Bison Gores Teenager at Yellowstone National Park

I feel like Yellowstone National Park has been in the news more than any other national park recently with some pretty crazy stories. Last year there was the rumored exodus of bison allegedly fleeing an imminent super volcano eruption. Only about a week ago, there was a video released showing a black bear and its cubs charging tourists and photographers. It seems the madness has continued with yet another shocking occurrence out in Wyoming.

A teenager, a Taiwanese exchange student, had to be airlifted from Yellowstone National Park after being gored by a an adult bull (male) bison. Around noon on Friday, near Old Faithful on the Geyser Trail, several onlookers were only about 6 feet away from a bison that was grazing just off the trail. Apparently, a 16 year-old girl posed for a photo right in front of the bison and as she turned her back, it charged her and gored her. It’s believed that the injuries are thankfully not life-threatening, though they must have obviously been very serious if she was airlifted out of the park.

I feel bad for the young girl and the family involved in this situation but at some point visitors are going to have to learn about keeping their distance from wild animals. At Yellowstone National Park, visitors must keep at least 25 yards away from both bison and elk (two animals who are constantly underestimated for their danger to humans).

Bison in particular are hard to judge because many of them can have such distinct personalities. Some can be more timid and shy while others can be very aggressive, especially if they are feeling frustrated or threatened in any way. One way to tell if a bison is feeling prone to attack is if its tail is raised in the signature question mark formation. If you’ve ever heard the phrase to “high tail it out of some where” that’s where it originated from. Still, rely on keeping your distance more than anything because these animals, regardless of their predispositions, can be very unpredictable. 

These large mammals are also far more capable than most are aware. Bison bulls can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and can hit speeds up to 35-40 mph! They also can jump up to 6 feet high. In other words, you’re not going to outrun or out jump a bison. To see just how real these attacks can be, check out the video below of someone who got just a little too close for comfort.   

Here are some safety tips for dealing with bison if you have any encounters with them.

  • If you’re in your car, just drive very slowly and they will eventually move away. Don’t honk or try to maneuver around the bison aggressively. And don’t get out of your vehicle because you might end up spooking them.  
  • Take extra precaution in the rutting season (July-August) because this is the time when these animals tend to be more aggressive. 
  • Never try to chase a bison away; simply try to walk away slowly
  • And remember, keep your distance!

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Cover Photo: NPS