A YouTube video showing “Yellowstone Buffalo Running for Their Lives” has over 1 million page views and has triggered anxious inquiries to Yellowstone National Park officials. But park officials say the video is much ado about nothing, and the animals are not fleeing for their lives to avoid a supervolcano eruption.
In fact, park officials note that the buffalo, shown in the video running down a paved road, are actually running further into the park, not fleeing it. Park officials hoping to combat the rumors to avoid panic.
Yellowstone Public Affairs chief Al Nash says the video of bison “fleeing” the park shows normal migration patterns. The animals move around because it is winter, and that they frequently move out of the park this time of year to lower elevation where there may be more to eat. They go to where they remember finding food before.
Nash says that many of Yellowstone’s 4,600 bison are out of the park right now, but when the snow melts and things start to get green they will come right back, just as they do every year. He says the bison frequently take the paved roads, and they get frisky on spring days and run around. It’s a normal occurrence.
The rumors of a massive animal exodus started after a March 30, 4.8 magnitude earthquake, with fears that the temblor indicated increasing seismic activity, which could trigger the eruption of a supervolcano. Nash says the large earthquakes experienced in recent weeks are not beyond normal seismic activity. The park gets 1,000 to 3,000 earthquakes yearly, and they are not related to the supervolcano.
Yes, there is a massive supervolcano under Yellowstone Park. The Yellowstone Caldera is what causes the geysers, mud pots and hot springs that people come to see. And if it did erupt it would be a big problem, potentially covering half of North America in ash.
Two previous supervolcano eruptions, 640,000 years ago and 2 million years ago caused massive damage to the earth, and the eruption 2 million year ago was thought to have killed off many species. But the US Geological Survey agrees that the park gets many earthquakes each year, and there are currently no changes in atmospheric helium levels that would indicate that an eruption is due any time soon.
Many people believe myths that say that animals can sense upcoming earthquakes. And although animals may feel an earthquake earlier than humans and start to react, they do not get some kind of mystical advance notice. Also, if animals did have an early warning sense they would not necessarily know which way to run and what to do. Park authorities say they definitely do not know something we do not about the Yellowstone supervolcano.
Yellowstone says the YouTube video was actually taken before March 30 quake, and that the buffalo are actually fleeing TOWARD the center of the Caldera. Park authorities say that if people really want to know about the geology in Yellowstone that they should go to the official website.
By Beth A. Balen