"There is nothing so American as our national parks. The scenery and wildlife are native. The fundamental idea behind the parks is native. It is, in brief, that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us. The parks stand as the outward symbol of this great human principle." Franklin D. Roosevelt

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Ruffians

Robyn, Andrea & Judy
In Our New Taco Tuesday Aprons and Hats

After a 14 hour drive from Minnesota I finally made it back to Yellowstone on Sunday evening. I had a challenging drive through North Dakota and made the decision that I would take 3 feet of Yellowstone snow over 3 inches of blowing North Dakota snow. My only other driving challenge came just north of Gardiner when I was met by a ranger stopping traffic by Corwin Springs. They were herding a herd of bison north so that they could cross the bridge and be back on the west side of the river. I decided not to wait so I took the back way into Gardiner, a dirt road west of the river. I passed numerous bison along the way: a couple young ones tussling and pushing each other, a cow who was at a strong sprint trying to catch up with a group of bison, as well as some that just lumbered north.

A total of 300 bison were rounded up into a fenced area at Stephens Creek the next day after numerous attempts to get them back into the Park failed. Harsh winter conditions are causing a larger number of the bison to leave the Park in search of food. Those testing positive for exposure to brucellosis will be sent to slaughter. What is the fate of the young ruffians that I saw? or the running cow? A long lingering death by starvation in the Park? or a kill box and a rifle? It has been no secret that I love and admire the bison and either ending is heartbreaking. Until they can reach those greener pastures north of the Park this will be the story every harsh winter.

Yes, the winter has been harsh. There has been so much snow and now it is the cold. It has been -18 degrees in the mornings lately (-40 in West Yellowstone, -35 at Lake, and -32 near Tower). I have been dealing with frozen water pipes and a frozen drain. Connie had her pipes freeze last night and found her bedroom full of water when she awoke. We've been keeping the fire stoked here at the store and we find ourselves warming by it throughout the day. It is a cold that we just can't seem to shake. The next couple of days are to be warmer (NOAA is forecasting snow/rain for Saturday!) but the temps will plummet again Sunday. I'm beginning to long for summer. I have to admit that the terraces are beautiful with all of the snow. The cold temps really make them steam.