Sink or Swim

Just when I thought I had “seen it all,” I witnessed a herd of bison swimming across a river in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley.  Most of these beasts weigh 2,000+ lbs, mind you.  Carl, Brent, and I happened upon this late one afternoon, and it was truly a sight to behold.  This was more than your average witnessing of a few bison crossing the river.

Baby bison are affectionately referred to as “red dogs.”  They are cute and playful, and they have a LOT to learn when spring arrives.  Case in point:  There are no bridges or ferries to cross the river.  Mom can’t carry baby across.  Baby can’t stay behind.  What is little red dog to do?  Jump in and learn how to swim!  Quickly!

The stream was deep and swift, and this little red dog got separated from mom.  We witnessed several bison staying upstream from the babies to block the current and protect them, but this little guy was somehow left behind midstream.  Once mom got across, she quickly realized he had not made it.  He continued to fight and struggle to get across while continuing to float downstream another couple hundred yards.  Mom immediately wandered down the river bank to find him.  She then awaited patiently as if to say, “You can do it!  I’m right here to catch you when you reach this side.”

It was a scary moment.  Somehow moms always inspire the best in us.  They are there to warmly pick us up, dust us off, and offer an assuring hug.

This entry was written by Mark , posted on Friday August 13 2010at 09:08 pm , filed under Wildlife, Yellowstone . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

3 Responses to “Sink or Swim”

  • Carl Gandolfo says:

    Nicely documented! I remember that moment well. I almost felt an urge to jump in there after her, wanting to nudge her along. But then I quickly came to my senses, realizing I couldn’t swim myself. I was not about to leave it up to you and Brent to determine my fate!

    Seriously, nicely done. Just another example of the struggle for survival in spring, in Yellowstone!

  • Mike Sisco says:

    Mark, great sequence, , , love to see nature taking care of its own. I have a similar example on my ITLever blog of a herd of elephants encountering a group of hippos and how the parents protect their “little” ones. See it at

  • Brent Johnston says:

    I remember Mark rushing along the river bank to catch this neat series … oblivious to the fact a separate herd of bison was about to thunder down the hillside behind him. 😉 Just one more of two weeks full of wonderful memories!

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