I’m sure you’ve heard this by now: late last week, a visitor in Yellowstone National Park had a brush with danger trying to pet a bison.
In a video that’s been making the rounds (here courtesy of the Billings Gazette), a woman was seen attempting to pet a bison lounging near the boardwalk.
The woman was rather fortunate that bison didn’t decide to rear up and toss/gore her.
But according to KPAX, she may not be so fortunate if law enforcement catches up to her. Yellowstone spokesperson Amy Bartlett said officers are investigating the incident, although she did not say whether the woman has been identified. From KPAX:
Her actions broke park law, Bartlett said, and the woman could face a fine or more. “It’s hard to say,” Bartlett said. “When you harass wildlife, you could face a citation or a mandatory appearance in front of a federal magistrate.”
The judge could then decide punishment. In the park, regardless of location, visitors must adhere to a 25-yard minimum distance from wildlife. “We don’t restrict animal movements in the parks,” Amy Bartlett said. “You still need to keep the minimum distance.”
That means even in walking path areas where the bison sat near Old Faithful Lodge. Saturday, the day the incident occurred, was opening day for visitors. Since then, there have not been any other reported incidents, Bartlett said.
Bartlett added she’s not sure why the bison didn’t rear up, saying “his tolerance level hasn’t been tested in quite a few months,” since the Park has been largely closed the past few months.
With the summer season quickly approaching, it’s important to remember that, no matter how tempting it is to reach out and run your fingers through a bison’s fur, or stop to take a selfie with the animal, you’re putting your safety at risk.
Bison are notably standoffish animals, given their migratory habits. Indeed, rather than patrol defined territories, since bison are constantly on the move, they have to be ready to react to animals that come too close. This includes people.
So, as a friendly reminder, don’t antagonize the bison.