Two women visiting national parks were seriously injured in separate bison attacks over recent days, park officials said.
In the latest incident, a 47-year-old woman from Phoenix sustained “significant injuries to her chest and abdomen” when a bison gored her at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming on Monday.
The attack came days after a woman from Minnesota suffered injuries to her abdomen and foot when a bison charged at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota on Saturday, the National Park Service said in separate statements this week.
The women, whom park officials did not name, were sent to hospitals to be treated for their injuries.
Park officials said that they were investigating both bison attacks. They did not specify how close the two women had come to the bison when the animals charged.
The woman from Phoenix was walking with another person in front of a lodging on the north shore of Yellowstone Lake in Wyoming when they encountered two bison on Monday morning. The park visitors turned to walk away, park officials said, but one of the bison charged and gored the woman.
She was taken by helicopter to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Neither the park nor Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center provided additional information about the Phoenix woman’s condition.
In the North Dakota incident, the woman was in the Painted Canyon trail of the Theodore Roosevelt park when the bison attacked on Saturday morning, the park service said.
The woman visiting from Minnesota was treated by park rangers and emergency medical workers before she was sent to a hospital in Dickinson, N.D. The park said that she was in serious but stable condition. It did not specify the hospital where she was staying.
When it comes to encounters with wild animals, park officials have issued timeworn advice: give them space. Visitors should stay at least 25 yards away from large animals, which include bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose and coyotes, the park said; they should stay more than 100 yards away from bears and wolves.
“If need be, turn around and go the other way to avoid interacting with a wild animal in proximity,” the National Park Service said.
Yellowstone National Park is home to thousands of bison, while up to several hundred roam Theodore Roosevelt National Park. A spate of bison attacks in recent years has highlighted the dangers of coming too close to them.
In June 2022, a bull bison gored a 34-year-old man after he moved “too close,” park officials said. Weeks earlier, a bison had flung a 25-year-old woman 10 feet into the air after she came within 10 feet of the animal. In 2019, a 9-year-old girl was sent airborne from a bison’s head butt that was captured on video and shared on social media. The girl was part of a group that stood within five to 10 feet of the bison for at least 20 minutes, officials said.
The National Park Service advises against approaching all wildlife, but it places special emphasis on bison, which have injured more people than any other animal found in the park, including grizzly bears, moose and wolves, the park service said. Bison can stand six feet tall, weigh over 2,000 pounds and run three times faster than humans. The oxlike mammals are known to be capricious, especially during the summer mating season. Researchers have found that a majority of bison attacks happen in June and July.
Despite official warnings, the furry bovine’s quiet demeanor may trick visitors into a false sense of security. In a 2018 study of 25 bison attacks occurring in Yellowstone from 2000 to 2015, researchers affiliated with the park and the National Park Service found that all injured people, 21 visitors and 4 employees, had been within roughly 6 meters, or about 20 feet, of the bison before the attack. Four in five were actively approaching the bison before it charged.
To prevent further incidents, the researchers concluded, it was not enough for the parks to educate the public about the dangers of bison. They must also try to improve the understanding of what motivates people who approach the bison, potentially putting themselves in harm’s way.
“National Parks are generally safe places and many people visit every year without incident, but visitors must make themselves aware of potential hazards,” park officials said in a statement on Tuesday.