A new viral video captured in Yellowstone National Park is a stark reminder of why we should respect wildlife – particularly 1,000-kilogram bison – when visiting their habitat. The footage, captured by onlooker Hayley Dayton, shows a huge male bison charging a small girl and tossing her high into the air, distressed by over 50 tourists encroaching on his personal space.
The 9-year-old girl from Odessa, Florida was treated by park emergency medical providers and taken to the Old Faith Clinic before being released back to her family.
The incident took place on the afternoon of July 22 near Observation Point Trail in Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Geyser area. Despite park officials recommending that people stay at least 23 meters (75 feet) from Yellowstone’s wild residents, and signage placed around the park reminding visitors of this, the group of around 50 people got far too close. According to witnesses, they were just 1.5 to 3 meters (5-10 feet) away from the animal for at least 20 minutes.
Stressed by the situation, the bison became defensive and charged. You can check out what happened in the video below.
The American bison (often called a buffalo despite only being a distant relative of the true buffalo), is North America’s largest living terrestrial animal. Male bison, like the one in the video, can weigh as much as 1,000 kilograms (2,200) pounds and stand 1.8 meters (6 feet) high at the shoulder. They have sharp horns and can run at a pace of up to 64 kilometers (40 miles) per hour.
On seeing one of these mighty beasts in the flesh, you’d think people would keep a safe distance. Apparently not.
In response to the recent incident, which is currently being investigated, the National Park Service (NPS) put out the following statement, imploring its visitors to leave wild animals alone.
“Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park are wild. When an animal is near a trail, boardwalk, parking lot, or in a developed area, give it space,” writes the NPS. “Stay 25 yards (23 meters) away from all large animals – bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes, and at least 100 yards (91 meters) away from bears and wolves. If need be, turn around and go the other way to avoid interacting with a wild animal in close proximity.”
Vast herds of bison once thrived across America’s Great Plains and were vital to the lives of Native Americans. Before the arrival of Christopher Columbus, as many as 30 million roamed the grasslands of North America, but settlers decimated their populations to near-extinction. Thanks to conservation efforts, around 30,000 bison now live in federal, tribal, and state lands (many more are reared for meat on private land), with 5,000 found in Yellowstone National Park. Today, they are celebrated as the national mammal of the United States, so let’s give them the respect (and wide berth) they deserve.