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10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Ever Approach Bison

Adult female American bison and 1 week- and 1 month-old calves at the Prioksko-terrasny biosphere reserve, Russia. Image by oksanavg via Depositphotos

The bison is the largest land animal in all of North America, and although they’re amazing to witness – you should do so from a looong distance. Here’s 10 reasons why shouldn’t approach bison under any circumstances.

#1 Unpredictable behavior

Image via Unsplash

Even though bison may remind you of mellow cows grazing in a meadow, you must remember that they are way more unpredictable than their cow-cousins.

They might seem calm, but in the wink of an eye and without warning their mood can change and they’ll quickly turn from cute to terrifying.

#2 They’re Much Faster Than You’d Think

Image via Depositphotos

It’s easy to underestimate a bison’s speed. Bison can run up to 35 miles per hour, much faster than the average human. If a bison decides to charge, it is very difficult to escape safely.

#3 Fluffy But Chunky

European bison (Bison bonasus) in natural habitat in winter. Image via Depositphotos

An adult bison can weigh between 1,000 to 2,000 pounds. Even a seemingly gentle nudge can result in serious injuries – and if they’re charging at you (which they probably might if you approach them) it’s quite literally like being hit by a bus. 

#4 Seriously Protective of Their Young

American Bison.
American Bison. Image by dmbaker via Depositphotos

Bison are particularly protective of their calves. Approaching a calf, even unintentionally, can provoke a defensive and potentially violent reaction from the mother or even the entire herd.

#5 Particular About Their Private Space

Herd of the American bisons in the spring steppe
Herd of the American bisons in the spring steppe. Image by anmbph via Depositphotos

Bison have a strong instinct to defend their space. If you encroach on their territory, you’re in big trouble, no matter what species you are. Invading what they see as their land will make them see you as a threat and act aggressively to defend it.

#6 Possible Disease

Image by Lubos Houska via Pixabay

Other than maybe accidentally crushing you, a bison could also pass on some nasty diseases (because yes they can carry diseases that are transmittable to humans.) Getting too close could expose you to serious health risks like brucellosis, which can lead to fever, joint pain, and fatigue.

#7 Miscommunication Leading to Altercation

Image by Nick Dunlap via Unsplash

Bison don’t communicate the same way as humans do, and without knowing it, you could accidentally challenge one to a fight.

Making eye contact or waving arms can be misinterpreted by a bison as a challenge or a threat, leading to a charge.

#8 Hard to Shake Off

Side profile close up of an American bison, also known as buffalo, with its tongue sticking out in Yellowstone National Park. Image by via

Once a bison charges, it is hard to deter. They are not easily scared away by noises or other deterrents that might work on smaller animals.

#9 Potential Death (and Yourself to Blame)

Bison are the largest land mammals in North America. Image created by Amy King using Midjourney

Bison encounters can lead to severe injuries or even fatalities. They’re extremely powerful wild animals, and physical injuries from a bison attack can be life-threatening.

But what’s perhaps most important to remember, is that the deaths that have occurred, have been due to humans approaching and disturbing one.

Despite their massive size, bison can run at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour. Image via Flickr

Other than risking your life and your health, approaching a bison can lead to some hefty fines and legal consequences. These laws are crucial as they ensure the safety of these animals and the protection they deserve. 

Why You Shouldn’t Approach Bison: Conclusion

Image by Jonathan Mast via Unsplash

These massive creatures demand our full respect. They’re huge, fast and territorial. So, to stay safe – stay far away.

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