Tuesday, July 9, 2013

National Bison Range

July 8, 2013 Monday
I can now scratch one more item off my bucket list. I visited the National Bison Range in Montana. 
Bison Conservation
All it takes is the sight of red calves dotting the early spring landscape to understand that the Fish and Wildlife Service mission “for future generations” does not just refer to people.

I arrived at the National Bison Range on an overcast drizzly morning. My photo expectations were pretty low. I stopped at the visitor center and retrieved a map of the refuge. On the first loop I found a couple of small deer. I was able to get close enough to use my faster 180mm lens in the low light. I then started the drive up the mountain to the highest point on the road at 4,700 feet. The road was a narrow gravel road only wide enough for one car with occasional pull outs. There were no side rails. On the way up the clouds began to part and the sun would come out from behind the clouds now and then. The views on the way up and at the summit were very nice, but I only saw one Pronghorn Antelope and couple of solitary bison. During my descent I was beginning to wonder if they put the wildlife away during the day. When I reached the flats I found a few more Pronghorn. Just when I was about to give up on finding any bison I saw a couple of cars stopped on the road ahead. I approached slowly and found myself surrounded by a large herd of bison. Many were laying down resting. Some were standing about and a few mothers were nursing their young. I must have sat there for an hour as other cars came and went. I was just enjoying being in the presence of such power and beauty. As I was sitting there the clouds began to gather again and then the lightning and thunder started. The bison did not seem to be bothered. Then it started to hail. The hail size was about that of half a marble, but it came down so fast and furious I could hardly see the bison. The sound of the hail on my truck was so loud I failed to hear the thunder of hoofs as the bison all got up at once and began to run. I was in the middle of a stampede. IT WAS AWESOME!!!!! It all lasted for only about 10 minutes if that. The hail stopped and the bison stopped running about a half mile away. Do to the density of the hail I did not really get good shots of the stampede, but I will remember this adventure for the rest of my life.

Here We Go
I found this big male pronghorn as I began my journey to the summit
I don't know why she felt she had to stick her tongue out at me
Elk Antlers
Single Bison watching the Flathead River
The view looking west as I approached the summit
View of the Mission Valley and Mission Mountains from the summit
I found a couple of Red-shafted Northern Flickers near the summit
Western Meadowlark
Yellow-headed blackbird
The clouds are forming again
What a big boy
This must be the nursery
Dinner Time
I think I have the cutest baby
Portrait of a proud legend 
Taking a dust bath to try to get rid of insects
When the hail started the bison all got up at once and started running. It was a stampede. YIPES!!!
There they go running away in the hail
Hail Stones covered the ground.
The hail stopped and the bison stopped about a half mile away

1 comment:

  1. Don't ya just love the Mission Mountains? I love these photos, Judy.