Makoshika visitor narrowly escapes velociraptor attack – Park Rangers slam “reckless behavior”

Raptor sightings are on the increase across the Mountain States (Image credit: Getty Images)
Recent updates

We were so preoccupied with whether we could that we didn't stop to think if we should. But we did it anyway and yes, this is an April Fool 65 million years in the making. Just be thankful hikers will remain safe from velociraptor attacks for at least another year.

William Brennan, an avid Instagrammer and amateur palaeontologist from Bozeman, Montana, narrowly survived an encounter with a pack of velociraptors last week, after he’d attempted to remove raptor eggs from a nest in Montana’s Makoshika State Park.

According to eyewitnesses, the angered raptor pack attacked from both sides without Brennan even knowing they were there. He was only saved because a couple on an overlanding trip were driving by. He was able to leap onto the back of their Jeep Wrangler and escape virtually unscathed.

The overlanding couple were Dr. Al Angrant and Dr. Elodie Sattler, a palaeontologist and palaeobotanist, who’d returned to Montana after spending several years exploring a couple of islands off the coast of Costa Rica. Dr. Angrant commented that “the raptors were about to strike but then weirdly they got confused by their own reflection in the windscreen of the Jeep, which gave Mr Brennan the opportunity to escape.”


Dr. Al Angrant and Dr. Elodie Sattler were overlanding across the State Park (Image credit: Getty Images)

The incident was also seen by Welsh hiker Owain Brady, who was visiting Montana on a walking vacation. “I’d always thought raptors would like a bit like six-foot turkeys, but seeing them through my binoculars really brought home how dangerous and rapid these creatures are. They could easily outrun a motorbike! Although they’re not as big as I’d always been led to believe…”

It’s thought that Brennan, who refused to comment, was attempting to steal the eggs to sell them and further fund his digs. Posting about his near-death experience to his 13,000 followers on X (formerly known as Twitter), he simply wrote: Life found a way.


Mr Brennan was trying to take raptor eggs to sell and further fund his digs (Image credit: Getty Images)

Velociraptor attacks, although rare, are on the increase in the Mountain States for the first time in 63 million years. It’s thought that recent releases of wolves into the wild has led to increased competition for food, which has forced the raptors to start preying on hikers.

State Park Ranger blasts behavior

Bob Muldoon, chief ranger at Makoshika State Park, slammed the behavior, particularly with velociraptor attacks on the rise. “We keep seeing this sort of totally reckless behavior by Instagrammers looking for supposedly easy likes.” With raptor sightings on the increase, the hashtags #raptorsighting #whosaclevergirlnow and #myraptoreggs are currently trending on TikTok. “It’s a worrying trend,” he says. “Mr Brennan was incredibly lucky to escape with his life.”

Muldoon went on to comment that compared to mammalian apex predators, velociraptors are highly intelligent. “They show extraordinary intelligence, even problem-solving intelligence.” However, the good news is that hikers can safely explore places where there have been reports of raptor attacks in the past. This is because, according to Muldoon, “they never attack the same place twice. They remember.”

Makoshika State Park

Bob Muldoon is the chief ranger at Makoshika State Park (Image credit: Getty Images)

The National Park Service warns visitors to give velociraptors and their nests a wide berth in the wild, unless you happen across a blue colored raptor, in which case you may be able to inexplicably befriend and communicate with it.

It’s important to remember to always take a raptor bell when hiking in the Western States, while dedicated spray, such as Velocikill or Raptorbyebye (available in all good Wallmarts) is recommended. Unlike with some predators, you’re unlikely to be able to fend off a raptor with a camping knife. The NPS’ Be Raptor Smart guidance outlines what to do when hiking in raptor territory.

What is a velociraptor?

  • Velociraptor is a therapod dinosaur in the dromaeosaurid family
  • They are found in relatively large numbers across the Western States
  • They are renowned for their great speed, intelligence and retractable claws


Raptors are found in relatively large numbers across the Western States (Image credit: Getty Images)

Velociraptors, often shortened to simply raptors, are therapod dinosaurs in the dromaeosaurid family. Dromaeosuaid means fast running lizard in Ancient Greek and the family also includes other well-known species, such as utahraptor and deinonychus. Utahraptor, named because it inhabits mainly the state of Utah, is commonly sighted in Zion National Park at places like infamous beauty spot Angel’s Landing and the Narrows. Meanwhile deinonychus recently made the news when one attacked film stars Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern on the red carpet during last month’s 2024 Oscar ceremony. Fortunately, best actor nominee Paul Giamatti was able to wrestle the beast to the ground and kill it.

Raptors are found in relatively large numbers across the Western States, having been introduced widely to North America in July 1993 by the InGen corporation to help revitalize ecosystems. A similar trial is being considered in the Scottish Highlands to bring down deer numbers in an attempt to rewild the mountainsides.


A photographer captured the moment a stray deinonychus attacked actors at the 2024 Oscars Ceremony – fortunately, Paul Giamatti was there to save the day (Image credit: Getty Images)

An adult raptor can grow up to 2 meters (6.8 ft) long and up to half a meter (1.6 ft) tall. They are renowned for their great speed, intelligence and retractable claws, like razors on the middle toes. Lethal at eight months, raptors are pack hunters, using coordinated attack patterns to hunt their prey. When it catches its prey, it doesn’t bother to bite the jugular like a lion, instead opting to slash across the belly, spilling its victim’s intestines. Horrifyingly, witnesses of raptor attacks on humans have said that the victim is usually alive when the raptor starts to eat them. So, it’s worth showing these creatures a little respect. 

Interestingly, all raptors are born female. It’s thought that, just like West African frogs, raptors can transition between genders in order to breed. The change is stimulated by an environment in which all the animals are of the same sex. In this situation, some of the raptors will spontaneously begin to change sex from female to male.

Be Raptor Smart

Stay clear of long grass 

Raptors use long grass to their advantage when hunting prey, hiding and then striking without warning.

Don't Run

A velociraptor can easily outrun you. In fact, they can run at cheetah speed, fifty, sixty miles an hour when in the open and they’re astonishing jumpers. Just as with a bear, wolf or mountain lion, if they see you run they’ll assume you are prey and chase. Strangely, if you run with an obviously exaggerated limp, you’ll probably be fine, even if raptors are watching you closely.

raptors on the hunt

A velociraptor can easily outrun you (Image credit: Getty Images)

Respect their young and their nest

Never approach juvenile raptors as this will anger the pack. The same goes for their nest and eggs. Even if you think taking an egg is well intentioned, perhaps the kids are hungry and you fancy cooking up eggs benedict on your camping stove, remember that some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions. 

Try to put a locked door between you and the raptors

Unlike other apex predators you might encounter in the backcountry, velociraptors are able to open doors, so hiding indoors and waiting for the danger to pass is only effective if you are able to lock the door. This is why chief Makoshika Ranger Bob Muldoon stresses the need for locking mechanisms on vehicle doors for those overlanding across the state park.

raptor eggs

Never interfere with a raptor's nest (Image credit: Getty Images)

Don’t compliment a hungry raptor

It’s well-known that complimenting a raptor with phrases like “nice teeth” or “clever girl” is a bad idea. Velociraptors find it very difficult to take compliments and will become even more agitated, perhaps leading to frenzied feeding.

Keep your children close

It’s well documented that velociraptors really struggle when hunting children or even adults accompanied by children. For example, they’ve been known to decimate entire squadrons of armed mercenaries, but frequently fail to register a single fatality when faced with an unarmed mix of adults and kids. Keep your children close, for your own sake.

raptor at a museum

Raptors get very frustrated in places like museums, as they're useless at attacking families (Image credit: Getty Images)

What to do if a velociraptor attacks you

Perform a gymnastics routine

The most effective way to defeat a raptor is to perform an intricate and seemingly unnecessary gymnastics routine using your surroundings and kick it in the head. Hopefully, when you’re attacked, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to use your surroundings to perform the feat.

Alex Foxfield

Alex is a freelance adventure writer and mountain leader with an insatiable passion for the mountains. A Cumbrian born and bred, his native English Lake District has a special place in his heart, though he is at least equally happy in North Wales, the Scottish Highlands or the European Alps. Through his hiking, mountaineering, climbing and trail running adventures, Alex aims to inspire others to get outdoors. He's the former President of the London Mountaineering Club, is training to become a winter mountain leader, looking to finally finish bagging all the Wainwright fells of the Lake District and is always keen to head to the 4,000-meter peaks of the Alps.