"What you see behind me is the last remnants of pure Southern Bison that exists in North America," said Andrew Sansome.
In January 1998, with much fanfare, Texas Parks & Wildlife unveiled the Official Texas State Bison Herd. They released 17 animals into a holding area at Caprock Canyons State Park, promising a long-term effort to bring back the once mighty buffalo herd.
"There were 60 million of these animals on the High Plains of Texas," said Sansome. "Ladies and gentlemen, that was the largest concentration of big game animals in the world."
The project really dates back 135 years to legendary Texas Ranger and rancher Charles Goodnight, who began capturing some of the remaining herd in 1876 to preserve the line.
By 1916, when a film was shot, Goodnight's animals were about all that remained of the Southern bison. The buffalo, and the Indians who hunted it, were fading memories on the High Plains.
This one last hunt was performed for the camera for old time's sake.
Goodnight's descendants donated the animals and, for more than a decade, the herd has grown at Caprock Canyons, mostly out of sight from visitors.
A September ribbon cutting, in this case barbed wire snipping, changed all that.
It marked the official opening on a thousand-acre range of restored native grassland.
"They are going to be more visible and visitor's can see and experience the fullness of the Southern Plains Bison in all it's glory," said Brent Leisure, TP&W Parks Director.
80 descendants of Goodnight's historic herd are now easily accesible to the public, but free to roam in the vast enclosure.
"This is their historic native home. What better plan than to have a bison herd then right here in their home range?" asked Donald Beard, wit Caprock Canyons State Park.
Visitors now get an up close, Yellowstone-like encounter with the herd.
"It's going to be a real magnet I think for people, not just from Texas but outside of Texas too," said Ross Melinchuk.
KDFW FOX 4
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