The road through riding mountain to get to see the bison was the longest road of my life. I couldn’t wait to see bison, and was terrified that we wouldn’t be able to see any. The day before had been the last warm day of autumn, not that we knew that at the time. It was cold, one of the first days approaching freezing, but moisture falls as rain.
The bison who live in Riding Mountain are a conservation effort to reintroduce a native species that has been decimated in the prairies. Bison are incredibly rare in the wild, and a pack of approximately 40 bison, the herd has doubled over the last 60 years they have been living in the 500 hectare enclosure. There are holes in the fence to allow for both prey and preditors to pass through uneffected. Conservationists say that allowing natural predator access allows for natural selection within the population. Wolves are the usual predators of bison in the wild, bison are too large to be threatened by many of the smaller meat eaters on the praries.
You’re not allowed out of the car- there are large signs reminding you that bison are massive wild animals and even if they don’t want to hit you, you are a tiny spec of an ant to them. Stay in your car for god’s sake. I was hopeful- earlier that day Alex had seen a repost from CBC Manitoba of the bison running across the car path through their grazing lands. On the right side they were- about 50 feet away munching on some grass. They make a strange grunting noise and were teasing us- they kept looking like the herd was walking towards us, but they never got closer in the end. You’re struck by their size: like tanks stepping over the yellowing grasses and stopping to have a bite to eat. we parked and watched them through the window.
We drove around Lake Audy afterwards. We hoped to do a hike but it was a raw damp cold that day and we were not dressed for the weather- we didn’t think to bring gloves. The shift from autumn to winter was that weekend, even if it hadn’t snowed yet.
We were at Riding Mountain relaxing after I was on a visual arts panel at the Manitoba Arts Showcase in Russell Manitoba. I couldn’t sleep or focus on the days leading up, despite being an extrovert, It’s uncomfortable talking about something as personal as my art practice in such a public setting. It went well, and felt silly for being so nervous. It’s really challenging for me to stand up and talk about my work like I am an authority. My work is so close to me that there is nothing to stand behind.
I bet bison never get nervous.