Thanks to Yellowstone National Park visitor Vanessa Jishikawa, we have a first-person view (from the safety of her car) of this immense bison herd thundering past.
Vanessa’s footage, shot earlier this week in the park, offers quite a lot. For starters, she does an excellent job of capturing the bison herd as they race down the dusty Yellowstone hillside. Then, as they make their way toward her vehicle, we see that this is quite the healthy herd with a lot of adorable baby reds.
Bison calves, affectionately called red dogs, are born later into April and through May. And within mere hours of their birth, these little ones can keep up with the adults in the herd. It is truly remarkable:
“This was SO amazing to see in person,” Vanessa Jishikawa recalls of her incredible Yellowstone capture. “The bison literally shook the bridge, so I was trying to hold my phone really still [because] the car was shaking!”
As the herd thunders by, the sound of their hooves clacking on the pavement takes over. The bridge begins to wobble, then shake vigorously as at least 100 bison gallop by. Grunts of protective mothers pepper the display, before a lone mother and calf pair pull up the rear. How fantastic was that?
The ancient bison herds of Yellowstone National Park
The bison of Yellowstone are remarkable for many reasons. But an oft-toted fact by the Dept. of the Interior (DOI) takes the cake. Or it did at one time, rather.
As they state: “Yellowstone National Park is the only place in the U.S. where bison have continuously lived since prehistoric times.”
This means that the bison herds of America’s first national park are the only U.S. bison free of cattle genes. The species was so near the brink of extinction by the late 19th century that early American conservationists had to interbreed bison with domestic cattle to keep them from completely dying out.
In other words, Yellowstone is the only place in America where pure descendants of ancient bison roam. Or so we thought.
In 2022, Texas A&M researchers published the “strongest evidence yet” that domestic cattle DNA is present in all living North American bison, regardless of location.
“This comparative study clearly documents that the people responsible for saving the bison from extinction in the late 1800s are also responsible for introducing cattle genetics into this species,” said the study’s co-lead, Dr. James Derr.
“This includes Yellowstone National Park, as well as Elk Island National Park in Canada,” adds Sam Stroupe, first author of the study and a Ph.D. student in Derr’s lab, “which were thought to be free of cattle introgression based on previous genetic studies.”
For more on this, see our full coverage of the Bison DNA findings here.