August 11, 2010

Bison encounter

Near the mud boil

One afternoon, we stopped to walk through an area famous for mudboils. Yes, we saw big pools of mud that was churning and bubbling, much like I’ve always pictured the river of chocolate in Willie Wonka, except the steam smelled like sulphur instead of chocolate. We kept to the sidewalks in that area, since signs warned us that anyone walking through could break through the thin crust and get burned.

Then a bison came through, an angry male bison who was making these strange growling noises. He was followed by another male bison, and they were both moving pretty fast, their hooves sinking into the mud.

These animals are big, up close. They butted heads in a way that didn’t look so friendly.

There were a handful of tourists walking about on the boardwalks. Everyone froze and just stared at the animals. We’d been warned not to step off the boardwalks, so there was no place to go. One of the bison stepped over the boardwalk and then into the mud, maybe ten feet away from me. The other followed.

A park ranger came through, with a walkie talkie. “Try to get back to the parking lot,” he said. “Back behind the cars.”

Once the bison had moved off the boardwalk, we all moved cautiously towards the parking lot. I could hear the clicking of cameras and excited whispers in Japanese, German, and English. From a safer spot, behind the line of cars, we watched as the bison churned up the mud.

“Too much testosterone,” the park ranger said. “The rut has started.”

I wondered what would happen if either bison got too close to the boiling mud. But it didn’t happen. One of the bison decided to climb up the hill, brushing the edge of the boardwalk as he went, and the other followed. Then they both disappeared from our view.

Bison encounter


Lilian said...

We had multiple bison encounters back in 2000, particularly on the road (more on that later). My parents saw them even closer, though, we were at the Fountain Paint Pot (I don't know if that's where you were) and I think that maybe K and I were with Kelvin somewhere. My parents were in a walkway close to the souvenir store when suddenly a whole herd of bison came running down in their directions. Luckily they were close enough to the shop that they got in, but there were a few scared people who had to just get off the walkway and behind/between some trees. After the herd passed, these people came into the store terrified by the experience.

The road encounters were interesting. The first one was with only two bisons walking in the middle of the road on our first day, as we were driving to the Grand Teton Ntl Park. The second time was at night. We were driving from Mammoth Hot Springs back to Madison (where we stayed) and in a place where there was a hill/embankment on the left side of the road we had to stop because there was a huge herd of bison heading down (in the same direction we were going). All of us cars had to stop (and we could see the cars opposite in the distance stopped too) and drive really slowly. Next to us there were a couple of mother bison and their calves (?). After a while we realized that we'd stay there for a really long time if we didn't do something, so my brave "cowboy" husband started driving forward a bit faster and the bison realized that they should let us pass and soon enough the whole herd headed out of the road and all the cars could finally go again! People in some other cars (especially the incoming ones) cheered my husband. I thought it was cool! Too bad it was really dark, so we couldn't really take pictures and video. :-(

Did you have any similar experiences driving around the park? How long did you stay? We were there only three days. :-(

jo(e) said...

Yes, we several times had to stop because bison were in the road. One evening, we ended up just driving slowly down a bison who was ambling along the road. Isn't the park just incredible? In the northeast, we saw a whole herd of bison, just peacefully grazing. I felt like I was in a movie.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Interesting story.

You were lucky to see it (and not get hurt).

When I was there, I went off the boardwalk and fell through the crust and burned my foot--synchronously, I was just telling Keith about it last night!