Yesterday I came across this bull Bison on Antelope Island State Park in northern Utah, it had been walking then laid down and I was hoping that the bull would take a dust bath. The Bison on the island are a wild population that roam freely over the grassy slopes. Because they are used to traffic and people they are not very skittish. They are still dangerous though and I stay inside the vehicle to photograph them.
About May the Bison begin to shed thier winter coats. It is especially noticeable on the males because the summer coat is much shorter and sleeker from the shoulders on back. This bull has lost most of its winter coat.
Note: the black/gray specks above the bull’s back are not camera dust spots, those are actually bugs. I’m not sure what type they are and I’m not going to get close enough to know!
I think it is amazing to see a huge Bison; weighing up to and over 2200 pounds, rolling around on the ground with apparent ease. Wallows are common on Antelope Island State Park and Bison enjoy taking dust baths. There are several hypotheses on why Bison do this, one of which is for grooming. I can see why it might help to loosen and remove the shaggy winter coats. Another explanation is that the mud or dust helps with bites from insects.
We have had a very wet spring here in northern Utah this year which may be why there isn’t much dust in my images, later in the summer I am sure there will be plenty of dust.
I haven’t been seeing the cows or newborn calves so far this spring but I am sure it won’t be long before they are more visible on the island. I think they move to areas of the island that aren’t easily accessible for humans during calving. The bulls do not participate in rearing the calves.
This image made me laugh out loud when I first opened it and saw it on my monitor. I don’t know that Bison feel “bliss” but this one sure looks like it is to me. I laughed again attaching it to this post, it is the funniest one of the series in my opinion.
It is a good thing I carry my backup D200 attached to my 18-200mm VR with me every time I go out photographing because I could not get these shots with my 200-400mm VR lens, the Bison was just too close even if I had taken off the 1.4x TC. It was also nice that the wallow was near the top of a small hill so the background included the sky and distant mountain top.
It is difficult for me to imagine how large the herds of Bison were in the days of the pioneers, how the ground trembled when a herd stampeded or seeing Bison in the thousands. It must have been incredible.
It must take a lot of muscle power to lift 2,200 pounds off of the ground. I have trouble lifting my camera gear some days and it sure doesn’t weigh that much!
This dust bath didn’t last very long yet I had a great time watching and photographing it.