Bison Bison

by | Feb 18, 2011 | 0 comments

The last of the Hayden Valley herd.

Bison herds throughout Yellowstone National Park are having a tough time this winter.  So it goes.   Mother Nature has dealt them a hard hand and this winter is the worst since 1996-97.  The layer of ice above the grass is making it extremely difficult for all ungulates to forage for food.  The snowpack is deep throughout YNP and the Hayden Valley cow/calf herd has traveled to the Firehole Basin in search of food and easy travel.   The warmer ground in the Firehole Basin provides some ease of life, but the competition for food has made these bison very irritable.   Lately, I have seen many bison hooking horns with each other, fighting for food.   A few bison have even charged some skiers at Old Faithful sending the fleeing for the trees.  There are signs that weather has already taking its toll on the bison herd as several elderly bison have tipped over from lack of nourishment.  There are a few orphaned calves walking the Firehole Basin as well leaving us to ponder the whereabouts of their mothers.  If these calves can make it through without becoming a meal for wolves, it will be a miracle.  Over the past couple of day,s YNP and SW Montana have recieved another foot or two of snow.  This is great for the ski resorts and the trout, but the wildlife will continue to suffer.  Such is the way of life in the mountains.  It will be a good spring to view predators like the grizzly bear as they will have a ton of carrion around. 

Hayden Valley Bull Bison

Bison are amazing animals to watch.  They seem to have this glare which they shoot your way all the time.  It almost seeems like they know their species will be around longer than ours.  Bison just might be the toughest animal in Yellowstone.  30 below zero is when they actually get cold.  A bison can live all winter long living on the fat they stored from summertime grassess.  They can run 30 mph and if need be can toss humans over the top of trees with the flick of their heads.  Yes – that happens, but only in summer when the tourists aren’t respecting their space. Large bull bison will fend off wolf packs from attack.  They have learned to stand their ground and charge wolves.  Their worst enemy is Winter and the deep snow.

Bison at Buscuit Basin

 Norm Bishop said this of bison and other ungulates in YNP:  “All summer long they eat the cereal, all winter they eat the box.”

Keeping warm at Salt & Pepper Geyser