Get Out There

Bison Gore Woman Attempting to Avoid Them

From time to time, we share stories of people misbehaving on public land to remind us all about how to behave when we go out into nature. Today, unfortunately, we’re sharing the story of a woman who tried to do the right thing and was still badly injured.

For the first time in 13 months, there has been a bison attack on a person in Yellowstone National Park. A woman and man walking through the park said a pair of bison in a field and immediately turned and walked away. However, the two animals charged and gored the 47-year-old woman. The woman had “significant injuries to her chest and abdomen.” She had to be airlifted to a medical facility 165 miles away.

The woman was later identified as Amber Harris by her fiancé, Chris Whitehill, who was with her. The pair were near Lake Lodge Cabins on the north shore of Lake Yellowstone and enjoying a gorgeous morning before they realized they were about 50 yards away from the bison. They tried to leave, but it was too late.

[One bison] scratched at the ground and I started screaming and yelling and trying to distract him and he charged at Amber, hitting her square in the abdomen,” said Mr. Whitehill. “I looked over my shoulder and she was eight to 10 feet in the air and landed right on her back.” He said she suffered seven fractured vertebrae, and her lungs partially collapsed.      

Mating season is in full swing for bison. They are more easily agitated during this time of year. They can run three times faster than a person and weigh up to a ton, so you can’t win a fight with a bison. Mating season lasts until mid- to late August.

The National Park Service (NPS) has guidelines for how far you should be from animals. “Stay more than 25 yards away from all large animals — bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose and coyotes — and at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves,” NPS said. “During mating season (rut) from mid-July through mid-August, bison can become agitated more quickly. Use extra caution and give them additional space during this time.”

The NPS has recently had to tell off people for attempting to take selfies with dangerous animals. People have documented other dangerous behavior around the animals that has gone viral online. Poor Ms. Harris was just out for a walk. But this does serve as an important reminder to all of us. The national parks aren’t theme parks or petting zoos. The animals we see are wild creatures, and we are visiting their home. So, as the weather summer calls you to the park, enjoy the incredible sights, but be careful.

Banner image: Jonathan Mast via Unsplash

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