During last week’s visit to Yellowstone National Park we witnessed some fairly irresponsible displays of bravado from folks getting too close to bison. Two incidents were particularly troublesome. The first, in the Mud Volcano Trail, involved a single bull wandering through the parking lot and ending up at a hillside on the north side near the raised walkway. A group of kids had gathered about 50 feet away from the bull, who was rolling in the dirt of the hillside; one teenager was pushed off the raised walkway, far too close to the bull. Luckily for her, the bull didn’t seem to notice people much.
The second was more problematic. Two mothers and red dogs were lounging between the Old Faithful inn and the Hamilton Store, a popular place for bison to rest. The nearby sidewalk, alas, is a popular walkway for those heading to the Hamilton Store and the geyser basin. Several tourists insisted on getting close to the group of four bison, despite warnings from other onlookers; they backed off only when one of the mothers issued a very insistent snort — a clear warning to back off. (No, we didn’t get close to take this picture of two of the four; we used telephoto lens.)
In all fairness, it doesn’t sound like the woman tossed by the bison yesterday was doing anything wrong or encroaching within the 25 yards of the Park Service recommends be given to bison. Here’s the official account:
“At approximately 11:25 a.m., the woman and her husband were using a pay phone in the Canyon lodging area with their backs to the road. According to witnesses, two bull bison walked down the road, passing within 20 feet of the couple. One of the bison left the road, walked up behind the woman and butted her into the air. The couple, who were facing away from the road, did not see the bison.
The injured woman was transported to the Canyon Lodge front desk by visitors, and taken by ambulance to the Lake Clinic where she was released with only minor injuries.”