Yellowstone tourists quickly regret leaving cars for a closer look at huge bison

American bison standing beside road
(Image credit: Getty)

Despite their bulk, bison can move extremely fast when provoked, as a group of tourists learned at Yellowstone National Park recently. The visitors had stopped at the roadside to take pictures of a small herd, but rather than staying within their vehicles as the National Park Service (NPS) advises near large mammals, they got out for a closer look.

As prey animals, bison need plenty of space to feel secure and unthreatened, and one particularly large male decided to tackle the perceived threat with a bluff charge, sending the tourists running back to their cars.

The whole incident (which you can watch below) was recorded by another park visitor and shared via Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone, which calls out bad behavior at various US National Parks, often involving wildlife. Past incidents have included people trying to pet bison and even ride them, and not all visitors are lucky enough to get away.

One woman was knocked unconscious after sitting down in the middle of a herd and being tossed to the ground by a bull that snagged her jeans with its horns. Luckily she wasn't seriously injured and Park Rangers recovered her pants from the animal, with her keys still in the pocket.

Fall is one of the best times of year to see bison, as the males engage in bellowing, wallowing and fighting to compete for the right to mate. It's also particularly dangerous, with hormones running high and bulls more likely to behave aggressively towards any unfortunate human who gets too close.

The NPS advises always staying at least 25 yards (23 meters) away from large herbivores like bison and elk, and 100 yards (91 meters) from wolves and bears.

"Approaching bison threatens them, and they may respond by bluff charging, head bobbing, pawing, bellowing, or snorting," says the NPS. "These are warning signs that you are too close and that a charge is imminent."

If you're planning a visit to a US National Park over the coming weeks, take a look at our guide wildlife safety: eight tips for unexpected encounters. Our list of wildlife photography tips from a pro will also come in handy, giving you expert advice to help you capture natural animal behavior while keeping you and them safe.

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.