Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


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Bison 1234

Bison have recently been reintroduced at Caprock Canyons State Park, where they’re allowed to range over a good-sized area. On April 15th I photographed this bison, which eyed me warily but eventually wandered off. Flyers and signs warn visitors to keep at least 50 ft. away from these wild animals because they can weigh 2000 pounds and reach speeds of 30 miles per hour, so although the picture makes it look like I was pretty close, I prudently kept my distance and used a telephoto lens.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 2, 2014 at 6:01 AM

22 Responses

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  1. I am glad you kept your distance. I wonder if the bison is actually looking at you or simply smelling or hearing your presence. And it is a slight worry that they can run so fast yet have poor eyesight. How do they know where they are going? Intriguing animals.


    May 2, 2014 at 6:13 AM

    • Yes, prudence was the better part of valor here. I didn’t know that bison have poor eyesight; this one seemed to be looking straight at me, but as you conjectured, it could have been responding to sense or smell rather than sight, or perhaps all three.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2014 at 7:03 AM

      • Although I found several sites that mentioned the bison’s poor eyesight there were no specifics. What does poor eyesight mean for a bison? No one seems to say that cows have poor eyesight; just that it differs from human eyesight. Have I encountered a case of discrimination against bison? 😉 http://www.ehow.com/about_6495849_eye-cow-different-eye-human_.html


        May 2, 2014 at 10:20 PM

        • You raise a good point. According to the article you linked to, cows see better than we do at night, and because bison are in the same branch of the animal kingdom as cows, I wonder if that’s true for them too.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 2, 2014 at 10:29 PM

          • I am wondering if that is true, too. I glanced through a video item on Temple Grandin and there were background photos of bison and cows, so I took that to mean that her studies may also apply to bison. ie what is good for the cow could be good for the bison. This is a long way off wild flowers! I expect bison chew wild flowers from time to time.


            May 2, 2014 at 10:50 PM

            • Probably so. Four or five of the bison I saw were munching away at reeds and grasses by the edge of a pond. That was the kind of picture I really wanted, but I couldn’t get it.

              Steve Schwartzman

              May 2, 2014 at 11:02 PM

  2. Great shot but you won’t like him when he’s angry.


    May 2, 2014 at 6:16 AM

    • I’d say an angry bison in the vicinity would’ve ruined my vacation (and could have put an end to this blog).

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2014 at 7:04 AM

  3. Portraits of Bison
    Nice shot, Steve. I am always amazed at how fast some of these seemingly ungainly guys can motor. That huge body and not quite proportionate legs disguise their speed…same thing with moose. Their running motion is not exactly athletic but it certainly gets them going.

    Steve Gingold

    May 2, 2014 at 6:42 AM

    • I hadn’t thought about that alternative blog title, but mammals are outnumbered by plants here by a couple of hundred to one. If you go by weight, though, one bison outweighs all the wildflowers. But then some of the trees outweigh a bison—even if a bison (or moose) can outrun them.

      Historically, bison ranged as far south in Texas as Austin. and there are accounts of them coming down to the Colorado River to drink. Bison, which ranged north into Canada and even Alaska, are more versatile than moose: no moose could take the summer heat in Austin (and some human residents have a hard time with it too).

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2014 at 7:23 AM

      • Moose aren’t very fond of the summer heat in Maine for that matter…or anywhere else it seems. In the summer they are covered with mosquitoes and other biting insects and spend a lot of time in the water leaving just their upper bodies vulnerable. And now there are tick infestations in the winter that are causing the herd to die off at alarming rates. It is getting more and more difficult to find moose when I visit my friends in Maine.

        Steve Gingold

        May 2, 2014 at 7:31 AM

        • I heard—on a television show I think it was—about the problem moose are having with ticks. I try to avoid them too, and with just a few exceptions I’ve succeeded. Chiggers are another story, and after being out in nature several hours yesterday, for the first time this season I’ve got a bunch of chigger bites.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 2, 2014 at 7:38 AM

          • As flower photographers who spend a lot of time on the ground, avoiding ticks is a challenge. I wear my socks on the outside to keep them out of my pant legs, spray myself liberally with that nasty DEET and make a thorough inspection once arriving home. But once in a while one does get in which then needs to be removed. There’s always something. Chiggers I’ve never experienced. Urtica dioica is no friend of mine either although obviously in a different classification.

            Steve Gingold

            May 2, 2014 at 7:46 AM

  4. What a handsome fellow. Somewhere I learned that one of their primary warning signals is a raise of the tail, sometimes into the shape of a question mark. It doesn’t seem this one feels threatened at all. I’ve come to be so fond of these creatures – how nice to see one here!


    May 2, 2014 at 7:36 AM

    • If I weighed as much as a bison and had horns, I wouldn’t feel threatened by a person with no greater weapon than a camera. On the other hand, I expect that in the 1800s bison learned to fear rifles and people on horses.

      I never expected to show an animal larger than a deer here, but that’s what a change in distance of 500 miles could do. The bison is the largest land animal in North America, so I’ve now hit the top of the scale.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2014 at 7:54 AM

  5. I am so glad they are reintroduced, if there is space for them around. And of course people should keep a distance, also for respect of the animals.


    May 2, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    • Another animal—though a much smaller one—has also been reintroduced at Caprock Canyons, as you’ll see in a post next week.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2014 at 1:35 PM

  6. Good plan with the telephoto. This guy in particular looks lean, keen and agile! Handsome.


    May 5, 2014 at 3:26 PM

    • Prudence was definitely the better part of valor here. I wasn’t eager to have my bison pictures appear posthumously.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 5, 2014 at 4:22 PM

  7. […] addition to bison, one of which you saw the other day, prairie dogs have also recently been reintroduced at Caprock […]

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