When snowstorms hit Montana, one often hears reports of cattle and sheep smothered in snow drifts. These domestic animals react to fierce winds by turning their back and walking with the wind, where they are driven into low lying areas and covered with the drifting snow. But the response of our bison is dramatically different and, at first, doesn’t make sense. When the north winds are howling and snow sweeps over the land in dense clouds, the buffs turn straight into that icy north wind and climb up almost a thousand feet to the top of our ridges, where the full fury of the wind drives the snow into their faces. But more importantly, it blows the snow over their shaggy forms and on down the slopes into the valleys and fills the drainages with fluffy, deadly drifts. And the bison are left standing on wind-blown ridges of shallower snow, just as they must have done when they weathered the Ice Age two million years ago. Those shaggy bonnets on their heads and dense wool over their shoulders and front legs are there for a reason!
Blizzard Bison January 26, 2010