This is one of my favorite Wyoming stories and it includes an interesting twist at the end.
Yellowstone National Park is just about my single most favorite place on the planet. It is this vast two million acre park full of wonderful creatures and amazing sites.
This story involves a grizzly bear, a herd of bison, a wolf and a bull elk, all of whom all live together in a somewhat peaceful manner in the world’s first national park.
When it comes to a fierce countenance, what animal is more feared than a giant grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park? We are not talking about Smokey the Bear here, but a really, really mean and nasty character.
One day this bear woke up in a very grumpy mood. He was stomping around and decided that the other animals were not giving him the royal treatment he deserved.
He stormed up to a huge bull elk and demanded: “Who is the King of Yellowstone?”
The elk was standing tall but soon was recoiling in fear and barely was able to stammer: “The answer to that question is you, great sire. There is nobody who could rule over you.”
“Yes,” replied the grizzly. “That is the correct answer to my question. And today I will let you live -- you sniveling overgrown creature.”
For good measure, the grizzly knocked over two trees and ripped up a big bush in a huge cloud of dust. Then he stomped off.
Not long after, he spotted a pack of wolves. He quickly corralled the Alpha Female and reared up to all nine majestic feet of his length.
The wolf was terrified.
“Who is the King of Yellowstone?” the grizzly demanded in a voice that came out like a roar and drowned out the nearby sound of the massive Lower Falls of Yellowstone Canyon.
“Oh my,” the Alpha Wolf replied. “My answer to your question is that you are the King of Yellowstone. Who could possibly challenge you for your mighty and royal supremacy?”
“Ah yes, that is the correct answer to my question and I have decided to let you live another day. Next time I may not be so generous.”
The bear took great pleasure in saying this because in many ways the wolf has advanced to near the top of the food chain in Yellowstone. And when in a pack, wolves can be a fearsome force. But when faced one-on-one with the biggest grizzly in the park, well, the Alpha Wolf was just no match.
Satisfied the King Grizzly stomped away looking for someone else to terrorize.
He waddled over to Hayden Valley and saw some bison lazily grazing in a meadow.
The griz sought out the biggest bison bull and confronted him. “Ah Buff (bison hate to be called buff or any form of the word buffalo, and the grizzly knew that), so I have a question for you.”
The bull slowly raised his head and sort of turned his face to the side in curiosity. What the heck was this bear doing?
“I have a question for you Buff,” the grizzly continued.
“Who is the King of Yellowstone?” the grizzly roared. At the sound of this about 100 other bison all came to an alert. It was a fearsome roar.
“Not sure I heard you right,” the bison replied softly. “Would you mind coming a little closer and asking me that question again. In my old age, my hearing is not so good.”
The grizzly strode up to the bison and as he started to ask the question: “Who is the King of Yellowstone” . . . well, all hell broke loose.
First the bison gored the grizzly and then knocked him downand started stomping on him. Pretty soon the whole herd was pummeling the grizzly. Amidst all the dust that was being raised were the sounds of bones breaking and sinews popping.
This went on for quite a while. It seemed like an eternity to the grizzly.
Finally, the bison got tired and ambled a little distance away. The bull turned and looked at the grizzly with a quizzical look on his face.
The grizzly was not doing so well. About the only bones in his body not broken were in his left forearm. He hefted his poor battered head up on that forearm, looked over at the bison and said:
“Well, you didn’t have to get so mad just because you didn’t know the answer.”
Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at www.billsniffin.com. He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written four books. His most recent book is “Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders” which is available at www.wyomingwonders.com.