BearHead Photography has many images to showcase his expansive portfolio on mammals of North America, and these are his wild bison and muskox photos.
On only the coldest of mornings can hoar frost happen. Not only does it have to be cold, but their has to be moisture in the air as well. When the sun made it over the ridge, the trees began to shine because of the hoar frost. A buffalo was underneath this tree trying to stay warm and find some food as it was -40 degrees.
Sunsets in Yellowstone are often not that colorful due to the amount of clouds in the sky, or due to no clouds at all. Seeing that a great sunset was about to happen, I began to look for an animal to put in the picture. Finding a bison herd on a ridge added great contrast to the setting sun.
Winter in Yellowstone is not the easiest of places to survive. The winter is often bad for months, and rarely eases up during those months. Animals have to be tough and strong to survive the winter. Not only is it cold, but it is often windy in Yellowstone. This was a particularly windy day, and with all the snow blowing around and the landscape turning completely white, these bison tried to move as little as possible to conserve their energy.
Bison are amazing animals in that they can be somewhere one day and nowhere to be found the next. I was not expecting to see this herd as I was searching for the right place to photograph the Tetons. The bison help show how large the Tetons are even with clouds surrounding them.
The landscape of Yellowstone can change very quickly. One moment you can see for miles, and the next you are engulfed in a thick fog. It was -25 degrees on this morning, and we were having trouble even seeing the snow road the fog was so thick. We came upon a little clearing and saw these bison walking our way. It made for a neat picture as the line of bison disappeared into thick fog.
Yellowstone is a beautiful park with many unique features in many different areas. At the Mammoth Hot Springs I had always wanted to photograph a bison in front of the massive hot spring, but never had a bison go close enough. Finally, after years of waiting this young bison went near the hot spring to eat some grass that was growing right beside the hot water.
Winter in Yellowstone isn't easy for any animal. Bison will hang around in geyser areas because the warm ground will not collect snow in places. As Old Faithful erupts in the background, these bison are busy trying to eat.
Bison are designed to withstand very cold temperatures. They don't get cold until the temperature gets as cold as -40 degrees. They have very thick fur, and even though they may be covered in frost, the thick fur keeps them warm even in the winters of Yellowstone.
As a wildlife photographer I spend days and days waiting for the right moments to happen. I can go months between those moments happening. With the light so nice and the rainbow behind the muskox, this was one of those special mornings.
Musk oxen only live in the far north latitudes. I had to drive a very long way north to see them. Seeing them was like going back in time because they look so ancient and like nothing else I have ever seen.
In the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone bison are able to roam free just like in the past. Seeing a large herd of bison with the Tetons behind them takes me back and think about this is how it used to be all over America.
Bison are often on the move. It's uncommon for them to stay in one area more than a couple of days. This evening, a massive herd was moving across the valley at a slow going pace.
Waiting out the Storm
Yellowstone can have very harsh winters. Sometimes it has the cold and not much snow, but sometimes it has lots of snow and cold like this winter. It seemed like every day it snowed a number of inches. These poor bison did all they could to conserve their energy and wait for the storm to pass.
Bison have to endure the extreme winter conditions of Yellowstone, and that is not easy. They are built for it, as they don't get cold until it is 40 degrees below zero. After a long night of frozen fog, this bison was so covered in hoar frost he was hard to see in the fog.
Winters can be tough on bison. The deeper the snow, the harder it is for them to survive. Normally bison go to lower elevations in the winter to find easier ground to eat, but this bison stuck it out high in the mountains.
Frozen in Time
There aren’t many colder places in the United States than Yellowstone. It is very common in the winter time for the temperature to drop well below -20 degrees. After a night of sleep in the deep cold, this bison looked like it was frozen into the landscape.
A Gentle Look
The muskox are animals that endure extreme cold and enjoy it. The look on this ox could have told a story. It really is amazing how such an interesting animal could have such a soft look.
Winter takes its toll on all wildlife in the winter. Normally the bison are very docile and do what they can to conserve energy. These two were feeling lively and began to push each other around.
In the far north it is often very overcast. On this morning, the sun was only out briefly and I couldn't find any animals to photograph in the great light. All of a sudden, I spotted this muskox as it was glowing from the morning light.
Bison are very large animals. As the sun was going down, I began to look to see if I could find any on a ridge. I was fortunate to find a herd on a ridge that allowed the setting colors to silhouette them.
Winter is tough on the bison, and all animals of Yellowstone. When it gets really cold, bison will often head to the thermal areas to warm up from the steam emitting from the ground. After they have been there for a while, the hoar frost begins to build and covers them like it does the trees that are nearby.
Muskox look like an animal from the stone ages. They thrive in the far north and survive in the harshest weather of any animal. Their hair is very long and thick to protect them from that weather. This large male was impressive just standing still.
Baby bison are a very playful animal. When a few babies get together, it is pandemonium. They run and run and don'r stop until their tongue is hanging out and they can't hardly breath anymore.
Bison are one of the most well adapted animals to survive a harsh winter. They don't even get cold until the temperature drops below -40 degrees! In a heavy snow year, this bison was having to dig deep to find any grass or plants under the snow. The wind was howling and blowing for a very long time, and covered this bison in snow as he was trying to eat and survive.
Eerie Morning Walk
In Yellowstone, there are many different looks to each landscape depending on the day. On a cold morning, there was more fog than normal as this bison walked in the river. Due to fires in the area, the sun rose with a red color. All these together made the landscape appear as if it something eerie was going on.
When bison are born they come out an orange color. It isn't the best camouflage because everything else is brown or green, but they do come out orange. For some reason they got the name, 'Red Dog', even though they are not red.
Bison stick to the lower valleys in the winter. Being in the mountains makes surviving the winter very difficult. These bison were in a high valley struggling to dig through the snow to find food.
Bison will sit for hours to wait out a winter storm. This bison had sat so long that the snow had built up on him from the blowing snow. When he stood up he looked like a bison snowman.
Musk oxen females and babies will stay together in a herd. The males will join them mostly during mating season, and at other random times. A male here walks up to a family, and then shortly after gave chase to most of them.
Because it can be so cold in the winter, their breath sometimes freezes to them. Walking along the walk right into their frosty breath, and as it hits them it freezes to their fur.
In the Steam
Bison are able to walk anywhere they want in Yellowstone. In many places the ground is very unstable and dangerous for humans to walk across. Bison will walk right through a geyser area and act as if it is no different than any other ground. It is impressive how they move around there dangerous hydrothermal areas.