Why do bison attack in Yellowstone?

It’s been a tumultuous summer for Yellowstone National Park. Following catastrophic rains and flooding at the start of peak visitor season last month, the park was closed while officials assessed and repaired damaged roads and bridges. As it reopens in phases, tourists return and run into trouble with wildlife.

This year, three people in a short period of time were attacked after getting too close to a bison.

First it was a 25-year-old visitor from Ohio, who was gored and thrown 10 feet into the air by a bison after coming within 10 feet of the animal on May 30. The next incident took place on June 28, a week after Yellowstone. reopened some parts to the public, when a 34-year-old tourist from Colorado was attacked and gored near Giant Geyser. A day afterA 71-year-old visitor from Pennsylvania was gored by a male bison near Storm Point on Yellowstone Lake when she inadvertently approached the animal.

While the incidents may have been shocking to the public, they were not to experts.

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“I think three in a row, that’s just a coincidence, but we see it every year,” says Jared Beaver, a wildlife manager. specialist and assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Field Sciences at Montana State University. “These days, more and more people visit the park, and bison numbers are at a low level. its highest point.”

Bison injure more people in Yellowstone than any other wildlife, according to a 2019 report from Utah State University. These unpredictable animals can be dangerous when approached and are capable of running three times faster than humans.

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“If someone gets too close, the bison may decide to clearly set some boundaries,” says Scott Cundy, co-founder of hiking in nature.

Cundy says dangerous wildlife encounters, even those that result in injury or death, are a predictable occurrence in Yellowstone. Among 1978 and 1992, 56 people were injured and two people died from bison attacks in the park. From 2000 to 2015, there were 25 reported injuries.

It doesn’t help that visitors get close to wild animals. Half of the attacks they occur when a tourist tries to take a photo with a bison.

“They look so calm and so docile,” says Beaver. “You get people who are not very familiar with the rules and these animals are still very wild and dangerous animals.”

While the flooding affected the park’s infrastructure, Beaver and Cundy don’t think it had anything to do with the recent gorings. With large parts of the park closed, “Theoretically, bison should have more space to graze and roam right now without the likelihood of running into people,” says Cundy. “Also, the wet spring has created an abundant amount of grass for the bison to consume.”

Wildlife attacks can be easily avoided with a few basic precautions, Cundy says, like staying at least 100 feet away from animals, walking in groups, making noise and carrying bear spray.

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Park officials say it’s best to stick to the trails. Whenever a wild animal is nearby, give it space or turn around and go the other way, they say. People should stay more than 25 yards from any large animals (such as bison, moose, coyotes, moose, bighorn sheep) and at least 100 yards from bears and wolves.

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“We move to keep that distance and make sure all guests know why that is important to the well-being of wildlife,” Cimarron Anderson, Yellowstone-based supervisor of field experiences for REI, said in an email. “It’s your house, we are the visitor.”

Not only is it risky to come into contact with wildlife, but it is also illegal to intentionally feed, touch, disturb, scare or disturb them. In the summer of 2018, a Yellowstone tourist from Oregon was arrested and later sentenced to 130 days in jail for drunken conduct and harassing a bison.

“It’s critical that people remember that our national parks are not zoos or amusement parks,” says Cundy. “These are real, wild ecosystems with animals that may seem tame but can be extremely dangerous.”