Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Do Not Be Food For The Animals

I have a confession. When Ken Land and I went to Yellowstone in 1973; we, like many other visitors to the park, read and heard the warnings about not feeding the animals, etc. But, as you drive around and see the various animals and how tame they appear to be, it is very tempting to venture out to get a "good photo". I remember that we went into a meadow with several buffalo in order to get close enough for a good picture. We let a bear stand at our truck window eating the crackers we slid down the glass through the opening at the top of the window. We ventured into brush to photograph a mama and baby moose. We did not treat these creatures as wild animals. We acted more like they were in a zoo and there was a virtual fence between them and us.

Well, upon returning from another visit to Yellowstone, I have a new perspective and appreciation for the beasts. Sandee and I just went through the Tetons and Yellowstone with Wayne, Tandi and the kids. We had a great time seeing the sights and looking for animals. While driving along Yellowstone River, we spotted a buffalo swimming across the river. This being what we considered to be a rare sight, I wanted to capture the event with a photo. Wayne parked, I jumped out to run down to the river's edge as the ledge along the bank blocked the view of the monster. I ran through a meadow to the top of the bank, thinking that the vicious carnivore would still be swimming and would be drifting downstream.

I found myself along the edge of the forest with the meadow to my right and the river ahead. Sure enough, the bison was standing in the edge of the river looking right at me. Realizing that it was already too late to turn around and get back across the meadow, I stopped to photograph the blood red eyes sizing up his prey. He began to climb up the bank just to my left. I waited for him to shake off some water before taking the next photo from a distance of around 15-18 feet. He looked at me and for some reason appeared to be in a very foul mood. Being a kind person, I calmly spoke to him, asking, "So, what are you going to do now?"

His answer was quiet but clear. He turned and began walking towards me. Being "one with nature", I moved to the side and positioned myself behind two small trees. The trees were about six inches in diameter and had a gap between them of around eight inches. He stopped again, looked at me as I looked at him (taking another picture from about ten feet away) and we each sized up the other. In hind sight, I now believe that I was more impressed with his stature than he was with mine. I did notice that he stood about six feet tall and that his giant head should not fit between the two trees. Maybe if I had not been partially blocked by trees he would have been more impressed and would have turned and ran away.

At this point I am thinking that he will just stroll out into the meadow. That would leave me with a dilemma, should I wait him out or try to make my way back to the road through the forest? He shook off some more water, looked back at me, snorted and charged at me. That solved one dilemma. His face came within three feet of my face before he stopped. We looked into each other's eyes, I acknowledged that he had made his point, he turned and walked out into the meadow and eventually crossed the road so that I could get back to the van.

It is one of those stories that after the fact, you can laugh about it (that is everyone except Sandee - she has not found it real funny). The photo above is the one taken just prior to him charging at me.
Yes, boys and girls, they are wild animals!


  1. I wish I could be "one with nature" like you.:)
    I want to know what the life lesson in the car was for the grandchildren. Why didn't you get the 3 foot picture? A real photo-journalist gets the picture no matter what else is happening. Amateur!!!!

  2. Life lesson for those back at the car: "Children, watch Grandpa. Here's what not to do." (We heard a number of other on-lookers next to us saying the same thing to their less-experienced travel-partners: "That guy's crazy! That buffalo's going to charge him! Woa! See, that's why I told you not to approach the animals!)

    I agree, though, that it would have been worth it if he had gotten that face-to-face close-up!

  3. As we debated what the title should be for this blog, can you believe that Tandi suggested, "Tree Hugger"? That is too Green for me and suggests that I was not in full control. I thought "Standing Ground" sounded better.

  4. All I can say is "DUH!!!!" Don't you read the warnings about how many tourists are gored each year???? I agree with Wayne, except for the "it would have been worth it" part. Sounds like situational ethics to me!