yellowstone bison 2023-09-28 (37 seconds)

Having a herd of American bison (commonly but incorrectly called buffalo) walk by on both sides of your car is a pretty tense and exhilarating experience. We count ourselves very fortunate in our timing to get to experience it.

We'd arrived mid-afternoon at our lodging just outside the north gate of Yellowstone National Park, in Gardiner. Since we'd bought a yearlong national parks pass, we figured we'd knock off a couple attractions near the north end that afternoon, so we could straight away push deeper into the park the following day. We first walked all the boardwalks meandering through the Mammoth Hot Springs area, then decided to drive the northern section of the Grand Loop Road, reputed to have good wildlife sighting opportunities.

It was early evening, maybe an hour ahead of dusk - prime viewing hours. We were enjoying the drive, hanging back 70m or so from the car in front, when we came around a bend to find it stopped in the middle of the road. A bison immediately came into view walking by that car and toward us, on the road. It turned out to be the head of a large herd.

For the next 3 or so minutes, the herd approached us head-on, walked past our car (most on the empty lane to our left, but some on the shoulder to our right), and kept going on the road behind us. They were so close I could've touched them from my side window, but not wanting to be written up in the newspaper as a touron ("tourist moron") by provoking an attack, I refrained. All one animal would need to do is turn its head to bust out our side window. And with a little more effort we could well be in the ditch. Looking into their eyes from so close was remarkable enough.

Males, females, calves - they all were big. I'm guessing it was 150, maybe 200 animals in all. Anne captured a few seconds of the experience with her mobile phone.

After the last had gone by, and we started driving again, I felt sorry for the long line of cars following the herd. The head of that line would get to see a few bison, but everyone behind that on the winding road would be left wondering what the holdup was, missing out entirely.