As I mentioned in my first post, the wild bison (also known as buffalo) of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks were one of my inspirations to move to the mountains of eastern Idaho, next to the border of Wyoming. The very first time that I saw the Yellowstone bison, I knew that I wanted to live closer to them, and get involved in helping to protect the few thousand of them that remained. Seeing them made me try to imagine what it must have been like in the Great Plains just 200 years ago, when 30 to 60 million bison freely roamed there; a time before millions of people had pushed them off their historic lands, nearly driving them to extinction.
As I spent some time sitting on a hillside just before sunset near this gentle and magnificent herd in Yellowstone National Park’s Lamar Valley, it was hard to imagine how or why such a thing could have happened.
The 3,000-4,000 bison that live in and around Yellowstone are America’s last free-ranging population that are not contained by fences. I love to be in their presence, watching them peacefully eat grass and listening to them snort to their calves, who love to run and jump and play. Watching the Grand Teton bison herd roam through the park with the Tetons and abandoned Mormon settlements behind them is another endless fascination of mine.
Bison have the amazing capacity to survive in Yellowstone’s extreme climate, where subzero temperatures during the long winters are common. The lower elevations of Yellowstone also average 150 inches of snow, and the higher elevations can get twice as much! This year was the first time that I had ever had the opportunity to visit Yellowstone National Park in winter. Seeing the bison in the snow is an experience that I will never forget, and look forward to doing again.
I greatly admire the work that the Buffalo Field Campain is doing to stop the slaughter and harassment of Yellowstone’s wild bison, which unfortunately continues to this day. I also work for a wildlife sanctuary and retreat center called Earthfire Institute that is working to change how people see, and therefore treat, wildlife and nature.