Yellowstone tourists learn the hard way that bear spray doesn't always work on bison

Bison at Yellowstone National Park
(Image credit: Getty)

A group of people visiting Yellowstone National Park learned a painful lesson in wildlife safety when they got on the wrong side of a huge, angry bison. In a video shared on Instagram, the animal charges a family and catches one person's clothing in its horns, tossing them to the ground.

A passer-by attempts to use bear spray, which the National Park Service (NPS) says can be effective in deterring bison, but he is standing downwind of the animal, so the spray is blown away on the breeze.

The incident happened last year, but has resurfaced this week thanks to a video posted Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone, which highlights bad behavior at US National Parks – many of which involve bison. Other encounters have included people trying to pet the animals, trying to take selfies with them, and even attempting to ride them.

The video, which you can watch below, was recorded by park visitor Rob Goodell, who stayed well away from the entire encounter, and relied on his phone's digital zoom instead (hence the low picture quality).

Fortunately all the people involved here were unharmed, but not everyone is so lucky. Last year, three people were gored by bison at Yellowstone within the space of a month, including one woman who was tossed 10ft in the air and suffered a serious puncture wound.

Safety in bison country

Bison can be found throughout Yellowstone National Park, so it's important to keep your wits about you, even on trails and boardwalks. Bison aren't naturally aggressive, but like all wild animals they can be unpredictable, particularly if they feel that they or their young are threatened.

According to the NPS, bison have injured more people at Yellowstone than any other animal. They can be particularly dangerous in the spring, when they are fiercely protective of their calves, and during the rut in the fall when hormones are running high.

You should always aim to stay at least 25 yards (23 meters) from bison. If you're not sure how far that is, close one eye, hold out your arm, and give the animal a thumbs up. You should be able to completely hide the animal behind your thumb. If you can't, move further back.

If you accidentally find yourself in close quarters with a bison, look our for warning signs like a raised tail, vocalizations, and pawing at the ground, all of which indicate that the animal is agitated and may be about to charge. For more advice, see our guides how to avoid being gored by a bison and wildlife safety: eight tips for unexpected 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.