As Yellowstone National Park enters the busiest month of the year, visitors are reminded that they are responsible for their safety, which includes viewing wildlife from safe distances of at least 25 yards. In recent separate incidents, two people were injured after getting too close to bison. The first encounter occurred on June 23 when an off-duty concession employee came upon a bison while walking off trail after dark in the Lower Geyser Basin area. The second incident occurred July 1, when a visitor encountered a bison while hiking the Storm Point trail in the Yellowstone Lake area.
The first incident happened when a 19-year-old female from Georgia and three friends were returning to their car after swimming in the Firehole River late at night. The girl and a companion were walking in the dark when they came upon a bison lying down about 10 feet from them. The companion turned and ran from the bison, but before the girl could react, the bison charged her and tossed her in the air. Her friends helped her to their car and drove back to Canyon Village, where all four live and work. At Canyon, the girl went to bed, but awoke a short time later feeling ill. Around one in the morning, the party called the Yellowstone Interagency Communication Center asking for medical help. Rangers transported the victim by ground ambulance to a hospital outside the park and she was released with minor injuries later that day.
The second incident occurred when a 68-year-old female from Georgia was hiking on the Storm Point trail, approximately 300 yards from the trailhead, and encountered a bison near the trail. The woman continued on the trail and as she passed the bison, it charged and gored her. A witness ran up the trail to report the incident to an Interpretive ranger leading a hike in the area. Shortly before 4:30 p.m., the ranger reported the incident to the Yellowstone Interagency Communication Center. Due to serious injuries, the woman was transported to Lake Clinic by ground ambulance and then by helicopter ambulance to a hospital outside the park.
These are the third and fourth bison encounters in Yellowstone National Park this summer. The other two occurred when visitors to the Old Faithful area approached too close to bison. Both visitors in those incidents were flown by helicopter ambulance to a hospital due to their injuries.
Visitors should remember that while many of the bison and elk in the park may appear tame, they are wild animals and should never be approached. Bison can sprint three times faster than humans can run and are unpredictable and dangerous. Park regulations require visitors stay at least 25 yards (23 m) away from all large animals – bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes and at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves. If a visitor comes upon a bison or elk along a trail, boardwalk, parking lot, or in developed areas, visitors must give the animal at least 25 yards by either safely going around the animal or turning around, altering their plans, and not approaching the animal.