The Buffalo On the Bridge

This picture is from Theodore Roosevelt National Park during this year's 4th of July weekend. I was riding in the park's North Unit enjoying the view when I crossed this bridge over a dry gully full of scrub brush. I pulled over for some pictures and had just got off the bike, still wearing my helmet. My back was toward the bridge and as I pulled off my helmet, I heard a weird moaning sound. What was that noise???

I turned as this huge buffalo came out of the gully on the left of this picture. He stood inside the left guardrail at the opposite end of the bridge and his beady, black eyes stared straight at me. I reacted like any sensible person, and froze. The buffalo continued to stare and took a few steps toward me. He stopped again, and let out a very loud bellow; the same sound I heard earlier. His musty smell was very strong and my heart pounded in my chest as I stared back. I waited for him to charge and thought, I am going to die right here. 

After an eternity, that was probably a few seconds, he turned and slowly walked away. It took a few more seconds for me to realize that he had lost interest and I was not going to be buffalo road kill. Then, I pulled the camera from my pocket, and snapped this picture before he crossed the road and disappeared into another ravine on the right.

I photographed a lot of other buffalo that weekend, but this is my only good photo of the buffalo on the bridge. Looking back, he may not have been threatening me. Perhaps I surprised him as much as he surprised me. I will never know, but this single shot of a blurred buffalo walking away is more memorable than all of my other buffalo pictures. You never feel more alive than after an experience like that.

Here are few of the other buffalo pics...