White Buffalo

blogThis morning I had planned to shoot trees covered with hoarfrost, but when I opened my cabin door I had a bison browsing just off the porch. These bull bison are up to 2000 pounds and they are very agile, although most of the time they move very deliberately. Well, the fellow this morning took his time to munch on dry grass and scratch his head on one of the posts that mark the path between cabins. The bison was less than 20 feet away. I had just cracked the door wide enough to take pictures through the gap. I could hear his breathing, his jaws moving, and his hoofs in the snow. My hope was that he would not attempt to walk into the door…

He didn’t.





Mixed bag


The night the lights went out, almost.


Thousands of miles away the suits are having last minute discussions on whether to shutdown the government or not. I am celebrating a foot of fresh snow.

The lights stayed on. The park will remain open, for now. Xanterra will foot the bill to have the road plowed. Government buildings will remain closed. This could be a great weekend in the park. Just the locals (bison, elk, moose, foxes, coyotes and us) and fresh powder covering up the landscape. Let’s see what the morning has in store…

“I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”

Thomas Jefferson


On the Move

“I assended to the high Country and from an eminance I had a view of the plains for a great distance. From this eminance I had a view of a greater number of buffalow than I had ever seen before at one time. I must have seen near 20,000 of those animals feeding on this plain.”

Meriwether Lewis

That was in 1806. By that time the bison were already in decline in the East. Within 75 years they were driven to extinction. 30 million bison may have roamed the prairies 200 years ago. That habitat is gone and has been replaced by farm land and urban environments.

Public domain photograph from the 1870s of a pile of American bison skulls waiting to be ground for fertilizer.

It is estimated that about 5000 bison currently roam Yellowstone National Park. Every year hundreds of bison are culled from the park (slaughtered, out of public sight) or killed by hunters, when the bison migrate out of the park during winter time in search of food. What a shame. We can’t provide enough space for a species that is considered an American icon?

By court order the National Park Service has been put into a tight spot. The State of Montana sued the Park in 1995 to control the number of bison wandering across park boundaries. The state claimed bison may transfer brucellosis to cows. Not a single incidence of such a transfer has been documented. To the contrary, it was non-native domestic cattle that gave bison initially. The claim also meant, that bison could not simply be captured and transferred. They had to be killed. Since 2000 more than 5000 bison have been eliminated from the Park based on that agreement.

Since most of this happens away from public view, this goes on mostly unnoticed. Advocates, locals, reporters, rangers, and politicians know about it. I assume, most visitors of the Park do not.

The bison is the one and only species depicted on the emblem of the National Park Service. Bison, grizzlies, and geysers are the main draw of Yellowstone National Park. Yet, in the surrounding communities there is little love for this iconic animal. Maybe national parks are just zoos with a little larger enclosure. Let’s keep the wildlife inside! Outside? Not in my backyard.

Go figure.


One Man's Paradise

Good Morning – № 2

When the temperatures drop into the teens overnight we are waking up to spectacular mornings: Mist in the valley, hoar frost on the trees. Together with bison grazing snow covered meadows and you get the proverbial Yellowstone winter scene.


“The morning is in itself a miracle, the chance to be able to live life – is the greatest gift we have. The morning is a reminder of that, every day.”

J.R. Rim