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On Buttercups and Baby Bison

Each spring in Yellowstone snowmelt cascades from the highlands and newly exposed earth soaks in the lengthening daylight. It’s this time of year a quiet magic unfolds across our mountainous, high-desert landscape.

Dogged tufts of green grass push through dormant yellow undergrowth. This greenery entices ungulates higher and higher onto hills, valleys, and plateaus, following a “wave” of new growth moving upward. Then, in a slowly evolving wash of rainbow color, wildflowers follow closely behind speckling dashes of flair throughout the earth-toned backdrop.

Sagebrush buttercups cluster loosely in open spaces, their golden petals bowllike; Wyoming kittentails stand erect with their numerous lavender flowers bunched at their outer edges; and the pristine-white petals of Rocky Mountain phlox pop in contrast to the greens, yellows, blues, and other colors in their surroundings.

It’s here, in this fecund landscape, we see the emergence of the stars of our springtime season: the baby bison.

Cow bison heavy with calves heave themselves en mass upward following the thawing of the Northern Range in Yellowstone; their destinations mostly enroute to the wide-open Lamar and Hayden valleys.

Once the timing is right, individual cows drop their calves where they stand in a splash of newborn baby, placenta, and other afterbirth. Some would say this is where some of the real work truly gets started. The moms start to lick, …. and lick, …… and lick, cleaning away any scent that might attract would-be predators. As the mother bison solidify the mother-baby bond during this initial cleaning, the calves start to stagger on unsteady legs and eventually nuzzle their mothers’ underbellies in search of a drink of milk.

As spring continues warming the stubborn remnants of the highest snowlines recede and baby bison gain strength and confidence. They stride alongside their respective cows with tawny tails held high and zip around with other calves through the wildflowers and sagebrush. These moments make us pause and consider how truly remarkable and wondrous springtime in Yellowstone can be, and make us excited to help our guests witness all this season has to offer. Consider visiting us in May or early June, and we can help you experience something moving and mysterious. Until then, please enjoy our footage of a cow bison cleaning a newly dropped calf at this link:

Call us! And we’ll be certain to get you out of the vehicle so you can stop and watch the baby bison smell the wildflowers!a pile of green grassa brown cow standing on top of a dry grass field