers of them and take what little fat there is. If you’d like to get into the biochemistry of it, read Bison Kills and Bone Counts: Decision Making by Ancient Hunters, by John D. Speth, published by the University of Chicago Press.

ID: 22
posted: 1997