Bison may appear to be docile animals, but they can be deadly when provoked. Officials at Yellowstone National Park announced on Saturday that a 16-year-old Taiwanese exchange student was gored and seriously injured while taking pictures of bison near Old Faithful. The encounter happened Friday afternoon when the student and her host family joined a group of tourists watching buffalo graze near a trail.
“According to first hand reports, the group was somewhere between three and six feet from the bison. The girl turned her back to the bison to have her picture taken when the bison lifted its head, took a couple steps and gored her,” the National Park Service (NPS) said in a press release.
The girl was moved away from the scene by bystanders and eventually taken by park rangers to the Old Faithful medical clinic. Her wounds were serious enough to require a helicopter ambulance, but officials clarified that her injuries are not life-threatening.
Visitors crowding around bison and other wildlife has been a longstanding problem for park officials. Despite repeated reminders from park staffers to keep a safe distance away from the animals, some amateur photographers still find the opportunity for a close-up irresistible. The problem is not restricted to just Yellowstone, either. Late last year the US Forest Service issued a warning for park visitors to stop taking “selfies” with bears, an extremely dangerous trend that involved getting close enough to an animal to include it in a photo.
“Bears are unpredictable, wild animals and may attack if threatened,” said Nancy Gibson, Forest Supervisor of the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. “We can’t have visitors creating dangerous situations for themselves and others. People are risking serious injury or death if they get too close to a bear.”
Bears may be the most obvious danger, but moose, elk, bison, wolves, and a number of other large animals can also be unpredictable, Yellowstone officials recommend staying at least 100 yards away from large predatory animals such as bears or wolves, and at least 25 yards away from large herbivores.
“Bison can sprint three times faster than humans can run and are unpredictable and dangerous,” Yellowstone officials said. “Just because an animal may be near a trail or boardwalk does not mean it should be approached within the recommended safe distances. Visitors are advised to give the animals enough space and be willing to alter their plans to avoid interacting with an animal in close proximity.”
When dealing with wild animals, a little common sense can go a long way. This old NPS video shows what can happen after getting too close to a bison: