Icy Bison of Yellowstone, 2019

In the early morning light, just north of Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park, we found this group of ice-encrusted Bison. The skies were clear and it was -17C. Whilst we felt the chill, the Bison were oblivious to the cold.

American Bison (Bison bison) are large even-toed ungulates and are the largest surviving terrestrial animals in North America. With their shaggy coats, broad and muscular physique, they are very well adapted to the severe winters experienced in Yellowstone. Smaller cows can weigh 300kg whilst a large bull can weigh an impressive 1,000kg. Bison are nomadic grazers and travel in herds. Bulls leave the herds at around two to three years of age. However, between June and September they rejoin the herd for the rut. As a consequence, fights are frequent between the bulls.  Depressingly, hunting in the 19th and 20th centuries almost resulted in these magnificent animals becoming extinct. Thankfully, careful management has allowed their recovery and it is thought there are about 4000 Bison in Yellowstone National Park. It is a pity that these animals can be hunted outside of the park.

These weighty giants appear docile but can attack without warning. Surprisingly, they can run at up to 56km/h and easily jump fences. Consequently, they need to be respected!