Poor Clarence Hudson. He was hiking in Montana’s Yellowstone National Park on January 17 when he encountered a rare spectacle: a huge bison calmly strolling past him. Hudson shared the video to Facebook, which has since gone viral.
The moment of the encounter was captured on video as the 30-year-old hiker and wildlife enthusiast casually gave a nod to the bison with a short wave of his hand. A startled Hudson then got down to business and quickly recorded the rare event while the bison rumbled by.
“It seems like this grizzly bear attacked a bison [that] actually was pretty calm just looking out the window,” the popular hiker explained, according to the Facebook post. “This will probably never happen again.”
Grace’s name has been trending on social media in the days following the video’s sharing. Clarence Hudson, who lives in the greater Yellowstone area, was delighted to have gotten the “heartwarming” message and expressed to news site KSWB that he and his friend and brother started “dancing in the corner and jumping up and down” when they saw it.
Photo: RICHARD WEAVER, Facebook
As the wildlife enthusiast explained, he’s a long-time fan of bears, wolves, cougars, and lynx but knows bison from his time living in the park, where he has a house and a ranch for horses and cattle. He’s seen massive bison walk by by now, and it’s none of his experiences he’s coming back to in the aftermath of that afternoon.
“Just to see the end of their procession toward the darkening sunset makes us feel that they are happy and healthy, as if they are finally coming to acceptance with the world,” he explained.
Watch Hudson’s full interaction with the giant creature below:
The surprising part of this encounter is why the animals have never crossed paths before in a national park. As Hudson told KSWB, that’s because the population and habitat of wild Bison is highly restricted, and the Yellowstone Wildlife Corridor passes nearby boundaries to inhibit the animals from coming to closer proximity. This corner of Montana where the bison were spotted is the transition zone for the Churchill Bison Refuge from the US wild Bison population, according to National Park Service officials.
“You can see the fence because I’m on the far side of the fence right here,” Hudson said, pointing. “It’s very steep, and it’s at 6,000 feet up here in the Elkhorn Mountains, and it’s just black like liquid.”
NPS officials confirmed to KSWB that the bison clearly crossed over from a nearby refuge and made it to the isolated town of Gardiner, Montana.
The National Park Service in 2015 published a report that detailed the challenges the traditional horse- and cattle-dominated landscape of the northwestern United States faces with how to accommodate a growing and diverse number of species in the wild. The report also highlighted some of the challenges officials face with an “ecological renaissance” when considering new territory in the west, which is very different from the “mainstream stewardship” that most people have come to expect.
“Wild bison have migrated from Central America to the northern Plains in recent decades,” NPS officials wrote in the report. “The distribution of bison herds and the range of disturbances associated with their presence has expanded along the Lower Mississippi River to include parts of the Dakotas and Montana.”
Because there are few healthy populations of bison remaining, the NPS identified the areas where they are present and “the associated stresses and effects” as problematic to the health of the habitat and species themselves. The park service identified 95 percent of the bison population would be involved in conflicts with nature, humans, other animals, and various environmental problems.
Hudson’s post, captioned “truly a sight to behold,” is part of a larger NPS effort to share and preserve “the stories of how we’ve been impacted” by a changing ecosystem.
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