On our trip from Old Faithful to Mammoth Springs, as we got near Mammoth Hot Springs, we came upon quite a scene that illustrates the harshness of the Yellowstone winter, as well as the determination that the wildlife must have to survive these conditions. I want to say that today’s post is not so much about photography (the images are not very good, as I will explain in a moment) as it is about survival in the brutal winter conditions of Yellowstone.
About a half-hour from Mammoth, we rounded a corner and saw this bison struggling through the deep snow, in his quest to find a food source. As he fought to swing each leg forward, you could feel the difficulty he was having pressing through the belly-high snow. Since he was heading directly toward the road (and us), we did not get out of the snowcoach even though he was about 50 yards away from us. Instead, we opened the doors of the snowcoach and watched/photographed for a moment, while we sat inside. After a few quick photos, we closed the door and resumed our travel, trying our best not to create any undue stress on him.
Here is a sequence of this guy’s struggle to plow through the deep snow. Unfortunately, most of these images are “soft” (unsharp) … the sun was hidden by clouds and was falling behind the mountains, so it was getting quite dark outside. Shooting conditions were essentially horrible … a high ISO was mandatory, handholding a telephoto lens/teleconvertor, stuck seated inside a snowcoach, photographing a dark animal that is moving … so getting tack-sharp images was nearly unattainable. But I want you to disregard the quality of the images and focus on the devastating story of this animal’s quest for survival, which is the focal point of this post. I’ll save the “pretty” pictures for another post. Here goes:
And the sad thing about it … if this bison makes it to the road and out of the park, it is subject to extermination (to prevent potential spreading of Brucellosis to nearby ranchers’ cattle). Just doesn’t seem fair!