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Crossing the Buffalo

An animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language.  Martin Buber.

Yellowstone National Park is home to 4,000+ free-range Bison, but we didn't see any on our first day through the park.  We came in later in the morning, and managed to miss the herd.

Our first stop was the park museum at Old Faithful Geyser, where we got the "low down" on Bison from the museum curator.  He explained to us how the Bison were once an endangered species, and the steps the park is taking to ensure that the Bison have a place to roam free.  He was indeed passionate about the cause of survival for this American legend!  We had come at the time of the rut for the buffalo (mating season).  He gave us a word of caution, and we were on our way.

The second day, we arrived early and as we drove into the park, we were greeted by a few of the native buffalo.  No big deal, right?  Oh my goodness, they are large creatures!  Later in the day, we stopped at Roosevelt Falls and saw a "loner" buffalo resting under the trees.  He seemed calm enough.  He didn't bother to stand, and allowed all the tourists to capture photos as he chomped away at his afternoon meal.  As we left for the evening, we rode through a herd of buffalo without an altercation.

The next morning, we came through the herd . . . with several tourists stopping in the road from both directions (protected by their four-wheeled vehicles with windows and doors).  The cars were stopped by some buffalo crossing the road, while others stood in the road blocking the flow of traffic.  The warning of the museum curator echoed in my mind . . .

"The bison have been known to charge vehicles passing through the herd."
"They have attacked motorcycles."
"Do NOT get between a bull and his female during the rut."

So there we were . . . on the Harley . . . in the middle of the herd . . . buffalo on each side of us as they scattered across the road.  Bulls sauntered by us within charging distance.  And they are fast when they want to be . . . more than thirty miles per hour!  That's quite a force to be reckoned with!

These majestic creatures dotted the fields and hillsides by the hundreds!  We could see them in the distance gathered in groups as they grazed in the morning air.  Tourists got out of their vehicles with their cameras and took snapshots of the beasts.  I had the video camera rolling . . . I had never seen buffalo before our trip to Yellowstone.

As we crept down the two-lane road through the park, the herd seemed to be closing in around the motorcycle.  The bison had gone from crossing the road to walking alongside the traffic.  As they passed by, my heart pounded and I could feel my pulse racing through the lump in my throat.  Now they were only half the width of the road away from us.  They were starting to get agitated, as they growled and snorted.

We scanned the hill beside the road.  There were bulls on the hillside moving toward the road.  One passed by not ten feet away and the low growl in his throat was terrifying!  One of the largest bulls in the herd abruptly stopped grazing on the hillside, turned his head and charged down the hill.  He trotted up to the motorcycle shaking his head wildly . . . snorting, growling and stomping at the pavement.  These creatures can weigh over 2,000 pounds and I have no doubt that this fellow weighed at least that much!

So there we were, head to headlight with this monster! 

"I'm invisible . . . you DON'T see me!  REIKI . . . don't fail me now!"

We were in his territory . . . and he felt threatened!  NOT a good position to be in!  My husband slowly eased the motorcycle backward to show him that we recognized him as the king of the field and we were not about to challenge that!  He continued with his aggressive growling.  He turned and walked beside the motorcycle . . . close enough for me to smell his breath!  I could have reached out and touched him!

A lot of prayer, backing down from this creature, and absolutely no sudden movement is what saved us!  The very next day, a motorcycle rider was not so lucky.  The story was told of the rider whose bike was rammed by a bison, and the rider, trying to protect his wife, was knocked some forty feet.  The bison have been known to head-butt cars and motorcycles.

Wildlife is just that . . . WILD!  When we invade their habitat, we must respect them!  We must always remember that we are in their territory and allow them the right to roam free in the land which they call home.  A bison, bear, elk or moose is no match for man!

Respect the Wild!  

To read more about the preservation of Bison in Yellowstone National Park, visit the National Park Service.

Please visit Headin' West on Pixels to view the complete photo gallery!


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