Six tourists learned the hard way why you should always give bison a wide berth last week. The group decided to approach a pair of grazing animals to take close-up photos. but were sent running for their lives when one began to approach, tail raised in a display of agitation.
A video of the incident, recorded by Shane of Denver, Colorado, was shared on Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone. The page calls out examples of bad behavior at US National Parks, and past incidents have included people trying to pet bison, taunting elk, and dabbling their fingers in hot springs (with predictable results).
Luckily for these tourists it was only a bluff charge intended to force them back, but not everyone is so lucky. Two people have been seriously injured by bison at US National Parks this summer, both of whom were hospitalized with severe abdominal injuries after being gored by the animals' sharp horns.
The NPS states that visitors to National Parks should stay at least 25 yards (23 meters) away from bison at all time, and forbids tourists from approaching, feeding, or intimidating any wild animals.
One good way to determine whether you're a safe distance away is to use the 'rule of thumb'. Hold your arm out, give the bison a thumbs up, and close one eye. If you're able to hide the bison from view using your thumb, you're at a reasonable distance. If not, you should back up and give the animal more space. For more advice, see our guide how to avoid being gored by a bison.
Although usually docile, bison are huge and unpredictable, and according to the NPS are responsible for more injuries than any other animals at Yellowstone. Despite the warnings, park visitors often underestimate the danger and are seen approaching, feeding, petting, and even attempting to ride the animals.
Last year, park officials released a poster warning visitors not to pet the "fluffy cows" after three visitors were seriously injured by bison in the space of a week. On May 31 a woman was tossed in the air while walking on a boardwalk near a bison, on June 27 a man suffered arm injuries after being charged near Old Faithful, and on June 29 a woman was gored at Storm Point near Yellowstone Lake.
The best binoculars: enjoy watching wildlife from a safe distance