Good Shit

Park workers spent a lot of time at the entrance gate to Teddy Roosevelt National Park warning me about the rattlesnakes. Statistics of encounter probabilities suggest they should definitely mention the other, more probable park hazard: buffalo shit.

Ah yes, but it’s royal shit since buffalos were brought back from near extinction and have more liberties and freedoms in the park than visitors.

Number of rattlesnakes I’ve seen in my five days here so far? Zero.

Number of buffalo pies? Too many to count. I rest my case.

Last night a large herd wandered through the campground, and I mean through everything: individual sites, the roads, around the pit toilets, loitering around the drinking water tap, blocking doors on RVs, you name it. All of us had to leave our tents and find places at a safe distance to observe this amazing interaction. No vehicles could move, and in essence, this heard of probably 60 buffalo shut down the camp for close to an hour.

Common thing here, and there are stories of campers injured by getting too close or spooking the herd (my observation is you’d have to do something unusual to spook them; seemingly so docile and indifferent to us around them). In one case, a spooked buffalo caught a tent line and dragged the poor camper inside to what seemed to them like forever but probably only seconds. He escaped with scrapes and bruises, and of course, a story to tell the rest of his life.

No one complained. Fascinating to watch up close these large plains beasts meander around, seemingly unaware there were people or roads or cars. Didn’t matter: they roamed wherever they liked.

There’s definitely some intentional behaviors in the herd, notably the snorting of bellowing of the males, esp. the larger ones. Hard to say whether this is a reminder to other males, instructions to the herd, who knows.

The big ones also love to paw in the dirt then fall over and roll around in the dirt. Repeatedly. Have some video of this going up on the YouTube channel when I can get through the 100+ videos I’ve taken so far!

Yesterday on my earlier drive out of the North unit to spend the day exploring the South unit, I encountered the morning herd commute across the road from the campground to the entrance. In one spot, a particular majestic large male stood stock still in the middle of the two-lane highway, blocking any car from going by for at least five minutes. I was at the front of the line about 15’ from him and enjoyed watching him. He could care less about us and who knows what was going through his mind. Plans for the day? That svelte female buffalo he’d been flirting with? Which meadow to have breakfast in?

Eventually he wandered off the road at a snail’s pace. Luckily, it was a lone male and not the herd in the road! Not uncommon to be stuck waiting for a going-nowhere-in-a-hurry herd to clear the road.

Stay tuned for the extended video on my YouTube channel of the park and lots of buffalo coverage.

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