Montana Outdoors

July 8, 2018

A visit to the National Bison Range

Filed under: Animals, Bison — Tags: , , — montucky @ 6:24 pm

Briefly stated, the National Bison Range is a refuge that was established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt for the conservation of the American Bison. It essentially consists of a small mountain that is a spur of the Mission Mountains, 18,800 acres (about 29 square miles) in size and ranges in elevation from 2,585 to 4,885 feet and it’s where a herd of bison (presently about 350) now range freely under reasonably natural conditions. Visitors can drive through it on a loop road about 20 miles long which takes them from the headquarters, up and over the crest of the mountain and back down the other side, returning to the headquarters. (For anyone interested in more information about the Bison Range, here is a link to the National Bison range website.)

National Bison Range

Looking west from where the road starts up the mountain

National Bison Range

Looking back down the road from about half way to the top

National Bison Range

Looking southwest from the top

National Bison Range

Looking north from the top at the Mission Mountain Range in the background. Sorry about the picture quality, but we are now receiving smoke from the fires burning in Utah and Colorado and including a little from the northern California fire.

American Bison

Cow and calf

American Bison

American Bison calf

Bison calf

American Bison

American Bison

This is a huge bull grazing right beside the road. Other an elephant, he is the biggest animal I’ve ever seen. It was taken at 70mm with a 70-300mm lens: unfortunately I didn’t have time to change to a wide angle lens for a full body shot.

American Bison

A bull taking it easy

American Bison calf

A calf standing in the road about 3 feet from my front bumper

American Bison

The huge bull again

The last photos following were taken of a large bull crossing Mission Creek not far from the headquarters. This is a fast moving stream and I have lots of experience wading them (including this one) but where he crossed it would have taken me off my feet. He didn’t seem to notice the current; of course, he weighs about a ton more than I do.

American Bison

American Bison

American Bison

American Bison

That’s a cloud of dust that he shook off his back as he climbed up the far bank.

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50 Comments »

  1. I really enjoy seeing this majestic looking beast. Reminds me of a primeval animal that lasted through the ice age or something like that. i’d hate to be caught out in the open near a herd though.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Vicki — July 8, 2018 @ 6:31 pm

    • They are incredible animals. At one time, I think about when this range was established, they had been hunted so heavily for their hides and meat that there were only about 100 left. Now they are plentiful on the Bison Range where they keep the population at between 300 and 500 animals. They are present in other parks as well and there are many private ranches that also raise them.

      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by montucky — July 8, 2018 @ 6:48 pm

  2. Such powerful, majestic animals and your images really do them justice!
    On the one hand I can’t help but feel sorry for them for now having to be protected in an area 29sqm big when they used to roam a continent, and on the other I am thankful that at least they still have that bit of space allocated to them…

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by de Wets Wild — July 8, 2018 @ 8:16 pm

    • There’s really no place they could roam free on this continent any more. Population increases and development have taken care of that. The mountain wildlife and the mountain wild country are still doing well but only because the mountains are so steep and inaccessible that so far development has not been possible there. It’s sad to see what we have done to the natural world and even sadder to see what the politicians are trying to do to what hasn’t been destroyed already. It’s as if our species doesn’t even realize that it the Earth that gives us life and natural balance is essential for that to continue. If what has happened over the last hundred years continues at the same rate (and the rate is accelerating, not staying the same) I’m afraid it’s our species that will be facing extinction; and I’ve personally seen over seventy of the past hundred years for myself and remember what it was like and what the changes have been.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — July 8, 2018 @ 8:40 pm

      • If history has taught us anything it is that humans seldom wakes up in time…

        Like

        Comment by de Wets Wild — July 9, 2018 @ 3:54 am

  3. Nice to see these apparently healthy animals. When we were in Glacier Park several years ago, we saw a fair number of Bison along Highway 2 between Browning and East Glacier.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Malcolm R. Campbell — July 8, 2018 @ 10:47 pm

    • There are quite a few ranchers now raising bison and their meat is on quite a few menus around the state. Sadly, that still does not make them a recovered species, and on the ranches the blood lines will probably be lost.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 9, 2018 @ 7:47 am

  4. Canada boasts quite a few bison now too. An interesting, if not a disturbing, tidbit: Regina, where I live, used to be called Pile-O-Bones, because of the huge piles of bison bones that the hunters stacked up on the prairies. I’m glad the killing spree was stopped before the bisons’ extinction.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Candice — July 8, 2018 @ 10:52 pm

    • The killing stopped barely before extinction, but the days of bison roaming free are over.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — July 9, 2018 @ 7:48 am

  5. Nice! Good they survived as a species.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by bentehaarstad — July 9, 2018 @ 3:33 am

    • They did survive, but the days of their being a natural wild creature did not.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 9, 2018 @ 7:49 am

  6. Different scenery of course, but this reminds me of our time at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and going out into the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge where the bison roam freely.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — July 9, 2018 @ 6:25 am

    • It’s good to know that there are other refuges where they are doing well so they will not be forgotten.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 9, 2018 @ 7:51 am

  7. At first I couldn’t quite identify why these look so different from those I saw on the tallgrass prairie in Kansas. Then, I realized that the ones I saw in autumn had heavy coats of fur. The big bull you’ve shown here is a good example of the shedding process. I think the calves are so cute. I’ve never been around at the right time to see them, but a friend posted a couple of videos that show how playful they can be, romping around the grasslands.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by shoreacres — July 9, 2018 @ 7:07 am

    • It’s late enough in summer now that they have done most of their shedding. It’s quite a sight; they look like a moving pile of rags. Yes, the calves are really cute. It’s hard to imagine them growing to such a bulk. It must have been quite a sight to see them living wild in huge herds on the prairies!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 9, 2018 @ 7:55 am

  8. Beautiful country! Love the pictures of the bison.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by wordsfromanneli — July 9, 2018 @ 11:41 am

    • It’s enjoyable to see them and especially if you get to see them up close. They can be unpredictable, so anyone who gets out of a vehicle to get close is inviting big trouble.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — July 9, 2018 @ 4:35 pm

  9. They’re amazing animals. I’d love to meet one in person some day. Lately I’ve been hearing about people getting close enough to be gored by them. I’m not sure why anyone would do that but I guess people do.
    The landscapes are beautiful too!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by New Hampshire Garden Solutions — July 9, 2018 @ 3:26 pm

    • They are indeed awesome. Even though these are used to seeing people in vehicles, approaching them on foot is foolhardy. They are still wild and huge animals and like all wild animals getting inside their personal space can spell disaster. I’ve not heard of them creating any problems with vehicles, other than sometimes stopping traffic to stroll across a road. Yes, the range itself is very pretty and I was happy to see that this year the vegetation was lush and healthy. It’s an excellent view of the Mission Mountains on a clear day. There are also deer, elk, Bighorn Sheep, cougars and coyotes living on the range. I’ve seen bears there only once.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — July 9, 2018 @ 4:40 pm

  10. Beautiful photos – the bison and the view!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by M.B. Henry — July 9, 2018 @ 3:43 pm

    • It’s well worth the time to drive through it if you ever get close. It’s only about 40 miles from my house, so I visit once or twice every year. I know it can’t be done, but I’d just love to hike the entire mountain ridge across the range (it would provide great views on all sides and I bet I could get a look at some of the huge bull elk in the timbered areas), and would also like to ride the 20 mile loop on horseback.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — July 9, 2018 @ 4:44 pm

  11. Thanks for the information about this Bison Range. Here is an interesting story about our Alberta bison: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/conservationists-work-to-reinvigorate-wild-bison-population-incanada/article34181358/

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Margy — July 9, 2018 @ 8:06 pm

    • Thanks so much for that link! It’s a fascinating and very well written story!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 9, 2018 @ 10:09 pm

  12. Wow, I would love to take that loop drive. Magnificent animals but, yes, sad that we have driven them close to extinction. Humankind’s greed is maddening and tragic.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Candace — July 9, 2018 @ 10:47 pm

    • I know you would enjoy it. They have recorded over 211 species of birds on the Range too.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — July 9, 2018 @ 11:03 pm

  13. Magnificent beasts!

    In a park here in Ohio there’s a small herd of Buffalo. Many people here don’t realize that Buffalo used to be native as far east as Ohio and Kentucky. Of course they didn’t last long when the hunters and then the farmers came in good numbers. Supposedly the last one here was shot dead in 1802, a year before Ohio became a state.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Watching Seasons — July 11, 2018 @ 3:53 pm

    • They sure are! They were pushed further west as “civilization” advanced I guess. By 1908 there were only a hundred left, and this Bison Range was established to preserve them and perhaps increase their numbers (which it did). I’m glad they are still living in preserves and (now in large numbers on ranches) but sad that they can never roam free again on the prairies as they once did.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 11, 2018 @ 4:48 pm

  14. Awesome captures, thank you for sharing! I was excited to see the American Bison out west two summers ago, my goodness they are huge!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by bayphotosbydonna — July 11, 2018 @ 7:10 pm

    • Yes, they are huge, and the largest bull was astronomical in size. It’s easy to tell who is the boss of that herd!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — July 11, 2018 @ 10:19 pm

  15. Two questions. In that picture titled looking southwest from the top is that towards your “Happy hiking grounds”? Do I see Baldy Mt. in the distance? And from what I know of calves that picture of the one in front of your jeep looks very young. When do they calve? Also as a side note once when I was visiting home and at my Dad’s museum there was a very old lady visiting the old one room school hous

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Ron — July 11, 2018 @ 9:05 pm

    • That may be the top of Baldy at the horizon beyond a small range of mountains, but I think Baldy may be a little further north. Not sure. I think the calf is probably about two months old.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 11, 2018 @ 10:25 pm

  16. Sorry but the computer is acting crazy and didn’t let me finish. Visiting the old one room school house which came from the lower western Flathead valley. She told of when she went to school there and back then the bison which were raised by the Allard family roamed freely in that area. One day they weren’t able to go out for lunch time as the bison had roamed into the school yard. They later moved on and things returned back to normal.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Ron — July 11, 2018 @ 9:14 pm

    • That’s a great story! Things were a lot different in those days. I don’t remember them running freely when I was a kid, but we didn’t get into the Mission Valley too often. I do remember when we drove past the range on Hwy 200 it was always exciting to see them when they were on the south slope of the range.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 11, 2018 @ 10:30 pm

  17. Wonderful images! That bull is a handsome fella. Love the way he shakes himself as he exits the water. How lovely to be so close to the calf. Obviously the mother wasn’t too perturbed …

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Julie@frogpondfarm — July 13, 2018 @ 10:18 pm

    • It seems strange, but the bison just seemed to ignore the people, probably because they have seen so many, and everyone is required to stay in their vehicles.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — July 13, 2018 @ 10:33 pm

  18. Engaging photos, Terry…such a beautiful country and especially compelling “natural attraction” in those bison. Reminds me a bit of being out on Antelope Island in Utah with the bison so close….

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by seekraz — July 15, 2018 @ 5:22 pm

    • It’s well worth the drive. Wish the sky had been clear though.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 15, 2018 @ 7:04 pm

  19. Oh you’re pictures are amazing! I loooove visiting the bison range! Hope you had fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Mariah's Madness — July 15, 2018 @ 5:28 pm

    • Thanks! Yes, it wasn’t too busy and the bison were close to the road. I think the elk and sheep were snoozing in the timber though.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 15, 2018 @ 7:07 pm

      • That tends to happen! The best times to go are early in the morning or later at night… You see soooo much more!

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Mariah's Madness — July 16, 2018 @ 9:36 am

        • Yes, those are always the best times for seeing wildlife. Most like to stay in the shade during the heat of the day.

          Like

          Comment by montucky — July 16, 2018 @ 10:25 pm

  20. Hi Montucky, Outstanding photographs of the Bison. I enjoy watching the little calves and mother buffalo together. The big bulls are interesting but intimidating when one has to wait for all to cross a road. I have seen Bison in Yellowstone and also at Custer State Park in South Dakota where there is a large herd. Have a super good coming week. My blog is in limbo since I apparently ran out of WordPress allowed space. We shall see what happens – I am trying to erase pictures and posts to make room but I don’t know if that will help of if it is just tough luck for the free blog. Since I do not make $ I don’t want to pay. I have spent 8 years at this and want to continue.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by wildlifewatcher — July 15, 2018 @ 5:43 pm

    • I guessed that would happen when I started my blog to, so what I do is upload my photos to Flickr (which is free) and from there I can copy an “embed code” to WordPress for each picture. My whole blog takes up hardly any space on WordPress and the photos on Flickr get more views than on the blog.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 15, 2018 @ 7:12 pm

  21. I am speechless when seeing Your photos. I felt like being in the middle of those sceneries, which I have imagined in my mind in the books of Zane Gray. Thank You.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Sartenada — July 17, 2018 @ 12:22 am

    • The range is a small ridge from the mountains that spans almost across a small prairie bordered on both sides by tall mountains. It’s a fairly natural habitat for the bison as well as other kinds of wildlife.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 17, 2018 @ 3:27 pm


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