It was the latest incident in a growing catalogue of humans becoming casualties after approaching animals or taking selfies on dangerous ledges or close to wildlife in some of America’s most spectacular nature spots.
Dramatic footage was filmed by a fellow visitor who says she witnessed the latest incident near the world-famous Old Faithful geyser in the park, which straddles the Wyoming-Montana border, here shown in a clip featured on NBC News.
It occurred earlier this week and the brief footage shows the huge male bison grazing before suddenly charging – prompting members of the nearby group to run screaming – and hitting the girl, flicking her high into the air.
The girl, who has not been named but was visiting from Odessa, Florida, with her family, was treated by park emergency medical workers and taken to a park clinic. She was later released.
Yellowstone authorities, who are investigating the incident, said the group are thought to have been standing between five and 10 feet from the creature – much closer than rangers advise – prompting the bison to charge.
In a statement, the park urged visitors to maintain a safe distance from big animals. It read: “Wildlife in Yellowstone are wild. When an animal is near a trail, boardwalk, parking lot, or in a developed area, give it space.”
The park advises staying 25 yards (23m) away from bison, elk, bighorn sheep, moose, deer and coyotes and at least 100 yards (91m) from bears and wolves. “If need be, turn around and go the other way to avoid interacting with a wild animal in close proximity,” it added.
Hailey Dayton, 18, who shot the video while visiting the park during a family road trip, said she saw people “petting the bison”.
— ABC News (@ABC) 24 July 2019
She was filming the bull eating when she said it charged at the girl who was walking down a nearby path with her family.
“Because it was agitated by all the people and noise, it just kind of attacked,” she told NBC News. “After that, everyone was screaming. There were a bunch of kids crying.”
Yellowstone is home to an estimated 4,527 bison and the creature has lived on the land continuously since prehistoric times. Bulls weigh up to 2,000lb.
The park warns that bison have injured more people at the park than any other animals. “Bison are unpredictable and can run three times faster than humans,” warns Yellowstone’s website.
However, the warnings do not seem to pose a sufficient deterrent for photo-hungry visitors.
Last June, a woman was gored by a bison after a crowd got too close. Two months later in August there was another bison-related incident at Yellowstone. A “bison jam” almost two miles long resulted in chaos as visitors got out of their cars to take photos of the animals passing them.
The rise of social media – particularly Instagram – is putting America’s national parks and public land under pressure. Horseshoe Bend, near Page, Arizona, has seen annual visitors soar from 100,000 in 2010 to an estimated 2 million in 2018 and some accidents, prompting the installation of railings last year. Other recent accidents and incidents involving animals and dangerous landscapes in the Grand Canyon, Yosemite national park, the Rocky Mountains and elsewhere have been blamed on risk-taking in a “selfie epidemic” and lack of regard for the land and the wildlife, also amid overcrowding at national parks.
In 2016 four men were recorded walking on prohibited land at the Grand Prismatic Spring, also in Yellowstone, dipping their hands in a thermal pool and wake-boarding across the world famous and fragile Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, among other high jinks recorded for the entertainment of online followers.
And the sheer numbers visiting beauty spots, especially the US national parks, have elicited warnings over damage to nature and animals, with social media frenzies and the overall danger of loving the parks “to death”.
This article was first published by The Guardian on 25 July 2019.