Park Rangers to Yellowstone Tourists: Cut Out the Bison Selfies

A woman from Mississippi found out the hard way that posing with a wild animal can have serious consequences.

(Photo: Flickr)

Jul 23, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

If you’re hoping to be one of the 3 million annual visitors to Yellowstone National Park, the National Park Service has a word of caution for you: Forget about trying to take a selfie with a bison.

The warning comes after a 43-year-old woman and her six-year-old daughter were attacked by one of the massive animals on Tuesday near the Fairy Falls Trailhead in Yellowstone. They were standing six yards in front of the mammal, posing and snapping selfies with it. Another hiker on the trail warned them that they were too close to the gigantic creature, but they kept on taking pictures.

“They heard the bison’s footsteps moving toward them and started to run, but the bison caught the mother on the right side, lifted her up and tossed her with its head,” said a statement from the NPS. “The woman’s father covered her with his body to protect her and the bison moved about three yards away.” She was treated for minor injuries at a clinic in the park.

“People need to recognize that Yellowstone wildlife is wild, even though they seem docile. This woman was lucky that her injuries were not more severe,” ranger Colleen Rawlings said in the statement. The incident is the fifth bison attack this summer in Yellowstone—all because people are getting too close to them. Head over to Instagram and type in the hashtag #bisonselfie, and youll see plenty of pics of people posing with bison in the background.

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So, Why Should You Care? Animals already have to deal with urban sprawl encroaching on their natural habitat, so places such as Yellowstone are meant to be a refuge from people. No matter how cool a bison selfie might seem on your Instagram feed, “wildlife should not be approached, regardless of how tame or calm they appear,” the NPS says. The rangers recommend staying at least 25 yards away from animals such as deer, coyotes, and bison. Bison average 8.2 feet tall, and a male bull can weigh about 2,000 pounds, making these the largest land mammals in North America. Despite their size, they can run three times as fast as a person and can reach speeds of 35 miles per hour.

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The park service also recommends staying a minimum of 100 yards away from bears and wolves. But that hasn’t stopped people from trying to take selfies with the creatures. Last fall, the U.S. Forest Service threatened to ban hikers from the area around Taylor Creek in South Lake Tahoe, California, because they were rushing bears and trying to snap pictures with them.

Part of the problem could be that some folks dont know where it’s appropriate to take selfies—like the people who posed for gruesome duck-face-filled pics in March in front of the ruins of the New York City gas leak explosion that injured 25 and killed two. There also seems to be a trend of people forgetting how to behave in Americas national parks. In March, a hiker allegedly drew graffitti on a boulder in Joshua Tree National Park, and in May, vandals at a park in Oregon ignited a controversy after they were caught carving their names into a railing.

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Then again, maybe folks really do know such behavior isnt appropriate. “The family said they read the warnings in both the park literature and the signage but saw other people close to the bison, so they thought it would be OK,” Rawlings said.