Yellowstone National Park last Friday opened select roads to signal the beginning of a new season, and while this is great news it also begs a question:
Who will become the first tourist to be gored or tossed by a bison?
Folks on Yellowstone-themed social media pages are joking about a new “tossing season.”
The accompanying tweet by the National Park Service replaces the lyrics of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” to make the song about a bison in need of “more space and fresh air” after a scuffle with a reckless tourist.
But attempts at humor aside, physical bison encounters are painfully serious and far fewer would occur if people would obey the 25-yard distance rule.
Last season, the first documented contact between a bison and tourist was May 30, when a 25-year-old woman approached a bison near Old Faithful. She was subsequently gored and “tossed 10 feet into the air,” according to the park.
The woman was hospitalized with multiple injuries.
The park stated: “This is the first reported incident in 2022 of a visitor threatening a bison (getting too close to the animal) and the bison responding to the threat by goring the individual.
“Bison have injured more people in Yellowstone than any other animal. They are unpredictable and can run three times faster than humans.”
Bison can weigh 2,000 pounds and run 30 mph. Although they usually appear docile, their demeanor can change in an instant.
Last June 27, a 34-year-old man was gored by near Giant Geyser at Old Faithful as he and his family walked on a boardwalk.
“Family members did not leave the area, and the bull bison continued to charge and gored the male,” the park stated, adding that the man was hospitalized with an arm injury.
On June 29, a 71-year-old woman was gored at Yellowstone Lake after “the woman and her daughter inadvertently approached the bison as they were returning to their vehicle at the trailhead, causing the bull bison to charge.”
The woman sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was treated at a hospital in Cody, Wyoming.
These were the most serious incidents documented last year and do not take into account the many visitors who acted foolishly but befitted from the restraint exercised by the iconic critters.
Presently, bison are utilizing recently opened roads as travel routes after a severe winter that covered the park with with an unusually heavy snowpack.
Of course, all large animals in the park deserve a wide berth.
The park last week cautioned:
“Be mindful as they endure this hardest part of the year. Bison and elk often use roads as travel corridors when the snow is deep, and higher than usual snowbanks this year prevent them from easily moving off the road. Stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves, and 25 yards from all other wildlife.
“Do not crowd or push wildlife.”