Most of the time, bison appear to tolerate the presence of individuals, but if you come too close, they may lash out.
Our driver slammed on the brakes. We braced ourselves for impact. We were on a collision course, all of us sure the huge creature barreling toward us in the dark would slip into the side of our truck at any second. The vehicle could not stop quickly enough. We had been in trouble. Our rim-to-rim Grand Canyon backpacking trip was going to end before it started, shattered by a bison on a lonely road across the North Rim.
We sat in our seats, still yelling in terror. We nearly got bulldozed by means of a bison in a National Park. Gradually, our shouts turned into nervous laughter because we understood we’d made it through completely unscathed. All of us clutched our hearts, assessed to be sure our trousers were dry, and, shaking with adrenaline, exchanged excited exclamations. After our heart rate returned to normal, we carried on, really slowly pulling in the next turnoff, eager to set up camp and then abandon the street for the night.
Where the buffalo roam
My eyes widened and I flung my hand toward the windshield.
Unlike dealing with bears, mountain lions, and other wildlife, no amount of noise, waving your arms, or making yourself look larger will increase your probability of survival when you’ve angered a bison. You can carry bear spray to dissuade a charge, but unless you see the animal coming from a ways off, you may not have time to use the spray.
“Stay at least 25 yards from bison,” implores Linda Veress, parks spokesperson for Yellowstone National Park. “All they need is their space.”
Then, just like the truck into a stop, the animal swerved, missing us by mere inches.
The trick is not only to keep your space, but use your head. If you want to get a good look without endangering the animals, Veress recommends binoculars or a telephoto camera lens. And if they are in or close to the street, you might roll down your window to get a better appearance, but do not get out of the car.
If you just happen to around a corner and end up in close proximity to a monster, back away slowly and quietly to show you’re not a threat and expect your look did not startle it. Your very best course of action: keep your distance and remain alert. The best offense is a good defense.
Veress and the remainder of the employees at Yellowstone encourage people to not only return, but remain in their cars when bison are around the side of the street. Too many people try to observe how close they could get to a bison to get a photo, or turn their back to one to get a selfie, you’re amazed when it stands up or starts trotting in their direction.
Invade that space and bison may charge should they feel threatened. If they do, they are liable to throw or push people out of the way. In 2015, five people were butted, pitched, or gored by bison. In 2018, a woman was gored while the audience she was in approached in 15 feet. Another was head-butted because she rounded a bend in the road. Both escaped with relatively minor injuries, but no bison encounter ought to be taken lightly.
Bison may seem like big, cuddly, slow-moving animals; they are anything but. The herbivorous ruminants can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds, but will run at rates up to 35 miles (three times quicker than individuals ), and leap up things to five feet tall. They are agile, good swimmers, too, and possess exceptional vision, hearing, and sense of smell.
“In case you cause an animal to move, you’re too close,” Veress says.
“They are wild animals. They’re unpredictable.” Veress states. “They act aggressively whenever they are feeling threatened.”
Veress has had to follow her own information on a minumum of one occasion. While hiking in Yellowstone, in an area far from paved paths and boardwalks, she encountered several bison standing on each side of the path. Instead of tiptoeing through and hoping for the best, she moved off-trail and walked around, providing the critters at least 100 metres of space while she kept a close eye on these. In similarly wild locations, in which the beasts roam freely, it’s important to pay close attention to your environment, she states.
Keep your distance
However, these car-sized animals also live in close proximity to plenty of people–Yellowstone hosted over 4.1 million visitors last year. This means park rangers need to work hard to keep man and beast residing in harmony. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily possible. Despite the park’s best efforts, bison injure more people than any other animal within its 3,500 square-mile area, such as bears. Luckily, virtually all bison attacks are completely preventable.
Unfortunately, bison experiences such as these aren’t all that rare, especially in populated areas like national parks. My experience was probably just coincidence–we simply happened to push in the path of a galloping bison–but lots of other scenarios that result in people being billed or gored with these animals are avoidable.
There is not much else you can do
Bison, often colloquially known as buffalo, are scattered across much of the U.S.. The largest population are available in western states like Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado, but protected herds may roam as far east as Kentucky. The largest single herd of wild bison, meanwhile (roughly 4,500 associates ), is at Yellowstone National Park, the only place in the States in which bison have dwelt continually since ancient times.