The Bison 2 page contains images taken mostly in autumn in central Yellowstone National Park,
and include portraits, scenics, and behavioral images, including several images of young males
practicing the combat techniques they will be needing later to win their mating rights in the herd.

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Bison 1: Winter, Calves, Roadblocks and Portraits

Bison 2: Bison in Central Yellowstone            Bison 3: Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley


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There are over 165 images in the Bison Gallery.


Bison at Dawn Madison Junction 0307


Bison at Sunrise Madison Junction 0311

Bison on a ridge overlooking a geothermal area just south of Paintpot Hill,
near the Grand Loop Road northeast of Madison Junction in Yellowstone.


Bison at Sunrise Madison Junction 0320

Geothermal steam rises over a ridge as a group of Bison are lit by
the rising sun near Madison Junction in Yellowstone National Park.


Bison in the Road at Sunrise 1238


Bison Roadblock Fishing Bridge 1096

Bison on the road, at sunrise near Norris Junction at left, and in late afternoon on Fishing Bridge at right.


Bison Roadblock Fishing Bridge 1092

A bison blocks traffic as he ambles across Fishing Bridge over the Yellowstone River at Yellowstone Lake.

The Bison in Yellowstone often use the roads to travel, and seem to delight in blocking the cars.
They have been known to bump cars with their hips or head, and sometimes kick or charge into
cars or people who get too close, so be very careful around these 2000 pound animals. Bison
can appear docile but they are wild animals and can run at 35 mph, easily outrunning humans.


Fishing Bridge Yellowstone 1098

Fishing Bridge is a rough-hewn corduroy log bridge crossing the Yellowstone River at Yellowstone Lake.
The existing bridge was built in 1937 to replace the original built in 1902. It crosses over a spawning ground
for native cutthroat trout, and it used to attract as many as 50,000 fishermen per year. Due the decline of the
trout population, in part because of fishing in the spawning ground, the bridge was closed to fishing in 1973.


Bison Yellowstone Lake 8660


Bison Yellowstone Lake 8661

Bison at Yellowstone Lake, looking towards Pelican Valley in the early afternoon.

The central Yellowstone herd is descended from the original 23 Plains Bison which
hid out in Pelican Valley north of Yellowstone Lake. These were all that remained of
the estimated 60 million bison that once roamed the Great Plains, which were nearly
exterminated by professional hunters and slaughter sanctioned by the Army to weaken
Native American tribes by reducing their food source and force them onto reservations.

The Pelican Valley herd and 71 Bison from Buffalo Ranch moved to central
Yellowstone in 1936 to form the Mary Mountain herd grew to the point
that by 1954, the central herd had expanded to 1300 individuals.


Yellowstone Lake at Sunset 1099

Bison grazing at sunset in autumn, beside the mouth of the Yellowstone River at Yellowstone Lake.

In the distance behind the trees at the right edge of the frame is the mouth of Pelican Creek, which
meanders through Pelican Valley where the last 23 Bison who survived the poachers and hunters
hid out. Their descendants formed the core of the Central Yellowstone herd which exists today.


Yellowstone Lake at Sunset 1112

Bison grazing at sunset in autumn, beside the mouth of the Yellowstone River at Yellowstone Lake.

These two images above (and the first group on the Bison 3 page) are from the Wyoming Scenic
section, which has 5 pages of scenic images from Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks.


The Banner below leads to the Bison Gallery where images can be selected.


There are over 165 images in the Bison Gallery.


Bison Firehole River 8713

A frontal view of a male bison ambling along the Firehole Riverbank across from
the Excelsior Geyser in the Midway Geyser Basin of central Yellowstone in autumn.


Bison Juvenile Firehole River 9079

A 300mm telephoto closeup of a juvenile Bison at rest beside the Firehole River in Yellowstone.

Bison calves are born with golden brown fur, as can be seen on the Bison 1 page and further below.
They begin turning brown after 2.5 months. Occasionally, a rare white bison is born. White Buffalo are
considered sacred in several Native American religions, and they are born once in 10 million births.
There has not been a white calf born in Yellowstone in modern times, but several have been born
in other herds around the United States, including 16 born at Spirit Mountain Ranch descended
from a single white female known as Miracle Moon (one calf, an albino, died after two days).


Bison Juvenile Firehole River 9088


Bison at Rest Firehole River 9091

A juvenile Bison and an adult female at rest alongside the Firehole River in central Yellowstone.

American Bison are popularly known as Buffalo although they are only distantly related to true buffalo
(the Asian Water Buffalo and African Buffalo) from which the Bison evolved 5 to 10 million years ago.


Bison at Sunrise Norris Junction 1255

A male Bison at rest near Norris Junction at sunrise in autumn.

Bison are the largest terrestrial animal in North America. The current Plains Bison evolved from the
Steppe Bison, some of which crossbred with ancestors of the modern Yak and crossed the Bering
land bridge into North America between 500,000 and 225,000 years ago. Steppe Bison evolved
into Giant Longhorn Bison, which became extinct during the Quaternary Extinction Event in the
late Wisconsin Glaciation 21,000 to 30,000 years ago and were replaced by Bison antiquus,
a smaller species which in turn evolved into Bison occidentalis, the first of the bison to have
horns which pointed upwards. Bison occidentalis evolved into the smaller Bison bison (the
modern species) between 5000 and 10,000 years ago, after the last glacial period of the
Pleistocene Era. Millions of Plains Bison once covered the Great Plains, but they were
hunted to near-extinction in the late 19th century, reduced to a low of 541 individuals.


Bison at Sunrise Norris Junction 1260

Male bison at sunrise near Norris Junction in autumn.

The Yellowstone area is the only place in North America where Bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times.
The Yellowstone bison comprise the largest population on public land in the US, and are among the few herds which
have not been crossbred with cattle. In the late 19th century, a group of ranchers gathered together individuals from
the small herds which survived the slaughter in an effort to save the animals from extinction. They crossbred some
bison with cattle, but only the females were fertile and there was no hybrid vigor, so the practice was abandoned.


Bison at Sunrise Madison Junction 1276

Bison grazing in a meadow near Madison Junction in autumn.

At the end of the slaughter of millions of Bison in the late 19th century, the population in the
lower 48 states was reduced to an estimated low of 50 individuals, of which 23 were a remnant
of the indigenous herd in Pelican Valley in central Yellowstone. In 1902, 18 females were brought
to northern Yellowstone from a ranch in northern Montana and bred to 3 males brought from Texas.
28 bison were moved from Fort Yellowstone to the Lamar Valley and raised at the Buffalo Ranch,
which was established in 1907 to enhance the wild herd. As the semi-domesticated herd at the
Lamar Buffalo Ranch increased in size, bison were released to the open range to interbreed
with the wild herd. Ranching operations continued until 1952, when NPS policies changed.


Bison Madison River 7103

A bison with the thicker winter fur crosses the Madison River at the end of winter in late April.

Yellowstone National Park is mostly at 7000 to 8000 feet in altitude and above the 44th Parallel.
At this altitude and latitude, spring comes in May in most areas of the park, and snowstorms can
often continue through April, as can be seen in a number of images shown on the Bison 1 page.


The Banner below leads to the Bison Gallery where images can be selected.


There are over 165 images in the Bison Gallery.


Bison Nez Perce Creek 9640

A 300mm telephoto portrait of a male Bison grazing at Nez Perce Creek, previously known as
the East Fork of the Firehole River in the central Geyser Basins of Yellowstone National Park.

A band of Nez Perce Indians fled through the park during the 1877 Nez Perce War and a scouting party led by Yellow Wolf captured a lone prospector named John Shively, forcing him to guide them through Yellowstone. This scouting party captured several other early tourists, but released most of them later without their supplies and horses (this was only 5 years after the formation of the National Park). The main force of Nez Perce later encountered some of these tourists and killed one, wounded another, and continued through the park, pursued by the Army.


Bison Nez Perce Creek 9644


Bison Nez Perce Creek 9645

300mm close-portraits of a male Bison near Nez Perce Creek in central Yellowstone.

The Nez Perce Indians later encountered another party of tourists and attacked their camp, killing one, wounding and capturing another, and scattering the rest. They then burned Baronett’s Bridge (the first bridge built over the Yellowstone River near the confluence with the East Fork of the Yellowstone, later renamed the Lamar River) and then moved on to the northern entrance where they attacked and burned the Henderson Ranch just north of the park. Just after the burning of the ranch, a force of cavalry engaged the Nez Perce and drove them back into the park, where the Indians killed a tourist who had escaped them earlier.

The Nez Perce eventually escaped by crossing the Absaroka Mountains through Clarks Fork Canyon and Dead Indian Gulch, after luring the Army towards the Shoshone River so they could cross the plains safely. They followed the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River north into Montana, where the 7th Cavalry caught up with them two days later at the Battle of Canyon Creek, an indecisive battle near Billings, Montana. The 7th Cavalry is famous for Custer’s Last Stand at the Battle of The Little Bighorn in 1876. The group of Nez Perce under Chief Joseph were finally forced to surrender three weeks later at the Battle of Bear Paw in northern Montana, just south of the Canadian Border.


Bison Nez Perce Creek 9657

A 300mm telephoto close-portrait of a male Bison at Nez Perce Creek in central Yellowstone.

During the Arnold Hague Geological Surveys of Yellowstone in 1885, several features of the park
were named after events of 1877 when the Nez Perce entered the park during the Nez Perce War.

These include Nez Perce Creek, where John Shively was captured, and Nez Perce Ford, where
Chief Joseph crossed the Yellowstone River, along with Joseph Peak and Cowan Creek, which
was named after George Cowan, a tourist who was shot in the head near the mouth of the creek.

More images of bison at Nez Perce Creek are on the Bison 1 page.


Bison Calf at Sunset Norris Junction 9849 M

The golden brown fur of a young calf is lit by the rays of the setting sun in this image
taken near the Norris Junction Ranger Station in central Yellowstone National Park.

All of the landscape (horizontal) large version images linked from the thumbnails are 1500 pixels wide.
Portrait (vertical) images are 1200 pixels tall (1290 pixels with title bar). Images designated with an “M”
in the shot number are 5:4 aspect ratio, 1500 x 1290 with a title bar, or 1500 x 1200 without a title bar.


Bison Calf at Sunset Norris Junction 9851

Bison calves are born with golden brown fur. They begin turning brown after 2.5 months.
This calf was obviously born late in the season, as it is still quite gold in late September.

A bison’s dominance is related to when it is born. The most dominant bulls mate in the first
two to three weeks of the season, and subordinate bulls mate with any estrous cows which
have not yet mated. Bison which are born earlier in the season are larger and more likely to
be dominant, thus bison pass on dominant traits to their offspring. Dominant hierarchies in
bison herds exist for both males and females... it is likely that this calf will be subordinate.


Bison at Rest Madison Junction 0928 M

A young male bison at rest near Madison Junction in central Yellowstone.

Male bison are larger than the females. Males can exceed 2000 pounds, while females
are typically about 1100 pounds. Plains Bison are smaller than the Wood Bison of Canada.

The two breeding herds in Yellowstone (northern and central) now contain an estimated 4600 individuals.
The northern herd, which ranges from the north entrance at Gardiner Montana through the Blacktail Plateau
and into the Lamar Valley contains approximately 3200 bison, and the central herd has about 1400 bison.


The Banner below leads to the Bison Gallery where images can be selected.


There are over 165 images in the Bison Gallery.


Bison Confrontation Madison Junction 0879

Three young males in a mutual head-butting confrontation near Madison Junction.

Young males practice the fighting techniques they will need later to establish herd dominance.
They lower their heads, interlock horns, and push upward with their head held low as seen below.


Bison Fight Madison Junction 0940 M

Two young males practice fighting techniques near Madison Junction in Yellowstone.


Bison Fight Madison Junction 0951

Two young males eye each other while testing their strength in a play-fight.

They cautiously lock their horns, staring each other down and shoving head to head
in an elaborate test of determination which ends when one male turns his head away.


Bison Fight Madison Junction 0965


Bison Fight Madison Junction 0971


Bison Fight Madison Junction 0972

The young males experiment with hooking with one horn. This technique will come in handy during actual
fights, which are not tests of determination but violent confrontations which determine dominance before
mating. In these more violent fights, bulls hurl themselves at each other, slamming their heads together
in a terrific shock which ripples back through their bodies in a visible wavefront. They then circle each
other, trying to hook a flank with a horn, pivoting about their forefeet )in a surprisingly similar way to
 that of Schnauzers displaying at play) before slamming their heads back together and parrying
horns. The massive neck muscles and thick mat of hair atop their heads absorb the shock.


Bison Fight Lamar Valley 8850

Two male bison fighting in the Lamar Valley in autumn, taken at a significant distance at 600mm.


Bison Fight Madison Junction 0973


Bison Fight Madison Junction 0980

Young male Bison practice horn hooking techniques in a play-fight near Madison Junction.


Bison Fight Madison Junction 0986

The young male Bison take a short break before resuming their sparring.


Bison Fight Madison Junction 0995

Two young male Bison lock horns as they spar competitively, gaining experience in dominance rituals.

Young bulls form subgroups within the herd, and tend to mix with other males that are about their size.
Young males reach sexual maturity at about 2-3 years, but they do not yet have the social maturity to
compete with older bulls for mates until about 6 to 7 years. As they mature, they interact socially by
competitive sparring and homosexual encounters, which are common among young male bison.
Male bison become more aggressive as they mature, and fights between older bulls can often
result in injury or death. Fights among young bulls are more subdued, rarely resulting in injury.


The Banner below leads to the Bison Gallery where images can be selected.


There are over 165 images in the Bison Gallery.


Bison Fight Madison Junction 1003

Young male Bison practice sparring techniques near Madison Junction in Yellowstone.


Bison Fight Madison Junction 1042


Bison Fight Madison Junction 1046

These fights among young males are more tests of determination than attempts to establish dominance.


Bison Wallow Madison Junction 1051

A young male bison wallows in the dirt torn up by their recent confrontation.

Bison wallow for a number of reasons: to remove parasites and biting insects,
to aid in molting from the heavy winter coat to the lighter summer coat, as part of
their social behavior, and sometimes just for the sheer pleasure of rolling in the dirt.

My dog loves to roll around in the grass like this, and may have learned it from Bison.


Bison Wallow Madison Junction 1062

The young male checks to see if his buddies were watching him roll around in the dirt.

During the rut (between July and August), males often wallow as part of their rutting behavior.
Wallowing can also be seen as part of the social behavior for group cohesion at other times.
Wallowing is primarily practiced by adult bison, and except in depressions used as communal
wallows, generally on level areas of bare or exposed coarse soil undisturbed by other animals.


Ron Bison Stampede Madison River 0062


Bison Madison Riverbank 9826

On an off day, while I was in between training sessions, I was shooting River Otter on the Madison River with some friends who had driven in from Colorado to shoot with me. We were having a great time... a mother Otter and her four cubs were playing around a group of trees that had clumped together in a river snag, when all of a sudden I noticed out of the corner of my eye that people were moving away, and I got that prickly feeling on the back of my neck. Keep in mind that I didn’t hear any warning.

I turned (with my lens) and saw a string of Bison moving up the narrow riverbank towards me at a pretty good clip. I fired a quick shot (image 9826 above right), and considered my situation. The Bison were moving at about 25-30 mph and they were darned close. If I tried making it to the slope above the riverbank, there was a risk of tripping on a rock or a root and getting squished like a bug. The only option was to scoot as fast as I (safely) could towards the Bison, to get my back against a strategically located tree. I picked up my tripod and hustled over to there, getting my back against the tree just as the Bison split to go around it. My friends had the presence of mind to take a few shots... image 0062 above left was taken just after I slammed my back against the tree. You’ll notice that the lead Bison is just starting to pass the tree.

The Bison all spooked as they went past the tree on either side, as they saw me out of the corner of their eyes, and believe me when I say that they were passing close beside me. They were moving pretty fast, and could not change course to do anything about the human in their peripheral vision, so I lived to shoot another day. Meanwhile, my friends were safely shooting the scene from atop the slope over the riverbank.

Just another day in Yellowstone.


Stampede on the Madison River SXL

A 2000 x 1027 version of the SXL Composite (4800 x 2464) which shows
your intrepid photographer hiding behind a tree on the Madison Riverbank
while a small thundering herd of Bison passes on either side of his refuge.


The Banner below leads to the Bison Gallery where images can be selected.


There are over 165 images in the Bison Gallery.


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Bison 1 page.


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Bison 3 page.