Bison Migrate to Lower Ground for Winter Grazing

Author:
Publish date:
Yellowstone bison in the snow

During the winter season, bison head to lower ground in the north area of Yellowstone. The snow and temperatures are milder there, and it's easier to feed on grass under the snow. This can mean that hundreds of bison migrate to Lamar Valley, Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful area and sometimes cross Yellowstone's border into private ranches in Montana. To avoid contact with livestock, states work with Yellowstone to keep the herds near the border and direct livestock to other grazing grounds. This also helps the bison have a shorter return to Yellowstone in warmer weather.

Watch the video below to see how bison shovel snow with their heads to get to the grass underneath. This is why bison often have their heads, which can weigh around 250 pounds,  covered in snow. It can make quite a magical sight to see a frosty-looking bison. In deep snow, bison have been known to dig as far as four feet into the snow to get to their meals. While the grass is an important food source, it's fairly nutrient deficient in the winter time. Some Yellowstone staffers compare its winter nutritional content to eating cardboard. 

Related

Video: Conserving Wild Bison

Video: Conserving Wild Bison

Since wild bison compete with humans for habitat, it is necessary to "manage" this "wildlife." This video, discusses the problems with bison management.

Bison along Rose Creek in Lamar Valley in Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Bison (Buffalo) FAQs

These large mammals are abundant in the park, stand 6 feet tall, and weigh over half a ton. There are typically 4,000-5,000 bison in Yellowstone.

Bison herd in Yellowstone

Culling the Last Wild Herd of Bison in Yellowstone National Park

These bison stem from an original population of 25 that survived mass killings. Yet, for the past 17 years, they have been sent to the slaughterhouse.

Bison on the road to Mammoth Hot Springs

Is it okay to drive along side bison on the road in Yellowstone?

Our city slicker impulses may be to beep the horn if one bison decides to hold everyone up. Here's what you should do.

Coyote photo by Dave Shumway

Coyotes, The Lesser Dogs of Winter

Many overlook the Coyote, as Yellowstone's "lesser dogs of winter," but they are beautiful creatures, who are more than worthy of a few photographs.

Grand Teton National Park in Winter

Winter in Grand Teton National Park

Here are Grand Teton National Park's entrances that are open in winter to how to get there.

Winter sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge. Photo by USFWS Lori Iverson

15 Things to Do in Winter in or near Yellowstone

Our list of top Yellowstone winter activities includes watching wildlife, swimming in hot springs, eating waffles and taking exhilarating rides.

Christmas tree in National Forest

Winter Holiday Activities in Yellowstone

Heading to Yellowstone for the winter holiday season? Check out this list of events and activities in and around the park!

Bison walking through deep snow near Tower Junction in March. Photo by NPS Jim Peaco.

Yellowstone Bison Win a Court Case

March, 2014: The Montana Supreme Court has ruled that bison can temporarily roam outside the Yellowstone Park boundaries during winter without being killed.