Updated Jul 1, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Why national parks keep begging visitors to not approach the wildlife

a herd of wild bison with their newborn calves

A herd of wild bison with their newborn calves in Yellowstone National Park in May 2021. Photo: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

A second visitor in three days was gored by a bull bison in Yellowstone National Park, underscoring the seriousness with which overcrowded national parks are urging visitors to not approach wildlife.

Driving the news: A 71-year-old woman was gored after she inadvertently approached a bison with her daughter while returning to their vehicle, the park said in a press release on Thursday.

  • The woman sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was transported to a hospital in Wyoming, the press release said.
  • The park noted that "this is the third reported bison and visitor incident in 2022."
  • The park's guidelines require that visitors remain more than 75 feet away from all large animals, such as buffalo, elk and coyotes, and more than 300 feet away from bears and wolves.

Worth noting: Bison have injured more people in Yellowstone than any other animal and are often "unpredictable," park officials previously warned.

The big picture: The desire by some visitors to pet and photograph wildlife in national parks can lead to dangerous encounters, per CN Traveler.

  • Once close to extinction, conservation efforts have also led to a growing grizzly bear population across the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, which spans parts of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
  • As a result, grizzly bears are being spotted in parts of the country they hadn't been seen in for some time, leading to more encounters between humans and grizzlies.
  • Yellowstone notes that grizzly bear attacks remain rare.

State of play: A number of encounters between humans and wildlife in and near national parks have made waves in recent years.

  • June 2022: A 34-year-old man was gored while on a boardwalk near the park's Giant Geyser with his family after the bison charged at the group, the park said Tuesday in a press release.
  • May 2022: A 25-year-old woman was gored and tossed 10 feet into the air by a bison in Yellowstone national park after she came within 10 feet of it, while two more individuals were within 75 feet of the animal, the park said in a statement.
  • October 2021: Samantha Dehring, 25, was jailed, fined and banned from Yellowstone National Park for one year following an incident in which she approached and continued photographing a grizzly bear and three cubs even as the adult bear charged at her, the Justice Department said.
  • August 2021: A 55-year-old tourist sustained multiple puncture wounds after being attacked by a grizzly bear in Alaska's Denali National Park and Preserve. He came across the mother bear and her cubs while hiking through thick fog.
  • April 2021: Backcountry guide Charles Mock, 40, was fishing just west of Yellowstone National Park when he was attacked by a grizzly bear that was likely protecting a nearby food source. He died of his injuries several days later.
  • July 2019: A 17-year-old girl was mauled by a buffalo in North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Two bison that had been fighting moments before were standing on either side of the trail when the girl walked between them. One of the buffalo charged her from behind, goring her and tossing her six feet in the air, the park said in a statement.
  • August 2018: Raymond Reinke, 55, of Oregon was sentenced to 130 days in jail for drunken behavior at Yellowstone National Park, including harassing a buffalo. The man was also banned from Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Glacier national parks for five years.
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