A 47-year-old woman from Phoenix was seriously injured after a bison gored her in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming on Monday, park officials said.
The woman, whom park officials declined to name, was transported by helicopter to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, after she sustained “significant injuries to her chest and abdomen.” As of Tuesday, neither the park nor the hospital had provided additional information about the woman’s condition.
This was the first reported incident in which a bison charged at a person since June 2022, park officials said in a statement. Studies have found that bison encounters leading to injury to a human occur about once a year on average in Yellowstone.
The woman was walking with another person in front of a lodging on the north shore of Lake Yellowstone when they encountered two bison on Monday. The park visitors turned to walk away, park officials said, but one of the bison charged and gored the woman.
The park said it did not know how close the two individuals were to the bison when it charged. An investigation is ongoing, it added.
When it comes to encounters with wild animals, park officials have issued timeworn advice: give them space. Visitors should stay at least 25 yards away from large animals, which include bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose and coyotes, the park said; they should stay more than 100 yards away from bears and wolves.
“If need be, turn around and go the other way to avoid interacting with a wild animal in proximity,” the National Park Service said.
Yellowstone National Park is home to thousands of bison, the largest number on public land in the country. And a spate of bison attacks in recent years have highlighted the dangers of coming too close to them.
In the June 2022 incident, a bull bison gored a 34-year-old man after he moved “too close,” park officials said. Weeks earlier, a bison had flung a 25-year-old woman 10 feet into the air after she came within 10 feet of the animal. In 2019, a 9-year-old girl was sent airborne from a bison’s head butt that was captured on video and shared on social media. The girl was part of a group that stood within five to 10 feet of the bison for at least 20 minutes, officials said.
The National Park Service advises against approaching all wildlife, but it places special emphasis on bison, which have injured more people than any other animal found in the park, including grizzly bears, moose and wolves, the Park Service said. Bison can stand six feet tall, weigh over 2,000 pounds and run three times faster than humans. The oxlike mammals are known to be capricious, especially during the summer mating season. Researchers have found that a majority of bison attacks happen in June and July.
Despite official warnings, the furry bovine’s quiet demeanor may trick visitors into a false sense of security. In a 2018 study of 25 bison attacks occurring in Yellowstone from 2000 to 2015, researchers affiliated with the park and the National Park Service found that all injured people, 21 visitors and 4 employees, had been within roughly 6 meters, or about 20 feet, of the bison before the attack. Four in five were actively approaching the bison before it charged.
To prevent further incidents, the researchers concluded, it was not enough for the parks to educate the public about the dangers of bison. They must also try to improve the understanding of what motivates people who approach the bison, potentially putting themselves in harm’s way.