Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Red in tooth and claw

This scary photo of a grizzly bear chasing down a badly-mauled bison was taken early last April in Yellowstone:

This probably wouldn't happen at any other time of the year. April is a nasty month for herbivores, when the grass is barely starting to reappear and they're at the end of the fat reserves they piled on the summer before. A bison at full strength is too dangerous for even a grizzly bear to want to tackle, but this cow looks pretty thin. Even at that, it's uncommon for the bear to want to take down a large live animal - there's normally a good amount of winterkill lying about that he could have scavenged much easier.

[Update: I've learned that this photo was a winner in the Co-op Recreation photo contest this year, and was taken by an employee at the Old Faithful Post Office].


James Hanley said...

Burned in a hot pot, then chased by a grizzly--God doesn't seem to love his creations much, does he?

Scott Hanley said...

The first articles I saw hadn't indicated that the bison's injuries were from burns, not an initial mauling by the bear. Then I saw an article indicating she had been "burned in a fire." That obviously couldn't be right, not in April. So the only conclusion was that the burns came from a fall into some boiling water.

The bison escaped the grizzly, but reportedly the rangers euthanized her. That's a bit unusual, as the Park Service is normally into letting nature take its course, whether nasty or nice.

I heard one researcher in YNP say that the cruelest thing he'd witnessed in the park was a bison trapped in a mud pot. The warmth kept her alive for several days, but while she was helpless the ravens came and ate her eyes. It can be a vicious world.