I was on vacation doing a story on the Plains Indians, the Sioux, the Arapaho, Hopi, and the Cheyenne and traveling through the West  -  It was at Yellowstone National Park,  and I got to see the Bison up close and I soon discovered a  magnificent animal that is unique and part of cultures all over the world.  It’s really three genetically related animals but totally different in character and demeanor.

The American Bison is part of our American Heritage.  It was the lifeblood of the native American tribes, the American Bison, almost wasted by our government to extinction in an effort to eradicate the tribes.  Ignorance and prejudice thought “ You kill the food supply, you kill the Indians food supply”.   A black mark on the United States of America

My wife Dolly and I according to plan flew to Denver and picked up our rental car.  I decided we both wanted our vacation a two week semi-crosse country trip during the summer, mixing some writing about the first Americans, and relaxation.  We were just shy of a mile from the geyser, Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.   Well, we were close but in traffic with hundreds of others vacationers who all had the same idea.

As we cruised through at 2 MPH in traffic in the park we saw deer, elk, moose, and bison.  The wildlife that visitors get to see the most in Yellowstone.   There are also  are bears, wolves, badgers, otters, foxes,  and birds. Gray wolves were restored in 1995; more than 370 live in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.  The wolves, Wolverine and Lynx live in the park and are some of the rarest mammals to spot.

And on the side of the road about 50-60 yards away, there were Bison chowing down on a nice beautiful day.  A few cars stopped to take pictures.  We saw that most of the tourists observed the signs and didn’t get closer than the rules permitted.  They stayed on the roadside and the Bison basically ignore them.  At 2000 plus pounds eating and fattening for the winter is essential for these large herbivores. 

Kids are inquisitive, hearing some of the adults calling them Bison and the others calling them Buffalo, the question surfaced.  “ What’s the difference between a Buffalo and a Bison”.   I replied to the kid next to me  that the main difference is where they live.   The difference between a Buffalo and a Bison is demographic, in other words where they live in three parts of the world and each is slightly different.

In the US, both of the names are commonly used. We know what folks mean when they say Bison and Buffalo.  The three members of the specie are structurally built the same as cows or bovine mammals. But technically the US animal is termed  “The American Bison”.

Like thirty plus other cars on the side of the road, we pulled over to see the herd.  It was a nice summer day and comfortable temperatures.   A very large, obvious dominant loner bull, they do seem to get a touch bigger as you get closer, was just sitting, off to the side, chewing cud like a cow,  closer to us. 

So we stopped, no rush, he wasn’t going anywhere, and I took my time, dragged out the big lens, a 400 mm monster with a slide plate adapter and heavy pod and trekked through the folks to get a better shot.   Before I got fifty feet, or the lens cap off, never opened the tripod, nor mounted the camera,  I thought I saw something... movement behind the bull.  
It had two legs, heads and arms, and a camera.  I called him Mr. Stupid.

Then said Mr. Stupid kicked the bull in the buttocks and they have large buttocks.  Faster then I can type this, the bull spun around and you would be surprised how fast a “ Quiet 2000 lb.  bull” was up on all fours and staring at the fellow.  He was annoyed, ready to make a doormat of the photographer, and he nailed him, got him, good for the bull, bad for the wannabe  photographer. 

The bull had other ideas, maybe he was camera shy, possibly thought the lens was a rifle barrel, or he just wasn’t interested in  a modeling career.  He trashed ( butted) the man three times, the last planting him in the tree, under where the bull had been quietly resting.  The third hit was with enough force to throw him vertical  off the ground.  It looked like an act from the Circ Du Soliel.

The gentleman was launched,  hanging in the tree, must have wanted a picture of the bull standing up. There was screaming and yelling,  people running and I was in the wrong place with large equipment.  Just too crowded.  I also knew there would be rescue vehicles, blocked traffic, a helicopter and hours of delays.

So I beat it to the car, thirty years doing accident pictures and this wasn’t going to get me a Pulitzer, I shot enough gore over the years and I had no interest in making the six  o’lock news.  I was hundreds of miles from any really good connections.  Today the cell phones do a lot better.  I can only imagine one of three or four things: 

But first the photographer...
a)  He wanted a picture of the bull standing up and thought they were domesticated... and bred for publication     
b)  He had a death wish and trying to complete his own prophesy
c)  He was drinking on the job, or stupid pills
d)  He was looking to make it into the Professional Moron Association  (PMA)

Soon, one of the Rangers who keep an eye on the tourists, they know the animals, must have seen or heard the commotion  showed up and I heard some yelling, directed to the cameraman, who was hung in the tree, probably the secondary screams from the crowd.  They managed to get the bull to leave with reluctance. 

The bull did nothing wrong, he did nothing aggressive, this is just stupidity...on behalf of a moron.
Kick me in the butt and I’ll calmly rip your head off.   And in a way I understood the bulls motivation... at one time there were as many as 30 million Bison on the plains...  Only a couple hundred survived after the great slaughter, of the Bison to starve out the Indians.  Keep reading, many stories here...

Now the rescue,  a stretcher, first aid, assessment and fortunately they had the open area for the chopper.  Lots of bleeding, and a possible couple of broken somethings.  It’s fortunately not a common occurrence, but injuries occur when people think they are at Disney because the place is called a park, and nothing is real, just immagination... or as Disney calls it imagineering.  There are signs and rules all over the place about interaction with the living displays.

Bad thinking, mother nature has lots of rules too and no imagineering.  This is a wild animal preserve to protect the environment, inhabitants, visitors and the interaction between man and beast and most of the time the beasts act better than man.

The protocol:  They had to get the man out of tree, medical treatment and triage assessment, get him to the hospital by air.  The park roads are not highways, the distance to a trauma center, crowded roads and with dumb people (some so stupid they won’t pull over).   A week later,  we were still close to additional parks and places in the area, the local paper town said the man was recovering after some corrective surgery after being transferred to a major trauma center.   

MAN = 0  BISON =3

The real pain may come if the man is charged.  Then when he’s feeling better, he won’t like the fines, the cost of the chopper ride, expenses and those federal tickets the man was going to get, trespassing off the path, annoyance of a protected specie, harm to a protected specie.  There are no mulligans in Park Service tickets, no do-overs, no forgiveness. The only saving grace was he’s from Australia.  The top pictures show an Aussie Feral Water Buffalo.  I wonder if he would kick that bull in the butt.

Again a federal ticket or summons is not a joke, you are not screwing with Mayberry township.  You are violating Federal Law and the there are signs all over the place.  Not obeying the law will get you in trouble, expensive trouble, more so if you live far away.  Even if you are from Canada, as you will read about in the next few paragraphs your butt will be reported to the Canadian Mounted Police and they can extradite you back to the US in chains if necessary, they also protect their resources.

So as a Park Ranger, one must have an equal love of the environment and the animals and you know, you can never educate everyone, and the learning curve only becomes steeper as the world becomes more urban and we tend to get closer to these animals.  

For people who know the rules and break them, whom I have total disdain for, a group I am concerned with could grow in the age of selfie stunts,  the education may have to come in terms of penalties. Stupid people do stupid things.   Even going off the paths which are made of polypropylene so they don’t corrode is dangerous and there are signs and warnings all over the place.  Not just the animals...  

The geysers are hot, scalding, some acidic, some basic, some with chemicals that will change your DNA permanently and grow hair on a bowling ball. Some will melt your sneakers with your feet in them, very acidic or alkali and painful.

Many believe grizzly bears and wolves are Yellowstone’s most dangerous animals but Bison and Elk attacked more than a couple of people in the park every year and were responsible for more injuries, said Yellowstone spokeswoman Amy Bartlett.

In the past years as many as thirty people have met the Bison, or Elk, Moose on unequal terms. just because they look friendly they are not the welcoming committee.


Three defendants from the Canadian group High On Life appeared Thursday, January 19, before US Magistrate Judge Mark Carman at the Yellowstone Justice Center in Mammoth Hot Springs, WY. Two defendants attended the hearing in person and one defendant was on the phone.  Charles Ryker Gamble, Alexey Andriyovych Lyakh, and Justis Cooper Price Brown pleaded guilty to violations in Yellowstone National Park, Zion National Park, Death Valley National Park, and Mesa Verde National Park.

  • They also pleaded guilty to charges for commercial photography without a permit in Zion National Park; 
  • Use of a drone in a closed area, 
  • Riding a bike in wilderness, and commercial photography without a permit in Death Valley National Park; 
  • And the use of a drone in a closed area in Mesa Verde National Park  
  • Had they applied for permits and rules of the road explanations, nothing would have happened.
  • The individuals will serve seven days in jail
  • $2,000.00 in fines, restitution, community service payments paid to Yellowstone Forever, plus fees.
  • They will be on probation for five years which includes being banned from all public lands
  • C. Gamble and A. Lyakh will remove from their social media accounts all photographs and videos taken of public lands 
  • J. Price Brown pleaded guilty to charges in Yellowstone National Park that included disorderly conduct by creating a hazardous condition and foot travel in a thermal area. He agreed to pay over $3,500.00 in fines, restitution, community service payments paid to Yellowstone Forever, and fees. 
  • He too will be on probation for five years.
  • Warrants have been put out for three of the four men that walked out to the hot spring. They're each facing two counts. The US attorney's office in Wyoming says that the maximum penalty for each charge is six months' imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.  So really, stay on the path.