The Bison Herd

Whether in the wilderness or in the National Park system, camping in open territories opens oneself up to encounters with wild animals. A few personal examples can be given using encounters with bison.

Most of the bison in the United States belong to a few small remnant herds, most prominently in North Dakota and Oklahoma. They are beautiful creatures with a lot of strength. They are normally quite peaceful and mind their own business, but it is good to realize a full grown male can lift and throw a modern round hay bale which can weigh 2,000 pounds. They tend to be solitary animals most of the year, but they come together during mating season and the males battle it out to see who the champion will be.

Several years ago, during the short time we had a pop-up camping trailer, we stayed at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. This was, I think, the hottest place we have stayed with temperatures reaching a maximum of 118 degrees. It was hard on the animals and it was hard on us. The campground within that park is not far from a small river. One morning we awoke to find a herd of bison was passing through the campground on their way to the river. One was about 8 feet away from the camper scratching his side against a tree … one could hear the roughness of the bark against the course fur. It may not have been a full grown male, but I suddenly realized that the camper, with us inside of it, probably only weighed 1,500 pounds. As one is supposed to do with bison, we sat quietly until they moved on.

Another time, we were on a foot trail through some short grasslands. We decided to stop for lunch and sat down to have a small picnic. We had a wonderful view of a small bison heard that had come together off in the distance. As we were almost finished, we heard this soft and regular whooshing sound. We looked around and saw a solitary male heading straight to the herd and soon to pass very close to us. We moved quickly out of the way and behind the protection of a clump of small trees not far away.

There was another time I went to photograph some petrified wood. As I went along the meadows and grasslands, there was a really big male off to one side of where I was going. I cautiously moved forward in a roundabout way to get where I was going and leaving space between it and I. I actually could not tell if it cared that I was there, but I did not want to make it angry.

In many ways, the danger level in these situations was low. If you leave the bison alone, they will typically also leave you alone. But at the same time, the danger is real – there are no fences, it is a large strong animal, making a lot of commotion may upset it, and there is always the need to consider if you might be near the young and have a mother that may get angry quickly. Knowing how to act or react to different animals in the wild is important.

Todd Elder

Todd Elder

Todd Elder has a deep desire to understand and experience Creation. As a Baraminologist, his current research includes developing the Katagenos Species Concept, the Natanzera Classification System, and the Floral Formula Method of determining Plant Kinds. As an author and speaker, his books and seminar materials are designed to encourage a growing relationship with the Creator.
Todd Elder

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