Did you know that Yellowstone National Park had a maternity ward? I didn't. Apparently, they didn't either, until this April.
A week and a half ago, I made my first solo trip to Yellowstone. I had been there four times before, but this time I was on a mission to see baby bison, nicknamed Red Dogs. I had spied a couple of teenagers on my last trip and my maternal heart was anxious to see the full-on baby version. I was not disappointed. They were everywhere, tucked under the mama's, grasping for milk, or scuttering down the road, while the herd took a leisure stroll around our cars.
On my second day at the park, I was standing in a riverside meadow, supposedly staring at a baby bear cub. From where I stood it looked like we were all gawking at a boulder. While we waited for the boulder to move, the lady next to me asked if I had seen any bison. I confirmed I had. At least three herds since I had arrived.
"Oh good," she said holding her camera out to get a picture of the boulder that could be a bear. We got here late and I didn't want to miss them.
When I told her I had arrived only the day before she was relieved.
"I was afraid they had already moved on." she continued. "We were scheduled to arrive last week. We had booked our campsite months ago. Then in mid-April we began getting daily emails from the park service asking us to seek out a new campsite. The email said that the bison, the elk, and the deer had all moved into the Madison campground to have their babies, to get away from the snow and still be protected by trees."
The emails contained explanations of the park staff's daily efforts to move and nudge the herds out as April slipped into May, but nothing doing. Those mamas weren't budging till they were darn good and ready. Leaving campers to relocate or change previous reservations.
The additional challenge came in the fact that many campgrounds were not accessible. The Norris campground was completely flooded from spring run-off. And Canyonlands had yet to finish thawing enough to open. Campers were a bit stuck.
On Friday, May 14, the herds began to inch out of Madison. Enough babies were strong enough, fields and meadows accessible, and everyone was happy. Including the woman telling me the story. She had postponed her arrival by two days, allowing the Yellowstone Maternity Ward to clear out. Now she hoped to see one or two of those babies in person.
I never saw the woman again, I am sure her wish came true, bison were everywhere. For me the fantastic image of the bison and elk cows, as well as mama does tickled my heart. Yellowstone has always let nature take its course; this one may be the sweetest course of all.
If you have read this far, I wish you a Happy Memorial Day, and the kick-off to summer. May the weekend be full of delightful festivities and happy memories. If you are camping, may you have as much delight as I did.
Happy Start of Summer Everyone.