By Stephany Seay, Media Coordinator
Summer is a great time to be a buffalo in Yellowstone country.
The grass is tall, lush, and plentiful. The herds are all gathered in the Lamar and Hayden Valleys in enormous family reunions, living the good life.
The buffalo rut — mating season — is in full swing. The bellows of huge bulls can be heard throughout the valley, like the roars of dragons. They kick up great clouds of dust as they attempt to show the females and would-be challenger bulls that they are worthy to be chosen as a mate.
Once a bull is accepted by a cow as her partner he will stay by her side for the duration of the rut, defending against any other bull who dares come close. Bull buffalo are fierce competitors, challenging one another by locking horns, sparring, and heaving their massive weight back and forth. Such sparring matches are relatively rare, as bulls will urinate in a wallow and then roll in it, and another bull can detect the fat and muscle content to determine whether it’s a good idea to engage in battle.
While such sparring does sometimes result in injuries, fatalities are rare. The victor earns the chance to ask for a female’s acceptance to be his mate. It is in this way that the strongest genes are passed on, generation to generation.
This is also a time when the little red calves who we spend so much time with in the spring start to change color from their baby red to the more familiar dark, chocolate brown of juvenile and adult buffalo.
There is a strong energy of celebration among the buffalo at this time. It is a powerful time to be in their presence, and a very good time to give them a lot of space!
A few of us have had opportunities to go visit with our buffalo relatives in the past few weeks, and it is such a pleasure to see them at peace, doing things on their terms. Knowing the buffalo the way we do, we understand their body language and energy, which is so different at this time of year.
If you have the opportunity to visit Yellowstone during the rut, enjoy their presence from a safe distance — especially the bulls. Those big boys have one thing, and one thing only on their minds. Anyone who gets in the way of that is considered a challenge.
If you do make it to Yellowstone this summer, please visit BFC! We have constant presence inside Yellowstone with our summer outreach table where we talk with visitors about what happens to the buffalo during the winter and spring months, when they migrate to lower elevations towards and into Montana.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of visitors are learning about what is taking place and how the livestock industry and the government who serves them are harming our national mammal. So many people are visiting Yellowstone this year, the number of people who will learn about the buffalo is increasing as are our chances of making positive and lasting changes for these gentle giants.
Wild is the Way ~ Roam Free!