Last Saturday morning, I was at the Niobrara Valley Preserve, helping with an event. I woke up early and decided to venture out to catch the sunrise. A small group of bison was slowly grazing their way across the prairie, so I parked my truck in a place that I hoped would intersect with their movement.
The morning was nearly silent apart from the gentle grunts of the bison. As the horizon brightened, a few of them crested the hill in front of me, silhouetted against the soft glow. As the sun finally crested the hill, I snapped away with my camera as the bison calmly walked past.
After a little while, the bison had moved beyond me so I slowly pulled the truck away and circled around in front of them again. Once more, they gradually made their way past the truck – a little further away this time – and I managed some more photos of them against the rising sun. After a while, I glanced at the clock and was surprised to see that I’d been with the bison for nearly an hour. It was time for my breakfast, so I left them to theirs and headed back down the hill and back to headquarters.
My job grants me extraordinary access to bison and the prairies they graze in, and I’m deeply grateful for that. As a result, I’ve spent enough time around bison to feel pretty comfortable in their presence (while obviously maintaining a very healthy respect for their size, athleticism and unpredictability). While I no longer feel compelled stop to admire them every time we pass each other in the prairie, I don’t take them for granted either. I hope I never do.