Seeking a Selfie With A Bison? Settle for One With a Moo-Cow!

bison_storyIt’s easy, when pursuing a selfie, to overlook personal safety issues. An extreme example of doing so has resulted, so far this year, in five people being injured by bison — often erroneously referred to as buffalo — in Yellowstone National Park. That’s more of that type injury than have occurred in the past 15 years, according to The Idaho Statesman.

If you’re planning a visit to Yellowstone, home to the largest American Bison population on public land in the US (some 4,900 in 2014), and if you’re a fan of selfies, here’s a pair of facts worth remembering: [1] The fastest-recorded human footspeed — the fastest a human has ever been known to move, unassisted — is 27.78 miles per hour (44.7 km/h/12.4 m/s). [2] American Bison can move at speeds of up to 35 mph.

This year’s higher-than-usual injury count is despite the National Park Service’s service efforts, in handing out yellow warning signs, to discourage Yellowstone visitors from getting too close to an example of the largest terrestrial animals in North America. Even at their approximate top weight of two thousand pounds, male bison have no difficulty outrunning — often at double the speed of — the average human (male or female),  Female bison, which usually top out at around 900 pounds, may be even more likely than males to be aggressive during the better part of a year they stay with their young. (The calves are weaned at around six months of age, but like many Millennial humans, they tend to stick around ‘home’ for some time thereafter.)

Contrary to what some people obviously believe, park rules — at Yellowstone and other national parks — are not meant to be broken. One at Yellowstone advises people to stay at least 25 feet from bison. One of those injured earlier this year was within six feet of one. A Taiwanese girl, aged 16, approached one in May to have her photo taken with it as it grazed near the Old Faithful geyser. She was gored.

Not far away, near the Old Faithful Lodge, an Australian man, 62, was thrown in May as he attempted to take the beast’s photo with a tablet PC. He was reportedly within five feet of the animal that, in all likelihood, was minding its own business at the time.

Also in May, a concession worker, 19, who’d been enjoying a night swim in the Firehole River, finished off his evening by getting sent airborne by a bison.

June was injury-free, but July saw two incidents — one on the first of the month, when a bison charged and gored a Georgia woman, 68, as she hiked on the Storm Point trail. Then, on the 21st, A Mississippi woman, Brandi Burgess, 43, and her daughter had just snapped a selfie (see photo) about 18 feet from a bison when it charged and struck the mother, sending her air borne!

Bison mate in late July and August, so, as well as being more visible then, they also are more likely to be aggressive then.

Note, too, that in order to encourage the growth of the bison population, the National Park service works with area residents and other agencies to enable grazing territory beyond park boundaries during the winter months. There’s no one in those areas handing out warnings about the risks of too-closely approaching bison. But you have been warned!


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