Saturday, July 10, 2010

Just How Close CAN You Get to a Buffalo?

From Bismark, we moved up to the North unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Not really on the Lewis and Clark trail, but close enough that we will see some L&C sites.

Imagine our surprise when we pulled into Juniper campground and there was a small herd of buffalo in the middle of the campground loop. Apparently they come running when they hear the grass being mowed.

We had a great time at our afternoon get-together watching them eating the cut grass.

The group seemed to be mostly mothers and babies.

There was a long line for the ladies room.

The next evening we drove the park road to the western end, and saw this group of buffalo. It's a miracle that we still have them anywhere.

In the mid-nineteenth century, 60-100 MILLION buffalo roamed the grasslands of North America in massive herds. That number was reduced to a FEW HUNDRED by the mid-1880s! Today, there are about 250,000, both in the wild and on ranches, in North America. There are 350-400 here in Teddy Roosevelt NP.

We went on the the end of the road to this overlook of the Little Missouri River, hoping the buffalo would be closer when we returned.

And they were! Wow, this is close!

Max happened by and took this picture of me taking pictures with my camera hanging out the window.

So how did the buffalo recover from near-extinction? A few individuals raised them on their private ranches. Then in 1902, a herd of 41 captive and wild buffalo was placed under government protection in Yellowstone National Park. Theodore Roosevelt was the president then and a renowned conservationist. For that reason, he is the only person ever to have a US National Park named for him.


P.S. I just read an amazing true story about a mommy and baby buffalo in Yellowstone on a fellow blogger's blog. You can read it here. See if you can do it with dry eyes. (Don't worry - it has a happy ending.)


  1. Then there's the time not too long ago (last summer) when a couple of tourists from Europe were at a pay phone in Yellowstone in the Canyon area and a bull bison walking past suddenly rushed them and gored one of them.

    Despite their appearance of docility, these critters are very dangerous.

    .... we're currently on the road in Wyoming, exploring the state probably for the next month.

  2. The pictures are great. We have a couple of herds of then here in North Texas 10 to 20 each herd.
    The story of the little one is great with a very happy ending.

    Dan (Bubbadan)

  3. How close did I get to a Buffalo? How about a few inches away. They were in a pasture at LBJ park near Johnson City, Texas. Some were flopped down leaning against the high fence. I did not stick my hand through to touch one.

  4. Wow now those are some roaming buffalo lol How cool is that that they just roamed around your campground, and luckily you had campers to potty in because I would have been scared to go to those ladies room LOL thanks for sharing I loved looking at the pics :o)

  5. Thanks for the very nice pics and commentary on the bison.

    I have been enjoying your blog site. Apoligize for not commenting earlier, but just recently began doing e-mail.

    Google (Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge) in Oklahoma for another nice story on the Bison.

    Also Doris Camground is a very nice place to spend a few days.
    Bison,Longhorns,Deer,and Turkeys are your companions in camp. Electric hookups . Potable water and dump site when exiting are availible. Hiking Trails and drives are numerous. Those with Senior Passes--8 bucks per night!

  6. We stayed in the same park a few years ago. I took a picture of a bison, that included my awning pole and the corner of my "slightly" open door. Now, that's close!

  7. Diana, can you imagine what it was like when Millions of these Critters roamed the Plains? They are quite remarkable in their Fit to their "invigorating" Environment, Eh?

  8. Great pictures! Reminded us of our Buffalo encounters in Custer State Park last summer.

    Keep a safe distance.

  9. It does my heart good to see these lucky fellows roaming free--at least some did survive the outright slaughter...IF Only Americans could see the same slaughter is being done to the innocnet and very important prarie dogs! YOUR photos are amazing--(everyone went goo-goo-ga-ga over merekats when our very own prarie dogs are being posioned and killed because of western & midwestern ranchers & the US gov't attitudes toward them when in fact recent studies show they help to keep the prarie covered in the wonderful grass just as the Buffalo did!)
    Safe Travels!

  10. I was sitting on my motorcyle, stuck in traffic in Yellowstone two years ago when two Buffalo passed by me so close I could have reached over and touched them. I turned on my engine hoping to scare them away. They were unfazed!! I was glad when they passed.

  11. That's so funny - buffalo trained to come when the grass is cut! That was some story about the baby. Amazing that the mother allowed them to help.


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