(group) History books often lament the destruction of the gret herds of bison that roamed the western prairies prior to the arrival of white men.
- Why were so many white men willing to shoot these animals and leave their meat and hide to rot? Wasn't this highly wasteful? Why did so many people apparently place such a high value on a moment of sport as to kill these animals for no other reason than the excitement of it?
Because of the lack of institutions with guns that supported property rights in those days. When it comes down to it property rights can only be enforced by agreement or by gun. The aboriginal owners of North America couldn't get agreement and they didn't have the arms to enforce their property rights.
- Who bore the costs when a hunter shot a bison or
buffalofrom the window of a passing train?
- Was the near extinction of the buffalo an irreversible act? Or could we bring those huge herds of buffalo back within a few years if the proper incentives existed?
You cannot bring back the buffalo quickly because the killing of vast numbers of them reduced the genetic diversity. It'd be the same as killing all rotweilers and then trying to bring them back by breeding rotweilers from the remaining dog breeds. Though with proper incentives the number of bison could be increased quickly. Just not the same kind of bison.
- What is the animal that has replaced the buffalo on the western prairies? Why do the numerous vast herds of cattle that cover the country not suffer the fate of the buffalo? What do you think would happen to the relative size of cattle and buffalo herds if Americans lost their laste for beef and acquired an intense love of buffalo meat?
People don't kill random cattle because they fear the guns of cattle owners (or the government which recognizes their ownership but didn't recognize indigenous ownership of bison). Cattle and bison herds would likely switch positions in numbers, though this could hardly be called the same as bringing back the free-roaming herds of bison that existed in the 19th century.