In my last flashback post I mentioned that we camped at the Fishing Bridge RV park in Yellowstone. The morning we arrived to check in (make sure you have a reservation, they fill up months in advance!) the ranger told us we had just missed the bison herd coming through the parking lot. That would have been a welcome! They cross Fishing Bridge quite often, we saw them at least once a day. The picture in the header of the above link to the RV park is an accurate depiction of the sites available. Kind of tight, but not a big deal because you spend all day out in the park anyway. Sites can accommodate RVs up to 40 long, are full hook-up, and the laundry facility was convenient though always busy. Best to bring as much supplies into the park as you can ahead of time, it's a long way back out to the grocery store and the General Stores in the park are quite pricey.
Don't forget to click on any of the pictures to see them bigger and better. Some are really worth it!
The bison were everywhere, when you visit the park be prepared to see them often. No need to jump out of your car, even with a point and shoot. Please be safe and stay in your vehicle. We had to tell one little old lady to get back in her car when she got out to take a picture of one in the road. While bison may seem docile they are unpredictable wild animals and when they're under pressure they can attack suddenly. If you've never seen footage before, take a look at some of the videos at the bottom of the page at this link.
This park visitor got a surprise when he tried to exit his cabin. The door shut quite quickly.
Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times. It is one of the few herds free of cattle genes. Depending on the year there are anywhere from 2,300 to 5,000 bison that live in two different sub-populations within the park.
Don't let their gentle look fool you. They can run up to 35mph and pivot quickly. And don't forget about those horns. Still not convinced to stay 50 feet away? Read this report.
There were a few bulls who were being quite attentive to the females. While the bulls are sexually mature at the age of 2, it's usually the older, proven males that get to breed.
The rut begins in July and goes through August usually. Things seemed pretty tame during our visit in September, but maybe there were a few gals a little late to the party still about. Calves are born mostly in late April and May, but that's a dicey time to visit Yellowstone as much of it is still snowbound.
What about that big hump on their back? It's all muscle, making their neck strong so they can plow through snow to get at food in winter. I have a copy of the book "Yellowstone Winterscapes" by Jeff Henry that I bought online. Great pictures of winter bison among other things. I highly recommend it, but I don't know if I'm hardy enough for a winter visit myself. I'm not a fan of noisy snowmobile travel and wouldn't want to disturb the wildlife by trying to view them in such an intrusive way.
Speaking of Yellowstone bison in winter, in some harsh winters bison may attempt to migrate outside the park to forage. Bison management has been hotly debated on this issue for some time, mainly due to concerns over brucellosis which can spread to domestic cattle. Elk may also transmit this disease, but no plan is in place at this time to prevent their roaming. When I first learned of this topic I was drawn in immediately. Seems like pure and simple bison discrimination to me. From 1985 to 1991 licensed hunters lined up outside the park to kill wandering bison. This practice was eliminated due to public outcry (power to the people!) but roaming bison are still culled to some degree.
Recently the Montana Supreme Court ruled that bison have the right to roam outside the park. Want to learn more on this topic? The Greater Yellowstone Coalition has ways you can help.