Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Buffalo Sign

In the old westerns, an indian scout would drop to his knees and search the dirt closely for sign of the animal or enemy he was searching for. Well, with buffalo (American Bison) it hardly takes that much effort. For one thing they're big and black and stand out well for miles across the valley. But even when they're not in sight, they leave evidence, and I'm not just talking about those cow-patties they leave.

In places were buffalo are common, hardly a tree exists without a bright yellow bare patch on its trunk. I've seen them do the deed a number of times, Those horns on their head are for more than self-defence. They can strip the bark off a tree, shredding it into strips for a light snack. And they don't have a sense of environmental ethics either. Quite a number of the trees, after a couple of encounters with those horns, are completely girdled, and die.

Another common sign of buffalo presence, at least here in Hayden Valley in Yellowstone, is a place they ford the Yellowstone River. At a few places, you can see a dozen dirt tracks that go down to the river and come up on the other side. Watching them cross, you get one more sense of their relentless presence. They walk down into the water until it nearly covers them, swimming a little in the middle, and then walking out on the other side, as if nothing as trivial as a river would slow them down.

And of course, if a river won't phase them, certainly a road full of traffic is nothing to disturb them. They cross when they please, and vehicles just wait.

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