Yesterday, Yellowstone National Park officials confirmed reports that a bison-related injury had occurred after a Mississippi woman was attacked by one of the animals while trying to take a photo of it near Old Faithful on Tuesday.
The incident is the fifth of its kind at the park so far this season. Earlier this year a 16-year-old exchange student and a 62-year-old man were attacked while trying to photograph the animals, despite numerous signs warning them to stay at least 25 yards away. Once again, park staff had warned visitors to keep their distance and to avoid turning their backs on bison, especially while trying to take a “selfie.”
According to park officials, the 43-year-old woman was visiting with her family when she stopped near the Fairy Falls trailhead to observe the bison. Taking her daughter along with her, the woman was appoximately six yards away from the animals when she turned her back and began to take the picture. At this point another observer warned them that they were too close.
“They heard the bison’s footsteps moving toward them and started to run, but the bison caught the mother on the right side, lifted her up and tossed her with its head,” the park stated. “The woman’s father covered her with his body to protect her and the bison moved about 3 yards away. The family drove to the Old Faithful Clinic, where the woman was treated and released with minor injuries.”
Understandably, park officials are getting frustrated that visitors are continuing to ignore basic safety rules. With a record-high number of visitors in June, Yellowstone can expect even higher foot traffic for the rest of July and August, the park’s busiest months in the year. Corresponding with the higher visitor numbers, bison encounters have shot up as well.
“We typically have one or two [bison attacks] per year,” park spokesperson Amy Bartlett told the Associated Press.
Bison normally keep their distance from humans, but experts say they can be unpredictable. A wild bison can run up to three times faster than the average human and weigh over 2,000 pounds. Being hit by one is somewhat like being hit by a small car.
“The family said they read the warnings in both the park literature and the signage, but saw other people close to the bison, so they thought it would be OK,” said Colleen Rawlings, Old Faithful District Ranger. “People need to recognize that Yellowstone wildlife is wild, even though they seem docile. This woman was lucky that her injuries were not more severe.”
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