Keeping a Safe Distance From Our National Mammal
Now that the National Bison Legacy Act (NBLA) has designated the bison as our national mammal, we are pretty excited here in Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country.
Personally, I am wondering what bison/buffalo songs Dan Miller (scientific name – “Hunka Hunka”) will be performing this summer with his Empty Saddles Band.
Unfortunately, interest in this magnificent creature increased recently for the wrong reasons when two tourists in the park (Yellowstone National Park for those who aren’t my neighbors) misguidedly put a bison calf in their vehicle and took it to a ranger station because they thought it was cold. This action resulted in the calf being rejected by the herd which was a death sentence for the animal.
It is my sincere wish that this event, tragic as it is, will serve to educate people about observing and appreciating wildlife. There have already been too many close calls this season of park visitors approaching – even petting – bison as they gather on the road.
My hope is that nobody is injured or killed because they get too close to the bison while trying to shoot a selfie or because they believe bison are like cattle or pets. The truth is that bison can weigh close to 2,000 pounds, run more than 40 miles per hour and jump over a seven-foot-high fence. No human comes close to this combination of size, strength, speed and agility.
Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate the National Park Service’s rules about dealing with bison. More information about approaching all wildlife is available here.
- Stay at least 25 yards from bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose and coyotes. I never get any closer than 50 yards, myself. NPS rules also state that humans should not get any closer than 100 yards to bears and wolves.
- Do not feed wild animals. If you do so, the animals will quickly begin to associate humans with food. The end result is never pretty when bears, bison, coyotes, etc. become conditioned to begging for food.
If you follow those two rules, the bison and other wildlife will remain wild, people will remain safe and we won’t be reading about a tourist being severely injured or even killed by a wild animal.
Those who follow the rules, however, can expect a true thrill.
Until next week, I am lovin’ life and the wildlife (from a safe distance) in Cody, Wyo.