For my family’s two-day trip to the Old Faithful area, we (along with numerous other tourists) received a stark reminder of the survival of the fittest principle in action. A large grizzly bear took down one of those adorable bison calves in plain sight of unsuspecting park visitors who were leisurely strolling along the boardwalk surrounding Old Faithful.
My parents were ordered off the boardwalk by concerned park rangers as the bison herd fled at full speed across the geyser basin. A few bison followed the grizzly trying to retrieve the calf, but alas it was too late. As a biology major, I am well aware of nature’s food chain thing, and also that grizzly bears need to eat, but I truly don’t need to see a cuddly bison calf get torn apart by a grizzly bear. Can’t the bears stick to whitebark pine nuts?
The next morning, I was on a conference call in my room at the Old Faithful Inn when I heard sirens going off right outside my window. A large intrepid grizzly (possibly the same one who munched on the bison calf the day before) was walking into the hotel parking lot. The park rangers followed in their patrol cars, deploying the sirens to try and scare him away. After about fifteen minutes, he finally ambled off into the basin.
I feel so incredibly lucky to be living and working in a place where I witness magnificent wildlife daily. To be neighbors with grizzly bears is a privilege—as long as they focus on the veggie part of their omnivore diet!
The grisly predator-prey encounter did not seem to affect our appetites, as my family had a delicious dinner at Old Faithful Inn that evening. My dad even had the bison prime rib. My Uncle Jim and Aunt Denise were visiting from New Hampshire, and my parents and brother and his girlfriend made for a full Pratt evening.
On my drive back to Gardiner, I also sighted two coyotes feasting on a winterkill bison. Both looked unbelieving, as if they had hit the jackpot, as wolves or grizzly bears usually claim a fresh carcass.