Except for wolves, reintroduced here 20 years ago, nothing has been hunted by man within the bounds of Yellowstone Park since 1872. The upshot of this has been that shy and hard to spot species are now comfortable around people. Consider the buffalo. Our ancestors hunted them right up to a knife’s edge of extinction. They survived thanks to their increasing scarcity, decreasing market, and to hunters turned conservationists like Charles Jesse “Buffalo” Jones, who among other things, introduced Zane Grey (a dentist) to the west, and founded several buffalo ranches to supply zoos around the world.
Buffalo Jones was famous for domesticating buffalo calves, and along with legendary Texas rancher Charles Goodnight, was a pioneer in cross-breeding the hardy buffalo with beef cattle. Legend has it Goodnight called those hybrids “Cattalo”, but the superior marketeer Jones coined the term “Beefalo”. Because these two fellows found a way to make money in buffalo, the critters were ranched if not domesticated, and thereby protected from hunting and hence, extinction.
And today, next to the bears, buffalo rule the roost in Yellowstone. Here’s a snapshot of the mayor of Mammoth Campground strolling down his Main Street.
Speaking of bears, we spotted this one in a meadow about 300 yards from the highway, but it was easy. All you have to do to see wildlife is look for parking lots where they don’t belong … like amid a two-lane road. In such cases the wildlife is more the photographers than the game – the guys with cameras think nothing of running across the highway with nary a left/right glance.
What about big-horn sheep? This guy seemed to be the boss of his herd, and there they were sitting on the side of the road, just like they were on the Park Service payroll. And as shy as Lindsay Lohan.
Bull elk are a bit more private, but some of the cows have become pretty domestic. These came through our campground, and while taking care to avoid The Mayor they didn’t worry about people.
Here’s a shot of the absolute peak of the animal food chain. Think about it: dogs are the most successful parasite of all time. Unlike ticks or tapeworms, dog’s hosts pamper them, spend fortunes on their healthcare, and spend more on doggie dental than our own.
Here’s the fool who’s the dog’s best friend. We’re looking for buffalo chips. I’m trying to not step in them. Pink’s looking for one fresh enough to roll in.