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National Park rangers beg hikers not to pet Yellowstone's "fluffy cows"

Adult bison with two calves
(Image credit: Getty)

As tourist season heats up, rangers at Yellowstone are pleading for visitors to keep their distance from the park's bison, affectionately referred to as "fluffy cows".

Although the shaggy animals might look sweet, according to the NPS (opens in new tab) they have injured more people at US National Parks than any other animal, including bears, snakes, and moose. The Park Service warns that they are unpredictable, and can run three times faster than humans, so if one takes a dislike to you, there's little chance to escape. 

If you're visiting a park like Yellowstone that's home to bison, you're advised to keep at least 25 yards away for your safety, and to avoid disturbing the animals' natural behavior. To reinforce this message, the NPS has shared a poster advising guests to keep their distance and not attempt to pet the bison, however sweet they may look.

As Outside Online (opens in new tab) explains, despite the fun poster, bison are seriously dangerous, and this summer three people were gored at Yellowstone within the space of a month.

The first incident took place on May 31, when a woman walking on a boardwalk was tossed in the air while walking on a boardwalk at Black Sand Basin, and was seriously injured. On June 27, a man received injuries to his arm when he was charged by a bison near Old Faithful, and on June 29 a woman was gored at Storm Point near Yellowstone Lake.

According to Advnture's sister site Live Science (opens in new tab), part of the problem is social media, with visitors straying too close to the animals in their quest for the perfect picture. In 2015, one person was even gored while attempting to take a selfie with a bison.

"If you’re close enough for a selfie, you’re definitely too close," the NPS said in its Instagram post. "Use binoculars or a zoom lens and move back if wildlife approach you."

Cat Ellis
Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 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).