a bit too close for comfort
Both before and after Liard we encountered large herd of bison strolling and grazing along the side of the highway. They seemed harmless enough, and like the rest of the vehicles passing on the highway we couldn’t help but slow down and stop on the side of the road to watch the giant beasts and snap a few photos.
This is one of those experiences that has an interesting balance of excitement to see them so close and also fear/respect that any one of the animals could decide to do significant damage to our vehicle at any point.
We hung out for a while enjoying the different levels of interest from drivers from pissed off truck drivers who lay on the horn and try not to slow down despite several bison lingering in the middle of the highway to people hopping out of their RVs to chase down a young bison in hopes of the perfect photo.
We mostly sat and watched for a long time, apparently pissing off a few RVers who made it clear there was apparently some unwritten protocol for how long we were supposed to sit before scooting up in a single file line along with the herd. We naively just assumed that they would decide whether and when to go around us for a better look if they wanted one… but apparently there’s rules to this type of thing. Just like us to not only break them but be generally unaware they even exist.
Our second bison herd turned out to be a bit more exciting. Most drivers had their fill with the larger herd earlier on and simply scooted on by, but as with every other animal we stopped again to pay our respects, watch for a while and take in the sites. Were only here for a few moments when off the passenger side of the van a scuffle breaks out between two huge males. Our view couldn’t be better for the battle…but they were locked at the horns and pushing each other rapidly in our direction. Jen drove the van ahead just in time for the fight to drag itself into the highway exactly where we had been sitting seconds before.
Unnerving doesn’t really begin to describe this situation. The herd is on the road both in front and behind us mostly pinning us in, we cant tear our eyes away from the brawl going on in front of us and now pushing to the opposite side of the road, and we soon realize that other members of the herd are now starting to get involved. What seemed to start out as a cheering section agging on the fight on soon became a group of other clearly disturbed and pissed off males running around the fight snorting, pawing and bouncing up and down, trying to figure out how to get involved. One passed by the passenger window while we were huddled and staring out the drivers seat and the noise of his bucking and grunting directly beside our open passenger window was absolutely horrifying. The fight finally broke up and the two males stared each other down from opposite sides of the highway. We saw our chance to move on while we could, but as we started to inch ahead the males both turned instead to stare us down. We both looked at each other in disbelief. We were just innocent bystanders in this and barely even took sides, but now both males were walking toward us and looked just as pissed off as they had fighting each other. We sloooowly backed the van up to let them know we surrender and to make sure we knew they were boss, but the winner of the match simply refused to stop walking after us, and we stopped and waited in a good old fashioned stalemate.
The second male eventually walked beside us and turned to cross the road and we took our chance to speed off between the two before waiting to see if another fight broke out between the two of them of if the pissed off male decided to pick a fight with the van instead and chase after us.
We wont soon forget this awesome experience and how close we were to what felt like it should have been a segment on the Planet Earth documentary…but also really thankful we continued on without a gaping hole in the side of the van from a bison horn. Its a good question we should look into actually… is “bison damage” covered under our insurance policy?