Bison are North America’s largest land mammals, but it’s rare to see one challenge the continent’s top predator. That’s what happened earlier this year when a bison chased a grizzly bear up the side of a steep hill in a popular wildlife viewing area in Yellowstone National Park. The encounter was filmed and posted on Youtube by Pete Speer on May 30. See it for yourself below.
The two-minute video was shot in the Lamar Valley, located near the eastern boundary of the 2.2 million acre park. It begins with bison galloping at a steady pace towards a grizzly bear grazing in a field of grass and sage brush. The bear continues to go about its business until the charging bison approaches so close that it can no longer be ignored.
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For a second, the bison stops running and just walks towards the bear. Then, when the bear flies off towards the hill, the bison picks up speed and resumes its pursuit. “What’s going to happen here,” asks someone behind the camera. “Oh my God, the bear can probably ride…better than the bison.”
The bear quickly leaves the bison in its dust. In a few seconds, there are more than 100 meters between the two animals and the video stops. It’s unclear exactly what sparked the altercation, but it appears the bison was completely unprovoked in its daring challenge to the large grizzly bear.
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While it’s somewhat shocking to see an ungulate running away from a large carnivore like a grizzly, it might be more common than you think. “I’ve seen several instances where small groups of bison have successfully hunted bears,” said Kerry Gunther, bear management biologist at Yellowstone National Park. F&S contributor Steven Hill in a 2022 interview. “A lot of times you’ll see big bulls lying in a meadow, and they might not even get up if a grizzly bear passes by, so confident are they in their ability (to protect themselves ).”