Herd Behavior

Being quarantined has sent me down a wormhole of animal documentaries. My most recent subscribe on YouTube was to BBC Earth because I could watch Lions fight Hyenas or Wolves hunt in packs for hours. What fascinates me is the amount of strategic planning that goes into the hunt; the positioning, the directional scare tactics, the manipulation and the conservation of energy are all accounted for instinctually by these predators.

In the video yesterday, I watched a wolf pack hunt a herd of bison. The bison are casually eating in the snow until they get that inkling of fear; something is wrong and it’s fight or flight time. One sees the wolves and takes off, and then all bets are off as the herd breaks into a full sprint. They become a stampede of chaos running in fear for their lives and it becomes about outrunning one another, not the wolves. Exactly what the wolves want.

The large female leader of the wolves knows the bison will scramble and she uses their fear to orchestrate their own end. She knows she can’t take one on in a fight from the front. See, in the high powder, the bison will tire quickly because they have to blaze the trail that the wolves get to run in to chase after them, which means the wolves are running in freshly plowed snow. The bison are doing the work for them. The whole process is a predatory symphony and the cause of death is a manipulated psyche.

While watching I said to myself,

“Dang, it’s madness watching the herd scramble in fear. Imagine if the bison knew to just stand together and fight back.”

I reluctantly stayed for a bison’s avoidable demise and then turned on the news to witness a fight in a Costco parking lot over toilet paper.

Who was involved?

Two Bison.

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