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A Visitor Was Injured by a Bison Two Days Into Yellowstone NP’s Opening

That didn’t take very long.

Yellowstone began opening sections of the park to visitors, mostly road-based visitors, back on May 18. On May 20, the first incident involving a person getting far too close to wildlife and paying the price, was registered.

It’s made very clear by park staff and signage, and, one would argue, common sense, that visitors should remain at least 25 yards away from wildlife, especially large and dangerous wildlife, at all times. Bison can easily outrun a human, many can weigh 2,000 pounds, they can leap over 5 feet into the air, and they can be quite territorial. 25 yards is the bare minimum, really, you want to be when it comes to giving a bison space.

But on the afternoon of May 20, near the popular Old Faithful Upper Geyser Basin, a woman followed a bison too closely, the animal took exception, charged, and knocked the woman to the ground. She didn’t require hospitalization, but was treated on site by NPS medical staff.

NPS rules and regulations make clear how to view wildlife safely:

• Never approach animals. The animals in Yellowstone are wild and unpredictable, no matter how calm they appear to be. The safest (and often best) view of wildlife is from inside a car. Always stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves, and at least 25 yards away from all other animals, including bison and elk.
• Stay on boardwalks and trails in thermal areas. Hot springs have injured or killed more people in Yellowstone than any other natural feature. Keep your children close and don’t let them run.
• Never feed wildlife. Animals that become dependent on human food may become aggressive toward people and have to be killed. Keep all food, garbage, or other smelly items packed away when not in use.
• Never park in the road or block traffic. Use pullouts to watch wildlife and let other cars pass. Stay with your vehicle if you encounter a wildlife jam.

Earlier in May, when the park was still closed, a person illegally entered the park and fell into a “thermal feature” requiring them to be rescued and transported by air to a burn treatment ward.

National parks across the country are set to begin phased re-openings over the coming weeks.

Photo: NPS/Neal Herbert

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