On Tuesday morning, June 21, we left the Slough Creek campground in the Lamar Valley to drive across the top of the upper loop of Yellowstone National Park. As we passed through the Blacktail Plateau area, we saw a buffalo herd moving past a pond. It was the first significant herd of buffalo we’d seen, so we stopped to watch.
Look at the buffalo at the bottom left of the first photo (click to enlarge). She’s moving in the opposite direction from the herd. The reason she’s backtracking can the seen in the second photo – her calf apparently tried to cross the bog at the upper end of the pond and is stuck in the mud.
A crowd gathered in the lookout area watching the calf struggle to get out of the bog. It would swim and flail over to the bank and try to get out. It couldn’t get enough traction to get up the bank – it would slide back into the bog, gasping for breath. After several minutes it would gather enough energy to try again, with the same result. Several of the women watching had tears streaming down their faces.
The mother buffalo would walk away from the calf like she was going with the herd. I believe she was trying to get the calf to follow her. After the calf would struggle to get out, she would turn around and walk to the edge of the bog and bellow. Once she leaned over and licked the mud off the calf’s face.She paced back and forth in her agony about her calf’s situation.
We didn’t see how this predicament ended. Two humans could have easily pulled the calf out of the bog, but I don’t think the mother would have allowed humans to go there. I don’t know if the Park Rangers would intervene or not. We left the scene very sad.