Buffalo Hunt: International Trade and the Virtual Extinction of the North American Bison
In the 16th century, North America contained 25-30 million buffalo; by the late 19th century less than 100 remained. While removing the buffalo east of the Mississippi took settlers over 100 years, the remaining 10 to 15 million buffalo on the Great Plains were killed in a punctuated slaughter in a little more than 10 years. I employ theory, data from international trade statistics, and first person accounts to argue that the slaughter on the plains was initiated by a foreign-made innovation and fueled by a foreign demand for industrial leather. Ironically, the ultimate cause of this sad chapter in American environmental history was of European, and not American, origin.
I am grateful to seminar participants at the University of British Columbia, the University of Calgary, the Environmental Economics workshop at the NBER Summer Institute 2006, the fall 2006 meetings of the NBER ITI group, and participants at the SURED II conference in Ascona Switzerland. Thanks also to Chris Auld, Ed Barbier, John Boyce, Ann Carlos, Charlie Kolstad, Herb Emery, Mukesh Eswaran, Francisco Gonzalez, Keith Head, Frank Lewis, Mike McKee, and Sjak Smulders for comments; to Michael Ferrantino for access to the International Trade Commission's library; and to Margarita Gres, Amanda McKee, Jeffrey Swartz, Judy Hasse of Buffalo Horn Ranch and Andy Strangeman of Investra Ltd. for research assistance. Funding for this research was provided by the SSHRC. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
M. Scott Taylor, 2011. "Buffalo Hunt: International Trade and the Virtual Extinction of the North American Bison," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3162-95, December. citation courtesy of