Yellowstone tourist drives too close to territorial bison – and it's an expensive mistake

Bison on road at Yellowstone National Park facing cars
(Image credit: Getty)

The safest way to appreciate wildlife at Yellowstone National Park is from the safety of a car – you never know when a bison might take exception to your presence, as one visitor discovered earlier this year. The incident was captured during the animals' mating season, known as the rut, which lasts from June to September. During this time males are particularly aggressive as they attempt to assert dominance and fight for mating rights.

The vehicular attack (which you can watch below) was shared on Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone this week. The page usually highlights examples of bad behavior at US National Parks and other sites of natural beauty, but also posts close encounters with wildlife that takes a dislike to humans without provocation.

The National Park Service (NPS) advises visitors who want to watch animals to stop and watch an animal to use designated pullouts. Never stop in the road and block traffic (creating a 'bison jam') or pull onto a shoulder that may be softer than expected, and don't leave your car to take pictures.

Bison have injured more people at Yellowstone than any other animal, including snakes and bears, and can move surprisingly fast, so it's important to keep a safe distance on trails and at campsites. The NPS recommends staying at least 25 yards (23 meters) from the animals at all times.

Individual animals have their own needs when it comes to personal space, so you should also watch out for signs like head-bobbing, pawing at the ground, and snorting, which indicate that you're too close and the bison may be about to charge.

The animal in the video seems to be showing a flehmen response, curling its upper lip and extending its tongue. This isn't a sign of aggression, and suggests the male may be trying to pick up the scent of a female in the area.

For more advice on staying safe around wildlife, see our guides wildlife safety: 8 tips for unexpected encounters, and how to avoid being gored by a bison.

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.