Nicole, the wonderful coordinator of the Yosemite Association Museum Store in Yosemite Valley, requested an update about bison and I'm happy to oblige. First, never call them buffalo in Yellowstone as you'll immediately be corrected by anybody in your vicinity. Bison and buffalo belong to the same family (Bovidae), but only the Asian Water Buffalo and African Buffalo can accurately claim the buffalo title.
Yellowstone has a healthy population today of about 4,700, yet in 1886 the herd had dwindled to roughly 50 animals before the U.S. Army saved the day. The park is the only place in the lower 48 states where a continous population of bison has persisted since prehistoric times.
Bison are big animals and can weigh up to 2,000 lbs and stand 6 feet tall. One of my favorite moments on the wolf course was watching a wolf run through a bison herd and playfully banter with a large bison--but keeping his distance. Bison are not to be messed with.
Last week I watched several herds in the snow-covered whiteness of Lamar Valley search for food. The big animal first shakes his big head in the snow, making a sort of bison snow angel. When his head emerges, he has a white beard. Next, he paws through the bottom layer trying to uncover vegetation. Not an easy winter existence.
On my morning drive to work, I usually see a herd foraging near the Gardiner River, or huddling near the thermals in Mammoth. Last week a small group gathered in the football field at the school in Gardiner.
PS: Say hi to Nicole next time you're in Yosemite and check out the wonderful Native American handcrafts at her store. Beware--she's good at selling stuff!