Pennsylvania boy tossed by bison

[Friday June 27, 2008]  Somebody shouts, “Don’t do that!” But they do it anyway. The big bull bison is sitting placidly, probably ruminating. Nothing about it suggests irritation, agility, and speed. The family lines up for a picture, a foot or two in front of the bison – a picture never to be forgotten. Quicker than a flash the bison rises, places its massive head under the twelve-year-old, and like a penny, flips the boy ten feet into the air.

By luck, the bull’s horns were not involved with the boy’s body; but the crash landing hurt. Complaining of abdominal pain, the boy was taken by ambulance to the clinic at Lake, and from there flown to the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls.

This incident occurred just off the trail near the popular Uncle Tom’s Overlook on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone – one of the busiest places in Yellowstone at the moment. The family was warned by passers-by.

Something like this happens nearly every year in Yellowstone – photographers seeking that ultimate close-up, families looking for that iconic snapshot of the kids and a buffalo. Somehow in the thrill of the perfect picture, instinctive risk-analysis fades into the background. Is this picture worth a trip to the hospital, personal injuries, and the end of a vacation?

Or is it simply ignorance? Despite the repeated warnings in almost all park literature – stay at least 25 yards (25 meters – 75 feet) away from all bison (they’re WILD folks) – people continue to underestimate the speed and agility of these animals. They are not domestic cattle; they’re accustomed to defending themselves against wolves.

Always, somebody doesn’t get the word; doesn’t read the situation; doesn’t have a clue. Park rangers know it will happen, again and again, but they keep hoping that all those SOMEBODIES will eventually learn.

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