Lucky hiker has narrow escape from huge, territorial bison

Bison at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA
(Image credit: Getty)

A woman hiking in Montana had a lucky escape when she came across a herd of bison, including a large bull that began to show signs of aggression, staring her down and vocalizing. Fortunately, a passing family noticed her predicament, and let her sit in their car until the animals left peacefully.

A video of the close encounter was shared by Dave and Lisa of inspired2RV, who met the hiker on their adventures around the US. "She was walking and encountered a bison traffic jam when one of the bulls of the herd seemed to get a bit vocal and possibly territorial," the couple wrote. "Thankfully, a family kindly let her sit in their car until the herd passed."

Once the hiker was safely inside, she and the family were able to enjoy watching the herd together. "Smart idea," she said. "Thank you, I appreciate you. He's a big boy! He's like the kind of the castle, I think."

"What a sight to experience first hand," Dave and Lisa wrote. "You can hear them grunting and projecting their power. Still gentle enough for them to witness close up."

Keeping a safe distance

The National Park Service explains that the safest place to view wildlife such as bison and elk is from within your car (though if you're unlucky, a bison can do serious damage to the bodywork).

If on foot, you should stay at least 25 yards (23 meters) away at all times. If you're not sure how far that is, you can get a rough estimate by closing one eye, holding out your arm, and giving the bison a thumbs-up. If you can completely hide the animal behind your thumb, you're OK.

Keep an eye out for changes in the animal's body language. Vocalizing, pawing the ground, and making bluff charges, and raising the tail are all clear warnings signs that a bison might be about to charge, and you should get behind something sturdy like a car, building, or wall.

For more advice, see our guides how to avoid being gored by a bison and wildlife safety: eight tips for unexpected encounters.

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.