Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bison Carcass

Another lovely day in Yellowstone.  Jan, one of the supervising rangers here at Tower, let me, Jim, Brady, and Brian (our SCA from last year who is visiting for a week or so) help out Travis and Lynn from Bear Management move a bison carcass away from the road.  Now some might ask, "Why would you go to all that trouble to move a stinky dead bison further from the road when its already 100 yards off the road?"

Two reasons:  First, 100 yards (while that is minimum distance you're supposed to stay away from a bear) might not be enough.  When bears get to a carcass, they can get pretty possessive of it.  Also, if the visitor doesn't heed the 100 yard limit, then they could get hurt. 
Second, since carcasses attract bears, the bears are going to attract bear watchers.  Believe me, we have a LOT of bear watchers in Yellowstone.  But more often than not these bear watchers cause traffic jams on the road.  Visible carcasses close to the road attract a LOT of traffic, one that requires a good amount of parking area (which was not available where this bison was).  I have had experience with a carcass close to the road.  This was last year when there was a bison carcass on the other side of the Lamar river in Lamar Valley.  The reason we left that one there was because there was a natural barrier, the Lamar River, that help keep the bear feeling safe and that the large crowd of people  would not be a threat.  (there were actually three giant grizzlies on that carcass at one point and a couple of wolves) 
This bison had the same potential as that jam, but honestly, we really just don't have the people power to staff it all day and into the evening.  Which is how long it would last each day most likely. 

But as for actually moving the carcass, that was kind of fun.  Travis and Lynn (from Bear Management), had carving knives, so they cut up the carcass into smaller pieces so we could haul it away on a large sled.  They divided it into the two hind legs, two sets of ribs, inner organs, spine and pelvis, two front legs, and finally the head.  We had to take the head by itself and boy was it heavy!  Keep in mind this was a fully grown adult bison.  It took 4 trips total to get all of those pieces to where we wanted to take them.  About 1300-1500 pounds of carcass meat. 
Travis and Lynn let me help out with the carving of the carcass.  Mostly just pulling on certain limbs or ribs or hide when needed.  Travis dulled his knives multiple times trying to cut open the hide.  Bison hides are VERY tough.  And of course I used gloves. 
After we were done, I took my lunch break.  Instead of eating lunch, I took a shower because even though the bison was only dead for 10 hours or so, I was SMELLY! 

I have some pictures, but they are very graphic.  So I will post a link at the bottom to a different site when they are uploaded instead of directly posting them here.  Look over the next day or so at this post for a link at the bottom if you want to see the pictures.

UPDATE 07/02/2011: You can see the bison carcass pictures HERE.


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Myself in my uniform from a couple of years ago. I wear normal clothes to the office now.