The National Park Service warns visitors not to 'pet the fluffy cows' at Yellowstone, but sometimes curiosity still gets the better of people seeing bison for the first time – and yes, some do indeed try to pet them like outsize dogs. A video is currently circulating on social media showing exactly that, with a woman taking pictures with a bison at close range, then reaching out and mussing the animal's fur until the person filming warns her of the danger.
The clip, which was shot a few years ago, has recently resurfaced thanks to infamous Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone, which calls out bad behavior at US National Parks. These incidents all too often involve wildlife, with park visitors not only trying to pet bison, but also taunting elk, chasing wolves, and harassing bears.
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Thankfully this time the bison didn't react, and the woman eventually backed off after being warned, but not everyone is so lucky.
"Think it over!" the NPS warns visitors. "Also, think safety and act safely. You can help keep yourself and other visitors safe and wildlife wild by setting a good example! Remember to treat wildlife with proper caution and respect. The safety of animals, as well as your safety, depends on everyone using good judgment."
Bison usually prefer to avoid close encounters with people, and will generally leave an area first, but like all wild animals they are unpredictable and can become aggressive if they or their young are threatened. According to the NPS, they can run three times faster than humans, and have injured more people at Yellowstone than any other animal.
"Give bison space when they are near a campsite, trail, boardwalk, parking lot, or in a developed area," the NPS says. "If need be, turn around and go the other way to avoid interacting with a wild animal in close proximity."
Last year, a woman shared a video of herself being gored by a bison after trying to sneak past the animal rather than take a detour. Rebecca Clark was hiking solo when the animal charged, leaving her with a serious puncture wound to her back. She posted the video online while recovering as a warning to others who might be tempted to take a similar risk.
For more advice, see our guides how to avoid being gored by a bison and wildlife safety: eight tips for unexpected encounters.
- The best binoculars: enjoy watching wildlife from a safe distance
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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.