Mother Bison Pushes Calf Into Yellowstone River As Herd Runs From Grizzly Bears

Mother bison Yellowstone
Yellowstone Video

Yellowstone National Park always seems to be the backdrop for dramatic wildlife encounters, and this one between a herd of bison and some grizzly bears in hot pursuit is one of the more breathtaking videos you’ll ever see.

As the bison run away from the dangers of a possible interaction with multiple grizzly bears, the horned beasts were forced to make their young offspring grow up fast.

It can be presumed that these bison calves had yet to have been taught how to safely cross a river, so this dire situation was probably the first time that many of the young bison interacted with the moving body of water, or any water in general.

With the adult bison guiding the herd to the river’s edge, some of the calves were a little hesitant to jump into the rushing water, while others acted like it was pretty normal and went right into the river.

One calf in particular was not having it at all, and with time being of the essence, the mother bison decided to take matters into her own hands.

Around 2 minutes and 20 seconds into the video, the bison mother pushed the smaller bison off the bank and into the moving water.

With no time to waste, the mother knew she had no choice but to head-butt her offspring into the river, knowing that putting her baby in the dangers of the water would still be safer than trying to stand up against the grizzlies that were quickly approaching.

Ron Sterbenz was the wildlife videographer that happened to catch this encounter on camera, and told USA Today:

“It is always amazing when you remember that for many of these calves they were just born a few days before. Most of them had never swam or seen a river until that day.

They were being chased off the ‘Amethyst Bench’ area in the Lamar Valley and towards the Lamar River by three grizzlies, one sow and her two 3-year-old cubs, all three clearly wanting to have a bison meal.”

These young bison were in a legitimate “baptism by fire” situation, even though they were forced to dive into the river. I guess the common phrase doesn’t work all that well when it comes to actually interacting with water…

The wildlife videographer continued to explain the video that played out, saying:

“At the end of the herd were also two smaller calves who were frightened and delayed crossing until they were the last two. They barely made the first crossing and immediately faced crossing an even larger, faster moving branch of the river.

After struggling for some time even the moms began to panic. Amazingly, at about the last part of the river before they would be washed away, they find a sandbar just shallow enough to keep their little noses above water. In the end they just barely make it, exhausted, cold and tired. They are still forced to run and catch up to the herd.

We were sure they would take a break on the island and if not, we thought we would see a drowning or two from the panicked crossing.”

Survival instincts kicked in for the herd of bison, and they all eventually made it across the river safely, hoping that the grizzly bears wouldn’t bother to follow them through the water.

Though the depth of the river was no problem for the older bison, the young calves struggled to tread water and became exhausted at multiple points of the crossing process. Their older bison protectors never gave up on them, and stuck with them as they made their way through the water, albeit a little bit slower than the rest of the group.

Once they made it up on the other side, the smaller group of bison began to catch back up with the rest of their herd.

Tackling a moving river at such a young age was remarkably tough for the calves, but looking on the bright side, even though they are little behind the rest of the group, they are now physically far ahead of other younger bison that didn’t have to experience the challenging experience.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock