July 29, 2013
After a couple of days of walking around geyser basins, I had a question. You see, large animal droppings and footprints are visible all over the geyser basins. Bison around the Mud Volcanoes site seem to treat it like their own personal sauna. Like this:
My question: Do they ever fall in? Given the strident warnings all over the park about how the ground isn’t firm and you shouldn’t go anywhere near the geysers and springs because of the threat of Certain Doom, you have to wonder how the animals manage. Because if the bison, North America’s largest land animal, could walk all over without a problem, so could people, right?
Well. Turns out, bison and elk and such aren’t too smart about these things, and one should not go following their leads. Because the answer is yes, they do fall in.
Apparently, about six weeks ago visitors at the West Thumb Geyser Basin witnessed a particularly horrific circle-of-life moment when a baby elk stumbled and fell into the super-boiling hot Black Pool spring. Here’s what’s left of the poor guy:
The volunteers at the visitors center still seemed shaken up when they talked about it. Not because of the elk’s death, which was natural, but because there had been children among the witnesses. “There were little kids watching,” the two men we talked to kept saying. “Kids saw that. What do you say to them? How do explain something like that?”
You do it like this, of course:
Parent: “Well, Timmy, sometimes terrible things happen to baby animals because their parents don’t know to keep them away from dangerous things like super-boiling hot springs. But that won’t happen to you because we love you!”