Yes, some people really do try to pet the bison at Yellowstone

Close-up of American bison
(Image credit: Getty)

November 5 was National Bison Day – an annual celebration of this importance of these special animals. However, it seems that not everyone got the memo, as illustrated by a video currently circulating on social media showing a man petting a bison at Yellowstone National Park, and getting knocked backwards for his trouble.

The clip (which you can watch below) was shared on Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone, which highlights bad behavior at US National Parks. It shows two men beside a bison, petting its head and recording it with their phones. The animal is clearly agitated, and after the second man pets its head, it lashes out and knocks him on his back.

Luckily the man appears to be uninjured, but not everyone who strays too close to bison is so lucky. Last month, a woman shared a video of herself being attacked and gored by a bison at Caprock Canyon State Park, Texas. Rebecca Clark was hiking alone through the park and decided to pass close to the animals rather than take a detour. She was tossed in the air and received serious injuries to her back when one bison became aggressive and charged.

"They are beautiful creatures protected by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) and are a part of the Texas State Bison Restoration Project where the park has restored the historic Charles Goodnight Bison herd (the official Texas State Bison Herd) to a portion of its former range in the park," Clark wrote after the incident. "I am posting to support safety while enjoying Texas State Parks."

Bison on road at night in headlamps

(Image credit: Kurt Schmidt)

Although bison still thrive in some small areas, their population has been decimated by overexploitation, habitat loss, human conflict, and decline in habitat diversity over the years. Over 30 million bison used to roam the US Western Prairie habitat, but today there are only three truly free-ranging herds left in the country.

In 2016, the National Bison Legacy Act made the bison the official national mammal of the United States. Conservation groups, federal project managers, Native American tribes, and local producers are collaborating on efforts to restore the species.

Seeing them in person can be the highlight of a hike, but it's important to give them plenty of space. The National Park Service advises staying at least 25 yards (23 meters) away at all times. If an animal changes its behavior as a result of your presence, it's a sign that you're too close. For more advice, see our guide 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.