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Photo: Bison masters the snow

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Our photo of the day comes from Yellowstone National Park.

My heart sank a bit when I saw this photo by Gary Ellwein, taken in Yellowstone National Park's Lamar Valley. "Poor sweet baby," I thought. But I have seen photos before of bison valiantly trudging through shoulder-high snow, so I know they must be designed for doing so.

Thankfully, WWF explains:

"Despite roaming vast distances in the Northern Great Plains, bison do not move south as the weather grows cold and inhospitable, though they may move to lower elevations where snow is not so deep. Temperatures plummet well below zero, bitter winds whip across the landscape, and bison still remain. The massive animals (weigh up to 2,000 pounds and can hit speeds of 40 miles per hour) feed on grasses and sedges year-round. When blizzards blanket the plains with deep snow, bison use their heads as a plow of sorts to push aside the accumulation and reach the forage below."

They add that the bison's hump is comprised of strong muscles and long vertebrae that helps them push through the snow; and a winter coat of woolly underfur and coarse guard hairs protects them protect them from such extreme elements. Phew! Carry on, bison, carry on.

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