American Buffalo Traffic Jams: Bison of Yellowstone National Park [55 PICS]

February 28th, 2013 Permalink

Bison (American Buffalo) can weigh up to 2,000 lbs and can sprint or stampede at speeds around 30 – 40 mph. Bison can also jump 6 feet straight up in the air, over fences. They are wild animals in a domesticated setting at Yellowstone National Park, the only free-roaming herds of bison in the United States. There are about 4,000 American Buffalo at Yellowstone and despite the National Park Service warning visitors not to get too close, people get too tempted to capture that awesome photo and instead end up being gored. Yellowstone bison are also famous for ruling the roads, sometimes hip-checking, kicking or charging cars. With males being 2,000 pounds, there’s not much you can do other than wait them out if the bison are blocking the road. This is referred as the bison (or buffalo) traffic jam. Yellowstone National Park is the only place in the U.S. where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times. Here’s a look at the bison of Yellowstone, buffalo traffic jams, and bison attacking cars and people. [55 Photos, 7 Videos]

Yellowstone bison and calf, 2000 pounds of anger when calf hesitated to cross road in traffic

2,000 pounds of anger. The photographer explained, “A bison with its calf. It is staring right at the camera and not too happy about it. She was a lot more upset when the calf hesitated to cross the road because of the traffic.” Yet that doesn’t stop most bison from crossing the road or taking their half out of the middle. They make the rules and buffalo traffic jams as you will see. Photo #1 by Krishna Santhanam

Heart Spring in the Upper Geyser Basin with Castle Geyser and lone bison in the background, Yellowstone National Park buffalo, bison

Heart Spring in the Upper Geyser Basin with Castle Geyser and lone bison in the background. The Yellowstone National Park Service said, “Bison males, called bulls, can weigh upwards of 1,800 pounds. Females (cows) average about 1,000 pounds.” Photo #2 by Diane Renkin / Yellowstone NPS



Bison grazing in snow covered Hayden Valley

Bison grazing in snow covered Hayden Valley. “Despite their slow gait, bison are surprisingly fast for animals that weigh more than half a ton,” wrote NPS. “In winter, they use their large heads like a plow to push aside snow and find winter food. In the park interior where snows are deep, they winter in thermally influenced areas and around the geyser basins. Bison also move to winter range in the northern part of Yellowstone.” Photo #3 by Jim Peaco / Yellowstone National Park Service

Yathin  Bison, Yellowstone

While this little bison is cute, even though bison appear to be docile, slow and unable to move quickly, do not be fooled. “It only takes a running child, barking dog, honking car horn or an approaching person to trigger an animal’s ‘fight or flight’ instinct and being ‘tossed’ or ‘run over’ by 2,000 pounds of stampeding wild animal would not a pleasant experience.” Photo #4 by Yathin

Yellowstone bison grazing through the apocalypse

The photographer called this, “Grazing through the apocalypse.” Photo #5 by Jim Nix

Bison scratching his back at Yellowstone

Bison scratching his back at Yellowstone. Back when millions of buffalo, the informal name for bison, used to roam the grasslands, there would be dusty wallow pits dotting in the grasslands from such behavior. Photo #6 by Mike H

Bison Calf in Yellowstone

Bison calf and geese. Photo #7 by Ron

Hope Bison don't try to hipcheck motorcycles, Yellowstone

As we saw in Incredible Yellowstone Wildlife, bison are often on the roads and frequently bump against vehicles with their hips. Hopefully Bison don’t try to hip-check motorcycles? “Bison crossing in a foggy morning at Hayden Valley.” Photo #8 by rickz

Bison Chases Motorcycle at Yellowstone July 2012. NPS warns not to get to close and that every year visitors get hurt by ignoring that warning. They may appear docile and possibly slow, but bison are agile and quick. NPS said they can reach speeds in excess of 30 mph. Video #1 by MrBillyt442

Coming through, Bison herd, west Yellowstone to Madison Junction Road, Yellowstone National Park

Bison herd, west Yellowstone to Madison Junction Road. You might expect to mostly see buffalo roaming nature at Yellowstone National Park, but there are hundreds of photos of buffalo on the roads, blocking traffic and even “hip-checking” vehicles. To stop tourists who might want to get too close, or even to pet the bison, the Yellowstone National Park visitors center shows footage of unsuspecting tourists being gored and thrown high into the air. Photo #9 by Charles (Chuck) Peterson

Big bison not intimidate by bigger semi on Yellowstone road

Big bison not intimidate by bigger semi. Photo #10 by Ed Sweeney

Two against one, bison blocking traffic is common in Yellowstone and is called Buffalo Jams

“Two Against One.” The photographer wrote, “We very seldom see this kind of activity on the local roads where I live, in southern California. In fact, I can’t remember the last time bison were clogging up the highway and screwing up the commute. In the Hayden Valley, in Yellowstone National Park, it’s surprisingly commonplace. Large numbers of bison (or buffalo) stroll onto the road, and socialize or stroll around until they’re good and ready to move on. They are uninterested and seemingly contemptuous of cars. These events are called buffalo jams.” Photo #11 by Bill Gracey

Bison Charge – Yellowstone National Park. Video #2 by 31wammy

Bison on the snowy Yellowstone road

Bison on the snowy road. Yellowstone bison are also famous for ruling the roads, sometimes hip-checking, kicking or charging cars. You might keep that in mind, if you rent a car to drive through the park, when asked if you want to spend the extra money for insurance? ;-p Photo #12 by Jess J

Bison Road Block, Yellowstone Buffalo Jam

Bison Road Block, Yellowstone Buffalo Jam. Photo #13 by Kevin Pietrzak

Bison Charges at Tourist. Video #3 by roggezzinho

Bison near Mud Volcano

Bison herd at mud pots across the river from Mud Volcano. According to the 2013 Yellowstone Trip Planner (.pdf), “Big as they are, bison can sprint three times faster than humans can run. No vacation picture is worth personal injury. Your best view may be from inside a hard-sided vehicle.” Photo #14 by Diane Renkin / Yellowstone National Park Service

Bison Ranging Yellowstone Lake

Bison Ranging Yellowstone Lake. The American buffalo can live 12 – 15 years at the park. Photo #15 by Richie Diesterheft

Cute little snow-coated baby bison face, Yellowstone bison

Cute little snow-coated baby bison face. Photo #16 by Cathy (haglundc)

Bison grazing in the Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park buffalo

Bison grazing in the Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park buffalo. Photo #17 by Diane Renkin / NPS

Bison attack at Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park. Video #4 by eggotown

Cow birds on back of bull bison near Soda Butte Creek, Yellowstone National Park buffalo

Cow birds on back of bull bison near Soda Butte Creek. Photo #18 by Jim Peaco / Yellowstone NPS

A buffalo munches near Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park

A buffalo munches near Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. Photo #19 by Sarah Arnoff

Bison rolling to scratch its back next to Yellowstone road

The photographer noted, “(Yellowstone, Wyoming) A bison ox rolls around to scratch his back. This herd was right next to the road, a bunch grassing in a low valley. They did not at all mind fifty cars rolling slowly by to ogle them.” Photo #20 by Jon Martin

No privacy for mating buffalo in Yellowstone but a ton of love

No privacy but a ton of love. The photographer wrote, “It does seem a bit of out season…but you can see the bison yesterday weren’t really too disturbed by our presence. You have to give these critters lots of respect, over 4 times the amount of human deaths in Yellowstone are due to bison than bears. And huge as they are, they can run at 35 miles and hour and jump a standard barb wire fence. Since Bison may mature at between 900-2500 pounds, I feel fairly safe in saying a ton here 🙂 These are big animals.” Photo #21 by dbarronoss

Buffalo baby, at the 'milk bar' off the West Entrance Road - Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA

Bison mate in the latter part July through August and give birth to one calf in late April or May. The photographer wrote, “Buffalo baby, at the ‘milk bar’ off the West Entrance Road – Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA.” Photo #22 by Scorpions and Centaurs

American Bison calf was using its mother as a scratching post in Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park

American Bison calf was using its mother as a scratching post in Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park. And, yes even female buffalo have horns. As seen in the post A Mother’s Love: 40 Adorable Animal Mom and Baby Photos. The horns of a bison cow are more curved and slender than the bull’s. Photo #23 by Dan Dzurisin

That's the spot . . . a Yellowstone baby bison getting some loving from mom

Ah, that’s the spot . . . a baby bison getting some loving from mom. Photo #24 by Jeremy Wheaton

Buffalo baby and mom at Yellowstone National Park - Wyoming, USA

Buffalo baby and mom. NPS said (.pdf), “Calves can keep up with the herds about 2–3 hours after birth and are well protected by their mothers and other members of the herd. Even so, some are killed by wolves and grizzly bears.” Photo #25 by Scorpions and Centaurs

Yellowstone buddies, bison and bird

Yellowstone buddies, bison and bird. Photo #26 by .aditya.

Two bison fighting in Yellowstone National Park's remote Lamar Valley. Not sure what they're fighting about

“Two bison fighting in Yellowstone National Park’s remote Lamar Valley.” The photographer added, “Not sure what they’re fighting about.” Photo #27 by Shiny Things

Bison crossing river and road in Yellowstone

Bison crossing river and road in Yellowstone. The photographer added, “These are huge wild Buffalo. They go where they want when they want.” Photo #28 by Jerry Pierce

Yellowstone Bison calf following cow - Little America Flat, Yellowstone

Bison calf following cow – Little America Flat. Photo #29 by Jim Peaco / YellowstoneNPS

Bison crossing Yellowstone River on a foggy morning

Bison crossing Yellowstone River in the fog. Photo #30 by Jim Peaco / Yellowstone NPS

Bison grazing along Firehole River: Bison grazing near Midway Geyser Basin in winter

Bison grazing along Firehole River near Midway Geyser Basin in winter. Photo #31 by Jim Peaco / NPS

Bull bison near Soda Butte Creek

Bull bison near Soda Butte Creek. With the bison’s huge size, once upon a time they didn’t need to worry about other non-human predators, but that has changed. Both wolf packs and some grizzly bears have been successful in killing bison. Photo #32 by Jim Peaco / Yellowstone National Park Service

Bull American bison in rut, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park

Bull American bison in rut, Hayden Valley Photo #33 by Dan Dzurisin

Yawning bison, before his morning coffee at Lamar Valley, Yellowstone NP

Yawning bison, “before his morning coffee” at Lamar Valley. Photo #35 by Pat Gaines

Buffalo babies, taking a rest at Yellowstone National Park

Buffalo babies, taking a rest. NPS wrote (.pdf), “At one time, bison spread from the Pacific to the Appalachians—but their main habitat was the Great Plains. Bison roamed there in herds that often numbered three to five million animals. Plains tribes developed a culture that depended on bison. Almost all parts of the bison provided something for their way of life—food, tools, shelter, or clothing. Hunting bison required skill and cooperation to herd and capture the animals. But European American settlers moving west during the 1800s changed the balance. Market hunting, sport hunting, and a U.S. Army campaign in the late 1800s nearly caused the extinction of the bison.” Photo #36 by Scorpions and Centaurs

Yellowstone Bison herd making their way across the flooded meadow

Bison herd making their way across the flooded meadow. Poachers had hunted Yellowstone’s herd down to only two dozen bison by 1902. Photo #37 by Scorpions and Centaurs

For such huge beasts, bison are not always easy to spot in the dark or in the fog on Yellowstone roads. Be careful, many visitors have been gored by buffalo

For such huge beasts, bison are not always easy to spot in the dark or in the fog on Yellowstone roads. Be careful, many visitors have been gored by buffalo. Photo #38 by random letters & #39 by George Lamson & #40 by Dan Dzurisin

Buffalo jam, Bison slowing traffic down

Another buffalo jam as the photographer noted, “Bison slowing down traffic.” Photo #41 by 5 Flip-Flops (Earl)

Yellowstone bison on road, Commute Lane . . . Where the buffalo roam…2000 lbs gets to make the rules

“Commute Lane . . . Where the buffalo roam…2000 lbs get to make the rules.” Photo #43 by Steve Jurvetson

Why did the bison cross the road

“Why Did the Bison Cross The Road?” the photographer asked. “I was standing just outside the car door, ready to jump back in if the bison decided to head my way, but he seemed to be more interested in oncoming traffic; I suppose his mom trained him to look both ways before crossing the road. Don’t worry, he was a safe distance way – I had my long lens on. I kept thinking about the rental car agent who mentioned about 16 times during the checkout process, after we waived their very expensive coverage ‘you know you are responsible for any damage to the vehicle.’ The air was hazy, and you can see smoke on the horizon from the Antelope Fire that burned for about a month and was eventually doused by the fall rains. The strategy for wildfire management changed drastically after the devastating 1988 fire; natural fires are allowed to take their course and are only managed to protect property and people.” Photo #44 by Jill Clardy

Buffalo, not humans, rule the roads at Yellowstone

According to the photographer, at Yellowstone NP, “Who rules the road? Not the humans!” Photo #45 by Jodene e

This land is your land, American Bison at Yellowstone

“This land is your land.” NPS reported that “the bison population fluctuates from 2300 to 4500 animals.” Photo #46 by Scott Kublin

Not just the roads at Yellowstone, bison also take the boardwalk paths through the park

Not just the roads at Yellowstone, bison also have been known to take the boardwalk paths through the park. “Yellowstone Mud Volcano Bison.” Did you know? “There are more people hurt by bison than by bears each year in Yellowstone. Park regulations state that visitors must stay at least 25 yards away from bison or elk and 100 yards away from bears.” Photo #47 by gabri_micha & #48 by gabri_micha

Yellowstone bison rams a minivan. Video #6 by icaughtatrout

Baby bison crossing; they make pretty charming roadblocks

Baby bison crossing; they make “pretty charming roadblocks.” Spring is a popular time to watch for bison, since they generally calf during April or May. According to AllTrips, “The Madison, Firehole and Gibbon River areas are good locations for spotting bison. Hayden Valley near the Yellowstone River, Fishing Bridge, Fountain Flats, Mud Volcano and Lamar Valley are prime viewing areas as well.” Photo #49 by Nate Eagleson

Yellowstone Bison in the snow

Bison in the snow. Photo #50 by iuk

American Bison mother grooming her calf in Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park

American Bison mother grooming her calf in Hayden Valley. Photo #51 by Dan Dzurisin

Yellowstone National Park Bison eyeballing each other

“Eyeballing.” Photo #52 by Matt Binns

Bison Attack Caught on Tape. Photo #28 by CBS

Rebel buffalo at Yellowstone NP, bison don't have to play by the rules

“Rebel Bison.” The photographer added that “bison don’t have to play by the rules.” Photo #54 by

Bison from Yellowstone National Park roaming the wilderness

Bison from Yellowstone National Park roaming the wilderness. Photo #55 by Kim Seng

Angry bison charges small child at Yellowstone in scary video. Video #7 by B Loy

Related: If you are interested in seeing other wildlife in Yellowstone National Park, Incredible Yellowstone National Park Wildlife [60 PICS].

Theodore Roosevelt National Park: Where Wildlife & Buffalo Still Roam



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