All too often we find ourselves traveling on ‘bison time,’ which isn’t very fast. They just plod along, taking their dear sweet time. The slope is steep here. They can’t get off the road going up or by going down. We’ll just let them mosey along. One morning we waited 45 minutes while a large herd headed towards us on the Yellowstone Bridge, a fairly long bridge over a deep ravine. That evening they changed their minds, and quietly plodded across the bridge in the other direction – another 45 minutes! This wait won’t be as long. We know this road by heart. A flatter area is coming up where they can step aside.
Our first bison cow with a new calf! That’s early. It’s a nice big cow, a yearling and the new calf. All look in good shape. Mama is on a mission. The cow and calf travel 1.4 miles in 45 minutes, and still truckn’. When bison want to move, they can cover a lot of ground. We wonder if Mama and calf are just heading west, the route to a lower elevation, or are they hurrying to catch up with their herd.
Bison cows often end up separated from their herd when they give birth. I have a wonderful memory of watching a lone cow way down the Lamar Valley. Heat waves blurred her shape and made her legs seem to dance. Then I realized there were too many legs. A new calf was running at her side. We watched the cow and calf travel down the south facing slope of the Lamar Valley, across the valley, and then into the river. She seemed to know just where to cross. A lot of the river is bordered by a steep cutbank, but the cow chose a place when the little tyke could scramble out onto the far shore. They had already traveled over a mile, but they still had to follow the far side of the valley for another half a mile. Finally she reached a group of about twenty cows. Hers was the first calf. A baby at a baby shower couldn’t have created a better fuss. Tails up the cows gathered about and greeted the newest member. The calf’s chances for survival just increased significantly. Unlike elk, bison gather together to protect each other when danger arrives. Elk protect their own calves, but leave others to fend for themselves.
Today’s Mama is hurrying on. Most of their route is windswept but where there is snow she is able to walk on crusted snow. Maybe that is why she is hurrying. Later in the day this snow will be too soft to walk on. The calf has no problem