A 25-year-old Ohio woman has died after being gored and tossed by a bison at Yellowstone National Park over Memorial Day weekend.
On Saturday morning, the bison had walked near a boardwalk at Black Sand Basin, about a mile northwest of the famous Old Faithful geyser. The tourist, who was on the boardwalk, approached the animal to within 10 feet. “Consequently, the bison gored the woman and tossed her 10 feet into the air,” according to a statement from the National Park Service, which noted that this was the first reported incident in 2022 of a visitor threatening a bison by getting too close.
Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times. Last year, Yellowstone Park officials counted more than 5,400 bison in its herds. Despite their massive size, bison are surprisingly agile and can reach speeds of 35 miles per hour. (To the query “How fast can a bison run?” the park’s Bison FAQ page responds, “Faster than you.”)
Park regulations require visitors to stay at least 25 yards — or 75 feet — away from bison, which are more than twice as dangerous as the park’s bears. A 2000 study that found that bison had charged people 81 times over 22 years, killing two. Over the same period, the park’s grizzly bears had injured 30 and killed two.
“Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park are wild and can be dangerous when approached,” said the park service. “When an animal is near a campsite, trail, boardwalk, parking lot, or in a developed area, give it space.”
Despite numerous warning signs posted around the park, many visitors still get too close to bison and other wildlife, often in pursuit of a souvenir snapshot or video to share with friends.
In April, a man was filmed walking up behind a grazing bison before the animal turned and took a few charging steps toward him. The man ran away uninjured. The video was shared to “Yellowstone National Park: Invasion of the Idiots!,” a Facebook group with nearly 50,000 members.
Tourists who wind up on the end of a bison’s horn may find themselves with little recourse. In 1987, a 70-year-old woman from Waco, Texas, sued the federal government for $1.6 million after being gored by a bison during a trip to Yellowstone three years earlier. The woman claimed that the National Park Service had failed to warn her of the danger, UPI reported at the time.
But a federal judge ruled against her, noting that she had approached the bison to within 15 feet. During the trial, the attorney representing the government argued successfully that Yellowstone visitors need to use common sense. “An animal weighing 2,000 pounds with horns is nature’s warning,” she said, noting that “you can’t force people to read the signs.”