Yellowstone officials issue alert on ‘unpredictable’ threat — Best Life

Yellowstone’s virtually endless natural beauty and grandeur have made it one of the most beloved sites in the National Park system. Sprawling over 2.2 million acres, it’s home to more than half of the world’s active geysers, 290 waterfalls, and more. 1,000 miles of hiking trails that make it possible to take it all in, according to park officials. But as with any outdoor experience, there are certain risks and dangers that can come with a visit. And now, Yellowstone National Park officials have issued a new alert after recent events landed some guests in the hospital. Read on to see which “unpredictable” threat asks visitors to be careful.

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Just weeks before officials’ latest warning came in, Yellowstone National Park was devastated by flooding from record-breaking rainfall in what officials called a “1000 year event“by The New York Times. The storm surge significantly damaged park infrastructure by destroying roads, washing out bridges, and blocking routes with landslides and downed trees. After evacuating more than 10,000 visitors, officials closed all five entrances to the park on June 13 to assess the destruction.

Fortunately, the National Park Service (NPS) announced a week later that the park would be partial reopening on June 22, limiting access to Yellowstone’s South Loop. They also instituted an Alternate License Plate System (ALPS) to help prevent overcrowding by allowing guests to enter only based on the last digit printed on their vehicle license plate.

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However, on June 30, the NPS announced that it would be north loop reopening and suspending ALPS effective July 2, restoring access to 93 percent of the park’s roads, even as two of its main entrances on the north and northeast remain closed. But even as visitors return to Yellowstone, officials are warning of another problem that has plagued visitors recently.

Yellowstone officials issue alert on 'unpredictable' threat — Best Life national park yellowstone wildlife

On June 30, Yellowstone officials announced that two visitors had been gored by a bison within three days at the park, marking the third such incident this year. In a press release, they said “bison are wild and unpredictable” and urged caution around them.

According to the official statement, the latest incident occurred on June 29 and involved a 71-year-old woman visiting Pennsylvania. The animal attacked her when she accidentally approached it while going back to his car, after which she was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, the BBC reports. The day before, a 34-year-old man was rammed and thrown into the air by a bison while walking along a boardwalk with his family near the famous Old Faithful geyser, sending him to the hospital with an arm injury. And on May 30, a 25-year-old Ohio woman was hospitalized with puncture wounds when a bison gored her and launched her 10 feet into the air after approaching the animal on a boardwalk in the Black Sand Basin.

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woman in hospital bed with hand on head

The latest incidents are not the first time visitors to Yellowstone have had close encounters with bison. According to a 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there was a record 33 reported injuries of the animals between 1983 and 1985, as well as five injuries between May and July 2015. In fact, bison have hurt more people than any other animal in the park in its more than 150 years of operation, according to the NPS.

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Yellowstone officials issue alert on 'unpredictable' threat — Best Life yellowstone national park

Seeing roaming bison is one of Yellowstone’s most iconic experiences. Still, the NPS advises that anyone who comes across grazing animals while visiting the park should always keep at least 25 yards away from them. The agency warns that bison can run three times faster than humans and will often respond to perceived threats by shaking their heads, pawing the ground, snorting or bellowing before attacking.

“Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park is wild and can be dangerous when approached,” officials warn. “Give bison space when they’re near a campground, trail, boardwalk, parking lot, or in a developed area. If necessary, turn around and go the other way to avoid interacting with a nearby wildlife.”

The agency also warns not to stand firm if a bison ever appears to feel threatened. Instead, you should immediately walk or run away, using bear spray if the animal tries to follow or chase you.