Yellowstone tourist receives impressive death stare from bison after getting too close to calves

Bison and calf at Yellowstone National Park
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bison are intelligent animals (research has revealed that they are capable of solving complex problems), and sometimes their behavior can look almost human. A video shared on social media this week shows one particularly astute animal fixing a tourist with what can only be described as a death stare after he wandered too close to a herd and their young.

The video, which you can see below, was shared via Instagram account TouronsOfNationalParks, and shows a young man happily chatting to the camera just a few feet from the animals, failing to notice as one stops in its tracks and gives him its full attention. 

If an animal changes its behavior due to your presence, it's a sure sign that it's time to move on. A bison that paws at the ground or raises its tail is indicating that its next move is likely to be a charge – either a bluff intended to scare the potential threat away, or a real one that could result in a serious injury.

The National Park Service (NPS) warns visitors to always stay at least 25 yards (23 meters) away from bison and elk, and 100 yards (91 meters) away from bears and wolves. The safest place to watch animals is from inside your vehicle – though a bison can still do serious damage to a car if aggravated.

Even if the animal doesn't lash out, approaching or distracting wildlife is illegal at US National Parks, and punishable by a fine or even jail time.

Last year, a well-meaning visitor was fined after pushing a bison calf up out of a riverbank when it became separated form its herd. The other bison rejected it, and Park Rangers ultimately took the difficult decision to euthanize it after it began approaching cars and people.

For more advice, take a look at our guides how to avoid being gored by a bison and wildlife safety: eight tips for surprise 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.