With the upcoming premiere of Untamed Americas this weekend, we asked Casey Anderson to share one of his most inspirational wild moments.
I don’t know how the bison died, but over the last three years I can tell you that it has impacted so many. The massive pile of bones and large skull stand high on a Yellowstone plateau like a monument. Like so many others, I make my annual pilgrimage to this site to pay my respects and to remind myself that we are all connected to the earth.
It was late spring three years ago when my film crew and I first saw it. There the bison laid surrounded by ravens, eagles, coyotes, a couple wolves, and a few grizzly bears. We were astonished by the number of animals in such a small area. We watched from a distance and documented as much as possible. It was a sight to behold, so many different species benefiting from one individual. As so many took advantage of the fallen bison, I too scavenged from the moment, documenting on film as much as I could.
A year passed, and we returned to the site. We walked up to the mummified remains and looked over what was left. Even then, so many were benefiting. Bacteria, beetles, and other invertebrates now gathered at the site. This one animal meant so much to all it encountered, and in that moment it again reminded us of the delicate tapestry of the ecosystem. In death there is so much life. We were emotionally moved by this bison too, and continued to scavenge the moment on film.
A few days passed and me and my cameraman, Rick, returned once again. There the bison laid, the sun and the wind passing over it. The grass that surrounded it now was noticeably fertilized and danced in the breeze in celebration. Again, this very bison who depended on that grass through it’s life for nutrients, now returned the favor. Symbolically, a hundred yards away, a herd of bison grazed just as the fallen bison had a couple years before. As we stood over the carcass, we noticed the herd of bison notice us. It started with a single bull, a grunt, and then a rigid posture. Then the rest of the herd followed suit, and they begin to approach us.
We quickly realized that they were headed our way and retreated to a large boulder nearby. In haste, we left our camera in place still recording. The bison approached the grave, and what happened next still gives me goosebumps today. They gathered around their fallen comrade, vocalizing, snorting, throwing their massive heads around and licking, the herd full of obvious emotion and energy. I had heard of and watched elephants do this, but never bison. It was so obvious that these bison were feeling something for their friend, and in that moment I was moved so much. This one individual bison lived on in so many on that Yellowstone plateau, and I was included. In fact that moment impacted me so deeply, that that bison will live on in me forever. When you see animals “feeling,” it changes the whole perspective of the world we live in, and in that, gives it such a higher value and reason to love it. Thank you Mr. Bison, thanks from all of us.
Be sure to tune in to Untamed Americas, a two-night mini-series event beginning this Sunday from 9-10P and continuing Monday from 9-10P et/pt.
Here’s a scene from the upcoming premiere featuring bison: