Back in March of 2014, a viral video began circulating the internet, suggesting that bison were fleeing the reaches of Yellowstone National Park in preparation for the caldera’s eruption. On March 30, a powerful 4.7 magnitude earthquake shook the foundation of the area, but caused no damage, leading some skeptics to believe that there was a connection between the quake, the animals movements and a possible eruption to come.
To begin to debunk the theory, the video was taken more than two weeks before the quake on March 14. Leo Leckie, a Research Associate to Dr. James Halfpenny at A Naturalists World, shot the video of the bison, captioned in a Facebook post: "Yellowstone bison on the run for the joy of Spring."
In an interview with the L.A. Times, Leckie told Louis Sahagun: "There was nothing chasing them. There was no mudslide. They were just running." Adding that the bisons were running into the park, not away from it.
According to IFLS.com, animals migrate to lower elevations during the winter months where food is more likely to be abundant. The natural movements therefore do not indicate that the animals had predicted, or were “fleeing” a possible eruption of the supervolcano. Al Nash, chief of public affairs for Yellowstone attempted to explain this in a video posted to YouTube, titled "Minute On It: Rumor Control", a day after the quake.
“There is no evidence that a catastrophic eruption at Yellowstone National Park (YNP) is imminent.” The National Park Service explains in the FAQ section of their website. “Current geologic activity at Yellowstone has remained relatively constant since earth scientists first started monitoring some 30 years ago. Though another caldera-forming eruption is theoretically possible, it is very unlikely to occur in the next thousand or even 10,000 years.”
Further, the NPS states that an impending eruption would be detectable far ahead of time, and that lava flow would be the most likely product, oozing slowly over months and years, allowing the park managers plenty of time to evaluate the situation and protect people. At any rate, scientists are constantly monitoring the volcanic activity there at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, and release an official report to the public concerning their findings. Small quakes, gas releases, and ground uplift and subsidence, at Yellowstone are commonplace for caldera, and do not indicate impending eruptions or give us reason to take precautionary measures.
What’s important to remember as these rumors make their rounds again now months after is that credible information on the internet is often difficult to discern, but worth looking into. Especially in an event like this that could potential cause widespread panic and mistrust, turning to resources like Snopes, and utilizing the internet as the information database it is ultimately attributes to better understanding and a more open-minded and comprehensive understanding of the world. Keep digging.