Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Rut is Beginning

I know I have several followers who have never been to Yellowstone National Park, and others who may not remember where certain features I have mentioned or will mention in my posts are. So I have added this map of the park for you.

We are staying about 13 miles southwest of the town of West Yellowstone. One of the entrances to the park is at the edge of town. The first link of park drive is to Madison Junction, 14 miles inside the park. The road goes mostly through new-growth forest and along the Madison River.

It is here we saw our very first buffalo walking down the road, on our first day in the park. We have seen single buffalo and a few elk along this road, but no large herds of either. Most of the elk have gone higher into the mountain meadows for the summer, and many of the buffalo have gone over to Hayden Valley (pink arrow) and Lamar Valley (blue arrow) to rut.

We heard the rut was beginning, and on Monday decided to drive the Grand Loop Road, going thru Hayden Valley, to see the herd. We also wanted to stop at the Mud Volcano area and see the lake before turning back north to get home. The Loop Road is 96 miles from Madison Junction to Madison Junction. We will probably go over to the Lamar Valley during our last week here, another long drive!

Clop, clop, "Off to the Rut I go."
As we entered Hayden Valley we were caught in the first traffic slowdown caused by this guy walking down the center of the oncoming lane. Notice the car behind him.  

Do you notice anything different about him?

Anybody got a comb?
Perhaps he was trying 
to attract the ladies with the  
"flowers-in-my-hair' look. 

Once we got into the valley, sure enough, the herd was there. We parked along the side of the road, with a few hundred other tourists and one park ranger, to gawk at the herd that was grazing about a  mile away. 

I got out and walked into the meadow as far as the ranger would allow. The herd was still very far away, and I could just barely hear the snorts and rumbles coming from the bulls. You could not hear them from the cars.

In the very center of this picture you can see one rolling in the dust. You can also see many calves. Even though they can be self-sufficient by midway through their first winter, a calf can continue nursing for 18 months if its mother does not become pregnant.

A young cow is mature enough to breed at three years of age, but a young bull might not mate until he is five or six.

Some distance from the main herd, and a little closer to where I was standing, I noticed a bull "tending" a cow. We remember this behavior from watching the buck deer in our yard in Santa Cruz. 

The bull will single out a female and follow her around until she is ready to mate. The ranger called them the "honeymoon couples." 

The ranger said that often younger bulls will spend time tending a cow, but when she is ready to breed, an older, bigger bull will take her as his own.  

Trophy Wife?

I think these two were just in the courting stage. 

But he must have turned her on, because when he stopped following her and turned to leave, she followed him. 

As the herd moved farther from the road, the people began returning to their cars. I was almost to the Jeep when the ranger started hustling people back into their cars quite quickly. Two big bulls had decided they wanted to walk along the edge of the road. 

When a big bull buffalo is coming towards you, even at a slow plodding pace, you are wise to give him plenty of room to pass.

Next post: the Mud Volcano area and our drive along Yellowstone Lake.


  1. I didn't know the bison rut season started this early...always thought it was in the fall! What a great photo of the big guy and LOVE your header photo!

  2. at first I thought you were tired of Yellowstone! Oh! THAT kind of rut.

  3. Thanks for the reply on FB and I appreciate the photography tips. I follow Al Bossence and admire his photography as well.

    I couldn't find your email on the blog so am leaving a comment here. If you want to drop me your email address, mine is
    Thanks Merikay.....Joe

  4. How cool to be in Yellowstone for rut!


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