The bison goring of a young girl near Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park further underscores the need for good awareness and an understanding of the animals by anyone visiting our national parks.

Authorities tell park visitors not to come within 25 feet of bison and other large animals, and the larger the animal the more distance is advisable. Bison are deceptively quick despite their massive size and are able to sprint three times faster than a human. Like any wild animal, they can be unpredictable and dangerous. The park has numerous posted warnings telling visitors to keep their distance from the animals.

Another recent incident in the park attracting media attention with a video of tourists running from a black bear and her cubs. The 16-year-old exchange student in the most recent incident was visiting from Taiwan with her host family when she was gored near Upper Geyser Basin.

On-site reports say the group was within six feet of the animal. The girl turned her back on the bison to have her photo taken when the animal suddenly stepped forward and gored her. Park rangers responded to the scene quickly and moved the girl to safety. She was transported to the Old Faithful Clinic for treatment and then taken by helicopter ambulance for additional treatment at a nearby medical facility.

The bison population in Yellowstone is estimated to be between 2,300 and 5,000. In addition, there are numerous other large and potentially dangerous animals who also make their homes in the park, including elk, deer, bighorn sheep, moose, and coyotes.

Yellowstone has the largest concentration of wildlife in the lower 48 states. Along with black bears, over 500 grizzlies live in the park, as do nearly 400 gray wolves – 13 packs in all — and the rare wolverine and lynx. The number of moose in the park has declined over the years because of drought, predation and loss of habitat, but these solitary and often-dangerous animals can still be seen near the park’s lake shores and along the rivers. Today more than 400 moose still live in Yellowstone National Park.

The bison are the leading cause of traffic jams within the park since they are free range. The warnings to stay well back from large park animals are often ignored when it comes to the bison because they have a generally docile nature unless they’re in rut. The average bison’s weight can exceed 2000 lbs. and they cause more human injury than all other park wildlife combined. With the ability to run at speeds up to 30 mph, a bison can easily overtake a fleeing human.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons