Category Archives: Bison

Bison!

As the sun rose over the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park, the silhouettes of American buffalo (bison) dotted the horizon.

Truly wild bison are a rare commodity and seeing them in person is a powerful experience when considering their nearly extinct status 120 years ago.

While slowly driving through this incredible setting, a couple of beautiful pronghorn caught my attention.

I pulled over to take some photos.

Another gentleman had just stopped to do the same and as we adjusted our lenses, his wife shouted from their truck.

“Bison!”

Does this bison look happy? This is about 30 seconds after he scared the author at nearly point blank range and then attacked a younger bull. (Photo by Chester Moore)

Turning around, we found ourselves nearly eye to eye with a massive bull bison.

And he looked angry.

Really angry.

The whites of his eyes showed as he grunted at the distance of about 15 feet which means we were about 1/2 second away from 1,500 pounds of fury.

We gently backed up and then a couple of other bison that just crossed the road caught his attention.

He immediately ran out and slammed into one of them. The other, younger bull struck back but then ran off leaving the big bull on its own.

He then proceeded to roll in the dirt, grunt and buck up and down like a bronco.

Yes, this was the same bison that walked right up to us a few seconds earlier.

Bison hurt more people in Yellowstone than any other animal and in fact a recent attack on a woman sent her to an emergency trip to an Idaho hospital.

People look at them as large cattle from the dairy farm because they are unafraid of people in the park.

It’s called confidence people, not docility.

As I type this at the Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport, I can’t help but smile. It’s a memory from an amazing trip where the Lord blessed me with many opportunities to get boots on the ground conservation information.

I will bring it to you here and via the Higher Calling Wildlife podcast.

I’m well aware of bison dangers and in fact avoided fishing what looked to be an incredible spot in the Lamar Valley due to bison presence. Not only were there big bulls but lots of babies there.

Being between a momma bison, a calf and a fishing hole is not a good idea.

Bison babies are super cute but do not approach them. Mom and her herd friends will likely stomp you into a mudhole. (Photo by Chester Moore)

I fished elsewhere and did quite well.

This trip not only brought me information but clarity. Sometimes only being in wild places does that for me.

I’m just glad I’m writing a blog about my bison encounter instead of reading one someone else wrote.

“Wildlife Journalist Attacked By Bison” is not a headline I want to read any time soon.

Chester Moore

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Bison on The Mountain

The unmistakable silhouette of a bull bison (Bison bison) caught my attention.

Enshrouded in a rainy mist, the curving horns, broad shoulders and massive hump were a perfect picture of nature’s strength.

This bison was feeding at an elevation of 10,000 feet. This particular bison had the darkest coat of any the author has ever seen. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

Seeing bison, here in Yellowstone National Park was not surprising. After all it is the epicenter of their remaining wild range.

Seeing one near a mountain’s peak at nearly 10,000 feet elevation however was not expected.

I ventured on this particular range in search of bighorn sheep and instead found bison and in this case a rather large one.

The story of the bison in North America is a well-documented example of tragedy and triumph.

A government-subsidized push to slaughter them to remove the lifeblood of the plain’s tribes pushed through the 1800s like a freight train.

With deadly proficiency they decimated the herd from 30 million to an estimated 325.

The author found this lone bull taking a drink from the Gibbon River.

My generation’s view of bison and their habitat mainly comes from the iconic film Dances with Wolves.

Besides introducing the Lakota word for bison”Tatanka” into the vernacular it also gave us the idea that American buffalo are a creature of the flat lands.

The Academy award-winning movie was filmed on plains in South Dakota and Wyoming.

After my Yellowstone encounter, I began looking at locations of wild bison herds and found many are in mountainous areas.

There is the Yellowstone herd that ventures into the high country and bison in the Henry Mountains and Book Cliffs in Utah and other adjoining ranges.

Native Americans used to drive the animals off of cliffs to kill them for food and other provision. Historians call these areas “buffalo jumps”.

The highest known site is at 11,000 feet in Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains.

I never did find a bighorn on the trip but I had an incredible time seeing bison on the mountain and also in the valley below.

Before my time at Yellowstone was up, I saw a large herd of bison in the Lamar Valley. They were 3/4 of a mile away but I decided to shoot photos with my 400 mm lens anyway.

There are more bison in this photo than existed at one point in the 1800s.

After a few shots, i decided to take out my Leupold 10X 42 binoculars and count the herd.

I counted 386.

That was more bison than existed in the United States at one point in the 1800s.

It was an emotional moment as it hit me we almost lost these great animals and that visionary hunter-conservationists like Teddy Roosevelt and the Boone & Crockett Club helped save Yellowstone by making it a national park and the bison contained within.

I am grateful we now have as many as 500,000 bison throughout North America and am inspired by plans to put wild herds back into their former range.

Thank God for the bison on the plains and on the mountains.

Chester Moore, Jr.

(NOTE: I will be attending Bison On the Edge, a conference in Santa Fe, NM Oct. 28-Nov. 2. It is hosted by the Wildlife Conservation Society and Pueblo of Pojoaque and will focus on bison restoration among other topics. Be on the lookout for reports from the event here at Higher Calling.)

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.