Careless tourists sent running after angry bison hops onto Yellowstone boardwalk

Bison walking on boardwalk at Yellowstone National Park
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A couple visiting Yellowstone National Park learned the hard way why it's a bad idea to go face-to-face with a bison. The pair encountered a large bull while hiking on the park's extensive network of boardwalks, but rather than turn and find a different route, giving it plenty of space, they decided to approach and take photos from just a few inches away. One of the pair even crouched down right in front of the animal's face to get a better shot.

As you can see in the video below, which was recorded by Instagram user yesitsjen and shared this week via account TouronsOfYellowstone, this wasn't a wise decision. After a few seconds, the animal became frustrated and easily jumped onto the boardwalk, tail raised in an aggressive posture, sending the pair running.

This posture is a clear sign that the animal is agitated, as the National Park Service (NPS) explains.

"Approaching bison threatens them, and they may respond by putting up their tail, bluff charging, head bobbing, pawing, bellowing, or snorting," the NPS warns. "These are warning signs that you are too close and that a charge is imminent. Do not stand your ground. Immediately walk or run away from the animal.

People visiting Yellowstone are warned to always stay at least 25 yards (23 meters) away from bison, which are responsible for more injuries at the park than any other animal. Last summer, two people were gored within the space of a week after getting too close to bison at US National Parks. Both were hospitalized with serious abdominal injuries.

If you're not sure whether you're at a safe distance, the NPS suggests closing one eye, extending your arm, and giving the bison a thumbs-up. If you can completely hide the animal behind your thumb.

The safest place to watch wildlife is from the safety of your car, and you can get a better view using a telephoto lens or binoculars. Our roundup of the best binoculars includes several options that are well suited to watching birds and animals.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.