Rule No. 1: Respect Bison
Rule No. 2: When Violating Rule No. 1, Hold Camera Steady as Bison Charges
BY JUSTIN CASE
The problem I have with people approaching bison is not that it is extremely dangerous, but that they can’t seem to hold their cameras steady as the bison begins to charge. The end result, aside from broken bones and a potentially fatal experience, is a few blurry seconds of digital imagery showing the sky and ground bouncing around. I hate that, and it’s just so frustrating to watch as the tourist turns tail and runs and all you hear is Oh, (expletive)—let’s get the (expletive) out of here!
The least they could do after getting foolishly close to an extremely powerful wild animal would be to stick it out another five seconds so that the moment of impact might be recorded for the rest of us to enjoy on YouTube.
The most recent bison attack seems a case in point: The man and woman involved were banged up rather badly anyway, so why not make the extra effort to finish the job by toughing it out a bit longer and getting the money shot. Yes, they got some video that went viral on YouTube, CBS, Fox, etc., and that video is interesting, but think how much more interesting it would have been had they stood their ground like an NFL quarterback under a full scale blitz. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.
In all seriousness, after a YNP visitor followed a bison across a parking lot near Old Faithful last month and into a clearing—not smart— members of his party (a man and a woman) suffered serious injuries, including a broken big toe, a shattered shoulder, three broken or bruised ribs, and a badly bruised face. The bison obviously gave the tourists a good working over, and it must have been brutal given the extent of the injuries. Imagine being tossed around like a rag doll by an angry bull bison—not a fun day in the park. The injured man was fortunate though that he lived to tell his story, but he did so (on TV) with slurred speech due to the swelling in his face.
The man was taken by ambulance to Jackson Hole for medical treatment, a two-and-a-half hour drive. Later, he and sister-in-law talked about their injuries on The CBS Morning Show. The woman’s left knee and right thigh were swollen and riddled with technicolor contusions after the bison tossed her into the air feet first (they like to do that), and as she lay on the ground with the beast snorting above her, she thought she would be killed. She was terrified.
"I was waiting…for him to stomp my head,” she told CBS, “…I could hear his breathing and his hooves were right by my head. I just thought this was how I was going to go out." The bison, though, relented, having made his point.
Check out the YouTube video, and others, and you will see what an irritated bison looks like. When they begin to stomp and snort—look out. It means they’ve had enough. In the all-time classic video from a few years ago, a bison actually tosses a man, his feet pointing skyward, half way up a rather tall tree. In the recent attack, the injured woman also reported being thrown end over end, the preferred method by which bison communicate displeasure, apparently.
It seems every year now tourists get too close to bison. This publication featured a cover story on the issue two summers ago with an image of a man up close and personal with a bison, video camera in hand. A lot of people read that issue, hard copy or online, but apparently not enough. Some never got the memo and continue to chase bison around the park with cameras as if these wild animals were puppy dogs, not big powerful beasts that defend their boundaries with force.
We hope the satirical treatment here serves a purpose. Few anymore have much sympathy for those attacked by bison (adding insult to injury), but it’s a serious matter, extremely painful, and expensive (don’t expect medical bills to necessarily be covered by insurance). We actually do not want to minimize but to emphasize that pain, and the cost—and extend an appropriate measure of sympathy to those injured—so that others are fore-warned.
So, again, here’s the PSA for those visiting Yellowstone—give bison plenty of space, at least 25 yards. If you want to see how they behave up close, watch them attack tourists on YouTube.