Bison – 1 Alma – Running

I tend to take warnings about large animals seriously. After all, at the very least they have the advantage of speed and momentum, often augmented by hooves and horns or antlers. So when I was reading a guide book about visiting a geology/nature/wildlife park in south-central Kansas, the bit about “if free-roaming bison approach, do not linger but return to your vehicle” gave me a moment’s pause. Bison can sprint at up to 50 miles an hour. I can’t. Maybe hiking was contraindicated.

Anyway, off I went to visit the area. One of my goals was teh Big Basin Prairie Reserve, which was reportedly “off the beaten path” and had nice geology as well as some hiking. And bison. The basin itself is a large sinkhole, eroded into a depression that collects water, with St. Jacob’s Well in the deepest part of the basin (a sinkhole-in-a-sinkhole). The terrain is a nice change from the miles and miles of miles that seem to fill most of Kansas, and the weather was late-spring temperate, so in the 60s with a little breeze. A good day to stretch one’s legs and walk around, looking at native grasses and so on.

I parked at the top of a hill. I had the place to myself, with only a contrail high overhead to show that other people existed. That and the occasional sign as I drove into the preserve. The grasses had started to green up as the days grew longer and the spring rains became summer rains. I got out of my car, stretched, looked around, and started to walk.

And stopped. A dozen or so bison stood below me on the slope. They saw me, and started coming my way. I retreated and considered walking the other direction. The large, dark brown, shaggy, large, curious, large mammals came closer. And closer. It was the photo of a lifetime, if I’d had a camera. Or less sense.

I got back into my car and waited. The buffalo loitered, completely uninterested in allowing me to go hiking through their living room. After ten minutes I got the hint and left for less lively environs.

Did I mention that North American bison are really large when they get close to you? Not “you need to brush your teeth more often” close, but much closer than I was happy with. I think they were related to the yearling buffalo that got ahead of me on the road west from Black Mesa, CO, and refused to get out of the way. We ambled along at two miles an hour for what seemed like miles before we reached a cattle guard and he gave up and got out of the way. The rear end of a yearling buffalo is not scenic, if you’ve ever wondered.

The area looked like this, minus the trees. I hadn’t gotten that far into the basin. Used under Creative Commons Fair Use. From

12 thoughts on “Bison – 1 Alma – Running

  1. Hubby and I took a driving trip through national parks last fall – took advantage of relatively low tourist numbers – and watched more idiots (out of their cars and within charging distance) taking pictures of bison than I really wanted to know existed.

    At one point, we were driving through Yellowstone and all the cars suddenly split to each side of the two-lane road and parked half on the grass shoulder, leaving a wide space between the two rows. Up the row toward us ambled a bison with an injured hump, following the double yellow lines like he was taking a sobriety test.

    The bison’s eyes were level or slightly higher than hubby’s in the driver’s seat, and he looked straight as us as he passed by. That was *far* closer than I ever wanted to be to any wild creature.

  2. I don’t imagine the rear end of a yearling bison is much more scenic than the afterside of a wombow. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • It occupies less of one’s field of vision, but no, it’s not that entertaining. Especially when you need to get somewhere before it closes, and the road is . . . Ah, let’s just say that grading and resurfacing that particular byway were very far down the county and state’s lists of priorities. I had to have the suspension of El Suburrito inspected after that trip.

  3. “But the “authorities” wouldn’t let “wild bison” be where people are”. [Sarcastic Grin]

    I’m remembering a comment by an idiot who wanted pictures of his/her children on the back of a bison. ๐Ÿ˜†

  4. I have pictures of an oryx from a safe distance – out of charge range (about1000m). We kept driving. It’s not only the size, but long horns and an extremely bad attitude. Any large herd animal gets treated with care, and extra eyes on where it intends to go.

  5. In general, very, very few non-predatory animals will take any notice of humans unless the human(s) in question give them a good reason to.

    Problem is, we can’t always be sure what the animal will take as a good reason. Some animals, like bison and African water buffalo, seem to be just plain nasty.

    • Good reason? Food, young, mate, or like both those buffalo, the day ends with “y”.

    • The “Big Five” African game animals are the elephant, rhinoceros, lion, leopard… and Cape buffalo.

      Supposedly, more hunters are killed by Cape buffalo than by the other four, combined.

      The buffalo aren’t just ornery and hard to kill, they’re a lot smarter than most people expect. They’ve been known to stalk and ambush hunting parties.

  6. Water Buffalo in ‘Nam DID have a list of names… just sayin… And they were NOT afraid of helicopters either!!!

  7. Yes the Bison (aka Buffalo) are both magnificent AND terrifying. In 2008 my family went for a trip to Yellowstone, when we got into the airport at Jackson Hole the medium cars were out at the rental joint so they gave us a luxo barge (Toyota Avalon). It was lovely to drive. We were headed up to the north east corner one day from our hotel on lake yellowstone, all was going well until we came to a large open area. As the traffic (ourselves and a couple other vehicles) went to cross it a large group of Bison came across at right angles to the road. we stopped (like there was a choice) and waited. The bison crossed ahead behind and among the vehicles. At least two different ones got close to my (closed !!!) Driver side window. My whole fear was that they were going to spook and I was going to be paying for damage to a rather expensive vehicle. Several times in that trip I saw people get out of vehicles to take pictures of the Bison close up. Surprisingly all of them survived.

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