We encounter a bison or two.

At Old Faithful, they have a boardwalk that goes all around the geyser area. As they explain on the signs, this is because there are always new geysers forming and the boardwalk keeps the tourists from breaking through the crust and being boiled alive (How about some boiled tourist for din-din? Kind of tastes like boiled chicken...)! In Yellowstone, the animals are truly wild. There are no fences; so, when the weather turns cold and the animals want to keep warm, they head for the geysers. Since the Old Faithful area is one of the most active geothermal areas in the park, it stands to reason that there are lots of animals there (besides the tourists, that is). Also, since there is no hunting in the park, the animals are not afraid of humans. At Old Faithful, the most plentiful animal was tatanka, which is an Indian word for bison (did you see the movie "Dances with Wolves" with Kevin Costner?). At the Old Faithful main building they show a video of a tourist getting tossed into a tree by a tatanka. The video says that 60-some-odd tourists have been gored by tatankas. All around the geyser area are signs warning tourists about the tatanka. So what was this guy thinking when he walked up to the massive tatanka which was goring a tree? Bison!Notice the tree in the foreground with all the bark missing? Da! This bison hopped on the boardwalk and followed the nut in the red hat for a hundred feet or so. Then the tatanka got off and joined a herd off to the left of this picture. In the herd was an old gray bull, who actually charged at this tourist/dummy. In the picture below, you can see the tatanka in the first picture and the old gray bull. If you look closely, you can see where the old gray bull is pawing the ground. He was snorting pretty loudly. My wife had the video going. I thought for sure we had some tape for the News at Five, but the gray bull stopped about 20 feet from the boardwalk. Would you believe that this tourist/nut just stood there and watched, laughing? Tatanka bulls weigh upwards of 2,000 pounds and can run at 35 miles an hour. They are about the size of a small pickup truck. What chance did Mr. Red Cap think he had against something like that? No wonder there are so many gorings...

Old bison set to charge

We saw lots of tatanka roaming free all over Yellowstone. They are, by far, the most plentiful wild animal in Yellowstone. Did you know that the U. S. Government almost completely exterminated the bison? Its true! As an Indian control measure, the U.S. Government hired "buffalo hunters" to just kill as many bison as they could. The dead bison were just left to rot where they were shot - there was no requirement or attempt to use the meat for food. Another sordid event from our past. Today we know better and something like that could never happen again in America - right?

The tatanka are not just at Old Faithful. You see them everywhere in the park. I took the picture below at the "Grand Canyon Sleeping Tatankaof the Yellowstone" area. This bull was sleeping not ten feet from the parking lot! We went down the walk to see the falls and, when we came back, he was till there. I don't know what we would have done if he had decided to curl up around our little Isuzu Trooper!

High resolution (252K) TATANKA vs tourist

High resolution (204K) Old Tatanka

High resolution (1,534K) Sleeping Tatanka

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Last Updated 4 July 2004 by Art O'Connor