Theyre called wild animals for a reason
A pamphlet drawing of a man being gored and flung into the air warns tourists in Yellowstone National Park. Don't get too close to bison. They're wild animals. They can be dangerous.
Rangers distribute the flyer to people as they enter the park. But some visitors still aren't getting the message. Bison have gored two people in the Old Faithful area within the past three weeks.
Increased tourism has put more people close to the animals, Yellowstone spokeswoman Traci Weaver said. Tourism was up 18 percent in the park in May. That is compared to the same month last year.
Most of Yellowstone is in Wyoming. But it extends into Montana and Idaho, too.
"There's just a lot of people around. And the temptation is there when a bison looks calm," Weaver said.
Still, she said the two attacks in such a short period were unusual.
The latest attack on June 2 was an especially violent scene. A bison charged a 62-year-old Australian man. The animal flung him into the air several times.
A male American bison can weigh up to 2,000 pounds. That is bigger than a Smart car. They have horns. Those horns aren't just for grubbing around for tasty shoots.
Bison often behave much like cattle. They often are lumbering about and lazing in the sunshine. But when they get a mind to, they can run up to 40 mph. That is almost twice as fast as Usain Bolt's world-record speed in the 100-meter dash.
"I just don't think people realize how fast bison move. They're big animals but they move quickly. And so when a bison becomes agitated, it doesn't take him long to cover that short distance," Yellowstone spokeswoman Amy Bartlett said.
The unidentified Australian was flown by helicopter to a hospital. He was treated for serious injuries and released.
The attack happened as a group of people crowded near the bison. It was lying on the grass near a paved trail. The man was taking photos of the shaggy beast. He was just a few feet away. The whole crowd was much too close, park officials said. Anything less than 75 feet is unsafe, they warn.
In addition, visitors should not stare at their camera or phone. Instead, be aware of the surroundings. And know that Yellowstone's wild animals are free to roam where they please.
If a bison is near a trail, don't go down that trail.
"Just because the animal is near the trail or boardwalk doesn't mean it's tame," Bartlett said.
Yellowstone's summer tourist season began about a month ago. The park already has had some dicey run-ins between wildlife and tourists. A videotape showed camera-clicking tourists scrambling for their vehicles. That was as a black bear and her cubs tried to cross a bridge and began running in the tourists' direction.
Then on May 16, a bison in the Old Faithful area gored a 16-year-old girl from Taiwan. She was posing for a picture near the animal. She also was treated at a hospital for serious injuries and released.
Some who encounter bears in Yellowstone aren't so fortunate. Bears have killed at least seven people in Yellowstone since the park was established in 1872.
But bison and elk, especially the big-antlered males during mating season each fall are responsible for more injuries to people. It happens at least a couple of times every year. And Yellowstone has far too many tourists and wildlife for park rangers to even try to police every situation.
"A ranger can't be at every bison all the time," Bartlett said. "So people need to keep that common sense."
Critical thinking challenge: How can your phone be a hazard?