See a Grizzly Bear Ride a Bison Like a Boat in an Incredible Fight at Yellowstone

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Updated: September 1, 2023
© Cooper
Share this post on:


Key Points

  • Yellowstone’s population of grizzlies is known for a particular fondness for the meaty fare.
  • The introduction of wolves to the park means life has gotten a great deal more pleasant for the Bruins with an abundance of carcasses to feast on.
  • And yet owing to their carnivorous leanings, it comes as no surprise that these mighty carnivores occasionally clash with America’s mightiest herbivore, the bison.

Yellowstone Offers Visitors Great Opportunities to See Grizzlies

Yellowstone grizzly bears can be at their most dangerous when they first emerge from hibernation.
Yellowstone grizzly bears can be viewed from a safe distance under the right circumstances.

©Paul Knowles/

America’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park, was founded in 1872 and is mostly located in Wyoming. The marvels that surround you in this national park are unlike anything other.

Visits to Yellowstone are like entering another universe; it is our first national park and a wonderful wonder to see.  This genuinely exceptional national park is full of wonders, from natural wonders like the Yellowstone Grand Canyon to fauna like the nation’s biggest herd of buffalo, brown bears, and wolves.

Only The Top 1% Can Ace our Animal Quizzes

Think You Can?

A YouTube channel by the name of “Caters Clips” shows us just how intense things can get with the wild animals there. Their video of a bison and a grizzly bear interacting has nearly 5 million views at the time of writing this. This isn’t just any video. On Sunday, May 31, 2020, Michael Daus (55) was at Yellowstone National Park with his family. While walking around the park, they spotted a bison grazing in the distance. 

Grass and sedge make up the majority of an American bison’s diet. It will consume fruits and lichen on occasion. Without knowing any better, a young grizzly bear cub runs up and attacks the bison while it’s eating. Despite being young, the bear is nearly the same size as the bison! 

Five Facts About Wildlife at Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

©Jess Kraft/

Yellowstone is one of the most famous national parks in the U.S. and is known for its stunningly beautiful scenery and diverse wildlife.

Besides bears and bison, here are a few other facts about the wildlife found at Yellowstone National Park:

  1. Yellowstone is home to the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states, with over 67 species of mammals living within its boundaries. This includes iconic species such as grizzly bears, gray wolves, bison, elk, and moose.
  2. The gray wolf was reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 after being absent from the park for 70 years. Today, the park is home to around 100 wolves in 10 packs.
  3. Bison are a symbol of the American West and have been living in Yellowstone National Park for thousands of years. Today, there are around 4,000 bison in the park.
  4. Yellowstone National Park is home to the largest active geyser in the world, Old Faithful, which erupts around 20 times a day.
  5. The bird life in Yellowstone is also incredibly diverse, with over 300 species of birds recorded in the park.

Comparing the Size of a Bison and a Grizzly

american bison
Bison are massive beasts with males capable of tipping the scales at 2,000 pounds.

©Tim Malek/

Male bison, also known as bulls, may weigh up to 2,000 pounds and grow as tall as 6 feet; in contrast, female bison, also known as cows, can weigh up to 1,000 pounds and grow as tall as 4-5 feet. At birth, bison calves weigh 30 to 70 pounds. 

Yellowstone bears generally weigh less than bison, although sheer ferocity may make them fearsome opponents

©Dennis W Donohue/

Grizzly bears may weigh more than 700 lbs (315 kilograms). The males may weigh up to 1,700 pounds, making them bigger than the females (770 kilograms). An enormous female can weigh up to 800 pounds (360 kilograms).

The Fight Continues on Land and Water

Brown bear in water
Grizzly Bears are at home in the water and are considered to be great swimmers.

©David Rasmus/

The altercation between the two animals gets intense, with the bison charging at the bear. That doesn’t deter this young grizzly, as he repeatedly comes back for more! The two eventually fight their way over a bridge, along the prairie side, and eventually downstream.

While it may appear relatively harmless, the bear isn’t giving up and the bison is clearly irritated. Even in the water, the feisty cub continues to attack the bison, almost looking as if he’s going to climb on top of him. 

For tens of thousands of years, bison and some species of brown or grizzly bear lived side by side. Any animal, but especially not a grizzly bear, finds it difficult to kill a bison. We’re just glad this cub’s parents weren’t around to join in on the action. Check out the spectacular video below to find out who prevails in this fight!

Watch the Incredible Video Now!

Do Brown Bears Normally Fight Bison?

In spite of an overwhelming preference for meaty fare, and the delightful abundance of carcasses abandoned by wolf packs, brown bears have been known to hunt larger herbivores. Included on that list are weakened elk.

Bison is somewhat trickier given their penchant for wandering in herds, the immense bulk of males – not to mention their reputation for being especially foul-tempered.

Brown bear
Certain Yellowstone grizzlies have been known to specialize in taking down bison

©Karin Jaehne/

And yet, certain Yellowstone grizzlies have perfected the art of hunting down these mighty herbivores. That said, they are generally more likely to target a weakened member of the species.

The Featured Image

Bearded Animals
While bison have poor eyesight, they have excellent senses of smell and hearing. Cows and calves communicate using pig-like grunts, and during mating season, bulls can be heard bellowing
© Cooper

Share this post on:
About the Author

When she's not busy playing with her several guinea pigs or her cat Finlay Kirstin is writing articles to help other pet owners. She's also a REALTOR® in the Twin Cities and is passionate about social justice. There's nothing that beats a rainy day with a warm cup of tea and Frank Sinatra on vinyl for this millennial.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.