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83-Year-Old Woman Hospitalized After Bison Attack in Yellowstone National Park

American bison rolls in a wallow taking a dust bath in Yellowstone National Park. Image via Depositphotos

An 83-year-old woman from South Carolina was hospitalized following a visit to Yellowstone National Park this past weekend. According to the National Park Service, the woman was exploring near the Storm Point Trail at Yellowstone Lake when a bison, “defending its space,” charged her. The bison gored her and lifted her about a foot off the ground.

Incident Details

American Bison
American Bison and calf with a background of rich autumn colours, in Yellowstone NP. Image via Arturo de Frias Marques, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The woman sustained serious injuries and was taken immediately to Lake Medical Clinic. From there, she was flown by helicopter to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center. As of now, the woman’s condition remains unknown, and the incident is under investigation.

Bison Attacks in Yellowstone

European bison.
Bison. Image via Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This incident is not an isolated case. Yellowstone National Park has experienced a number of bison attacks in recent years. In fact, bison are the leading cause of animal-related injuries in the park. Most of these encounters occur because visitors get too close to the animals.

Safety Guidelines for Visitors

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 park authorities emphasize the importance of maintaining a safe distance from wildlife. Visitors are advised to stay more than 25 yards (75 feet) away from all large animals, including bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes. For bears and wolves, a distance of at least 100 yards is recommended.

Understanding Bison Behavior

Bison
Bison via Unsplash

While bison are generally docile, they can become aggressive if they feel threatened. Given their massive size, with some weighing up to 2,000 pounds, an aggressive bison can inflict serious and life-threatening injuries. Additionally, bison can run nearly three times faster than the average human, making it crucial for visitors to respect their space.

A Reminder to Stay Safe

Bison
Image via Unsplash

This incident serves as a stark reminder of the potential dangers of wildlife encounters in national parks. Visitors should always heed park guidelines and maintain a safe distance from all animals to ensure their own safety and that of the wildlife.

1. What is the average weight of an adult bison?

European bison (Bison bonasus).
European bison (Bison bonasus). Image by bereta via Depositphotos

An adult bison can weigh between 1,000 to 2,000 pounds, with males typically being larger than females.

2. How fast can a bison run?

Bison calf following cow
Bison calf following cow. Image via English: NPS/Jim Peaco, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Bison can run at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, which is nearly three times faster than the average human.

3. What do bison primarily eat?

bison
Wood bison (Bison bison athabascae), also known as the mountain bison. Bison calf sucking its mother. Image by wrangel via depositphotos.com

Bison are herbivores and primarily graze on grasses, but they also eat plants, herbs, shrubs, and twigs.

4. How long can bison live?

Wildlife in Europe. Bison herd in the autumn forest, sunny scene with big brown animal in the nature habitat, yellow leaves on the trees, Bialowieza NP, Poland. Wildlife scene from nature.

Bison can live up to 20 years in the wild, though their lifespan can be shorter due to predation and environmental factors.

5. Are bison and buffalo the same animal?

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

No, bison and buffalo are different species. Bison are native to North America and parts of Europe, while buffalo are found in Africa and Asia.

6. How large can a bison herd get?

Small herd of the American bisons in the spring steppe covered by grass in the nature reserve against the background of the sky with clouds

Bison herds can range in size from a few individuals to several hundred, especially during the migration and breeding seasons.

7. What time of year do bison breed?

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

Bison typically breed in late summer, with calves being born in the spring after a gestation period of about 9 months.

8. Do bison have any natural predators?

Bison
Image by OndrejProsicky via Depositphotos

Yes, bison calves can fall prey to wolves and grizzly bears, while adult bison have few natural predators due to their size.

9. How do bison communicate?

American Bison.
American Bison. Image by dmbaker via Depositphotos

Bison communicate through grunts, snorts, and body language. They use vocalizations to express alarm, aggression, or to call to their young.

10. Are bison an endangered species?

Bison
Image by Nicolas Petit via Pexels

Bison were once near extinction due to overhunting, but conservation efforts have helped their populations recover. They are not currently classified as endangered, though some subspecies are considered at risk.

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