Yellowstone bison tears bumper off car effortlessly as driver tries to sneak past

Bull bison sniffing the air during the rut
(Image credit: Getty)

A car is the safest place to watch wildlife, according to the National Park Service, but even then it pays to take time and give the animals space, as one driver learned at Yellowstone National Park. 

In a video shared via Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone at the weekend, a visitor can be seen becoming impatient at the head of a large bison jam and trying to drive around the animal rather than wait for it to finish crossing. The bison (a particularly large specimen) doesn't take too kindly to this intrusion and uses its powerful horns to rip off the vehicle's rear bumper like it's made of paper.

This incident probably happened during the animals' mating season (known as the rut) during the late summer or fall. As you can see in the clip below, the bison is exhibiting a flehmen response, using its tongue to draw air to an olfactory organ in the roof of its mouth to help it detect whether there is a female nearby that is ready to mate.

"Bison do not pose a threat to people unless you get too close," explains the NPS. "Many bison-related injuries in Yellowstone result from people approaching them to take a picture. Use a camera with a telephoto lens to take photos from more than 25 yards away."

Always keep an eye out for changes in the animal's behavior that suggest it might be unsettled by your presence. Stopping what it's doing and turning to face you, swinging its head back and forth while staring at you, pawing the ground or hooking the ground with its horns, and making short bluff charges are all signs that you're still too close for comfort.

"Always have an escape plan by identifying nearby protective cover like trees and cars," advises the NPS. "If there’s no cover, turn around or wait for the bison to leave the area. Bison don’t like dogs, so keep dogs leashed when bison are in the area (leashes are required in Yellowstone). Finally, bear spray can be effective at deterring an aggressive bison."

For more advice, see 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.